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College Football: Conference Realignment

Posted by Andrew McKillop on June 28, 2011

The college football season is still two months away, but it feels like the kickoff is sooner.  Newsstands are filled with college football preview magazines, the video game NCAA Football 12 is about to be released, and coverage of college football is starting to amp up.

Over the next few weeks SportsDelve is going to preview the upcoming college football season.  However instead of giving out predictions and opinions, I’m going to cover the college football season like we do with all things sports; with a historical twist.  Over the next few weeks I’ll examine some of the major milestones and streaks heading into the season.  I’ll be covering all the conferences and teams.

I thought it would be best to start with a topic that has received a lot of attention over the last couple of years.  Heading into this year’s Division I-FBS college football season, five conferences will either be adding and/or losing at least one school (plus BYU to the independent ranks).  That last major college football realignment occurred in 2005 (seven conferences affected), but the 2011 version of the conference realignment has received more news.  It’s probably because of what could have happened, and the fact that two of college football’s oldest conferences will be adding conference championship games.

Listed below are all instances since 1990 where one school left one conference for another (doesn’t include independents, look below).

Legend: Left (Conference the school left), Sea (Number of seasons in their previous conference), W Pct (Average by season W-L Pct), Move (Conference the school moved to), W Pct Difference (The +/- difference in average by season W-L Pct in the school’s new conference)

Note: I only counted continuous seasons unless otherwise noted. Records includes total record, non-conf and bowl games.

School Year Move W Pct Left Sea W Pct Difference
Boston College 2005 ACC 0.684 EAST 14 0.564 +0.120
Virginia Tech 2004 ACC 0.777 EAST 13 0.687 +0.090
Miami (FL) 2004 ACC 0.603 EAST 13 0.812 -0.209
Kansas St 1996 B12 0.787 B8 83 0.373 +0.414
Oklahoma St 1996 B12 0.549 B8 36 0.460 +0.089
Kansas 1996 B12 0.435 B8 89 0.488 -0.053
Iowa St 1996 B12 0.385 B8 88 0.446 -0.061
Texas Tech 1996 B12 0.634 SWC 36 0.512 +0.122
Texas 1996 B12 0.754 SWC 82 0.696 +0.058
Nebraska 1996 B12 0.714 B8 75 0.672 +0.042
Missouri 1996 B12 0.556 B8 77 0.527 +0.029
Oklahoma 1996 B12 0.713 B8 76 0.706 +0.007
Texas A&M 1996 B12 0.566 SWC 82 0.586 -0.020
Colorado 1996 B12 0.500 B8 48 0.573 -0.073
Baylor 1996 B12 0.286 SWC 51 0.509 -0.223
Tulsa 2005 CUSA 0.666 WAC 9 0.292 +0.374
Central Florida 2005 CUSA 0.566 MAC 3 0.278 +0.288
UTEP 2005 CUSA 0.438 WAC 37 0.272 +0.166
SMU 2005 CUSA 0.373 WAC 9 0.328 +0.045
Rice 2005 CUSA 0.358 WAC 9 0.464 -0.106
TCU 2001 CUSA 0.659 WAC 5 0.508 +0.151
Houston 1996 CUSA 0.456 SWC 20 0.509 -0.053
Marshall 2005 CUSA 0.387 MAC 8 0.771 -0.384
Cincinnati 2005 EAST 0.632 CUSA 9 0.481 +0.151
South Florida 2005 EAST 0.622 CUSA 2 0.500 +0.122
Louisville 2005 EAST 0.577 CUSA 9 0.606 -0.029
Utah 1999 MWC 0.708 WAC 37 0.488 +0.220
Colorado St 1999 MWC 0.485 WAC 31 0.439 +0.046
New Mexico 1999 MWC 0.435 WAC 37 0.402 +0.033
San Diego St 1999 MWC 0.364 WAC 21 0.498 -0.134
TCU 2005 MWC 0.858 CUSA 4 0.659 +0.199
BYU 1999 MWC 0.631 WAC 37 0.647 -0.016
Air Force 1999 MWC 0.563 WAC 19 0.616 -0.053
Wyoming 1999 MWC 0.366 WAC 37 0.539 -0.173
Arkansas 1992 SEC 0.543 SWC 78 0.594 -0.051
New Mexico St 2001 SUN 0.426 BWEST 13 0.259 +0.167
Arkansas St 2001 SUN 0.392 BWEST 2 0.228 +0.164
North Texas 2001 SUN 0.341 BWEST 5 0.309 +0.032
Idaho 2001 SUN 0.190 BWEST 5 0.568 -0.378
TCU 1996 WAC 0.508 SWC 73 0.490 +0.018
UNLV 1999 WAC 0.321 WAC 3 0.119 +0.202
Idaho 2005 WAC 0.307 SUN 4 0.190 +0.117
Rice 1996 WAC 0.464 SWC 82 0.441 +0.023
Utah St 2005 WAC 0.240 SUN 2 0.262 -0.022
San Jose St 1996 WAC 0.342 BWEST 8 0.453 -0.111
New Mexico St 2005 WAC 0.215 SUN 4 0.426 -0.211
UNLV 1996 WAC 0.119 BWEST 8 0.380 -0.261
Boise St 2001 WAC 0.874 BWEST 5 0.536 +0.338
Nevada 2000 WAC 0.517 BWEST 8 0.601 -0.084
Fresno St 1992 WAC 0.576 BWEST 4 0.839 -0.263
SMU 1996 WAC 0.328 SWC 76 0.517 -0.189

