Philadelphia, PA – To say that major college football has gone through some upheaval over the last few years would be an understatement.
Teams have bounced from league to league, forsaking history, long-time rivalries, and the comfort level to which they've grown accustomed, in favor of even greater glory, and of course -- the almighty dollar.
With that, the Football Bowl Subdivision welcomes several new teams to the fold, four of which begin competition in their new leagues this season. Three others are set to begin the transition shortly, with all slated to be full FBS members, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto, by 2016.
MASSACHUSETTS - With a new head coach in former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Charley Molnar, the Minutemen are about to embark on a new era as they begin play in the Mid-American Conference. UMass is making the jump up to the FBS following a five-year stint as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association at the Football Championship Subdivision. The Minutemen, who began playing football way back in 1897, have won a total of 22 conference championships in their history, reached the Division I-AA playoffs eight times, and claimed a pair of national championships (1998, 2006). In an effort to help make the transition as smooth as possible, Molnar recently added a few players from big-time programs at Michigan and Notre Dame. The Minutemen play their first FBS game on August 30 at Connecticut, and provided they meet all the requirements, will be eligible to play for the MAC crown and earn a bowl invite beginning in 2013.
SOUTH ALABAMA - The Jaguars haven't been playing football very long, starting in 2009, but they are more than excited to get going in the FBS when they begin competing as a member of the Sun Belt Conference this fall. USA, which won't be eligible for the SBC title or a bowl game until 2013, played a total of 17 games in its first two seasons as an NCAA unclassified, winning all of them. However, last year as an FCS Independent, the team went 6-4. Joey Jones, who played his college ball for the legendary Bear Bryant at Alabama (1979-83), is the only head coach the team has ever had, entrusted with building a program from scratch after serving just one season as head coach at Division III Birmingham Southern. South Alabama kicks off this next chapter in its brief history when it welcomes another new FBS team, Texas-San Antonio, to Mobile on August 30.
TEXAS STATE - Despite being the fifth-largest university in Texas, and one of the 75 largest in the country, Texas State is a relative unknown to most college football fans. The Bobcats are hoping to change all that however, as they usher in a new era with their transition to the FBS level, setting up shop in the floundering Western Athletic Conference beginning this fall. Head coach Dennis Franchione is back for his second stint with the program after serving in the same capacity in 1990-91, and he guided the team to a 6-6 record last season as an FCS Independent, which followed more than two decades as a member of the Southland Conference. Although the team has won or shared 14 conference titles in its history, only two have come since 1983 (2005, 2008). The Bobcats won back-to-back Division II national titles in 1981-82. Texas State opens its season at Houston on September 1, and it will be eligible for bowl consideration beginning in 2013 when it moves to the Sun Belt Conference.
TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO - Unlike their Lone Star State brethren on this list, the Roadrunners don't have much history on their side. In fact, last season was their first ever as they went 4-6 as an FCS Independent under former Miami head coach Larry Coker. UTSA played its first game against Northeastern State at the Alamodome before a crowd in excess of 56,000, setting a record for the highest- attended game for a FCS (I-AA) start-up program. In fact, the Roadrunners were so well-received by the community, that they set a new home attendance record for a first-year FCS program, averaging 33,000 fans per game. Like Texas State, UTSA will call the WAC home for just one season as it moves to Conference USA next year. The Roadrunners open the 2012 campaign at South Alabama on August 30.
Georgia State and Old Dominion both bring down the curtain on their stay in the FCS by competing one last time for the Colonial Athletic Association title this year. After which, the Panthers will move on to the Sun Belt Conference, and the Monarchs will take up residence in Conference USA.
With its football program slated to begin play as an FCS Independent next year, Charlotte won't make the leap in class until 2015 when it too moves to C-USA.