College Sports New Year Celebration
For those of us who live and breathe college sports, we know the real New Year is six months after the one that everybody else celebrates. July 1st marks the end of the 2011-2012 collegiate season and the beginning of 2012-2013. Around these parts at midnight we blast the USC fight song instead of Auld Lang Syne. Instead of a hung over day of watching meaningless bowl games, we memorize new conference affiliations. And that is what makes this New Year so special…there are a lot of teams moving to new conferences, officially on July 1st.
Are you really excited about Texas A&M or Missouri joining the SEC? Celebrate at midnight on the night of June 30th when it all becomes official. But the changes to conference affiliation are unprecedented this year. Of course there are big ones like West Virginia and TCU joining the Big 12 for football and the demise of WAC football, but the dominoes that started in the Big Ten and Pac-12 a year ago have made big changes all across the collegiate landscape.
In men’s basketball, the Atlantic 10 made a lot of noise, adding Butler and VCU. The Ohio Valley Conference added a great Belmont team and the Atlantic Sun had to replace them with Northern Kentucky. It will take quite a while before that will ever become a fair trade. The Summit League lost Oral Roberts for all major sports except for men’s soccer. The Golden Eagles are headed to the Southland, a move that actually makes some geographically sense. You will not find too many of those on the long list of conference changes.
FBS football welcomes four new teams, with Umass, South Alabama, Texas State and Texas-San Antonio all making the big leap. One thing that is often overlooked when football teams change conferences is what happens to the rest of the sports. In another year when the Big East picks up a bunch of football only schools for no apparent reason, this will become a much bigger issue, but there are certainly some sports and conferences that gain a lot by the football teams moving to a different conference. An interesting example is West Virginia and their men’s soccer team. The Big 12 does not support men’s soccer, but the Mountaineers were not about to give up their solid soccer program. The lucky winners were the Mid-American Conference who suddenly added a probable top 25 team into a conference that used to be dominated by one team year in and year out. We all know Hawaii split from the WAC to play football in the Mountain West, but what about their baseball, women’s soccer, softball and basketball teams? They are headed to the Big West. That is a great get for the Big West who is again expanding beyond the state of California.
It may take a little getting used to, but how long did it really take before Nebraska was a Big Ten team and not a Big 12 team? There may be a little more to learn this time around, but this is the time of year to look back on the year that was and prepare for the year that will be…for better or worse.