¹ SMU didn’t participate in college football from 1987-88.

In 1995 the Big Eight (B8), and Southwest Conference (SWC) played their last season’s, when a handful of members from those conferences merged into the Big 12.

The Big West (BWEST) played it’s last season in 2000.

A little under 55% of the teams that moved from one conference to another, have/had a better average season by season record in their new conference than their old conference.

Since 1990, Kansas State made the best improvement after a conference switch, with +.414 boost in season by season average W-L Pct.  No surprise considering Kansas State’s longtime dormant program, came into it’s own a few years before and after switching conferences.  The worst downfall since 1990 after a conference switch, belongs to Marshall, with a -.384 decrease in their season by season average W-L Pct.

Central Florida, Cincinnati, Kansas St, Oklahoma St, South Florida, TCU (1996), Tulsa, and Utah, went from a losing W-L Pct (season by season avg) to winning W-L Pct after switching conferences.

Baylor, Colorado, Houston, Idaho, Marshall, SMU, and Wyoming, went from winning W-L Pct (season by season avg) to losing W-L Pct after switching conferences.

Since 1990 the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) has been the most active in conference realignment.  Including this year, and future years.  The WAC has/will have lost a total of 17 schools, gaining 14; that’s 31 (29 current FBS) schools all together, or 24% of all current FBS teams.


Listed below are all instances since 1990, where an independent school joined a conference, or a conference team joined the ranks of the independents.

Legend: See Above

School Year Move W Pct Left Sea W Pct Difference
Florida St 1992 ACC 0.765 IND 38 0.612 +0.153
Penn St 1993 B10 0.689 IND 97 0.677 +0.012
Louisiana Tech 1993 BWEST 0.303 IND 5 0.579 -0.276
Northern Illinois 1993 BWEST 0.334 IND 7 0.474 -0.140
UL Lafayette 1993 BWEST 0.606 IND 11 0.682 -0.076
Arkansas St 1993 BWEST 0.288 IND 3 0.197 +0.091
North Texas 1996 BWEST 0.309 IND 1 0.182 +0.127
Army 1998 CUSA 0.168 IND 76 0.615 -0.447
South Florida 2003 CUSA 0.500 IND 3 0.727 -0.227
Memphis 1996 CUSA 0.386 IND 23 0.427 -0.041
East Carolina 1997 CUSA 0.491 IND 20 0.509 -0.018
UAB 1999 CUSA 0.417 IND 3 0.425 -0.008
Tulane 1996 CUSA 0.398 IND 30 0.367 +0.031
Southern Miss 1996 CUSA 0.619 IND 33 0.558 +0.061
Cincinnati 1996 CUSA 0.481 IND 26 0.411 +0.070
Louisville 1996 CUSA 0.606 IND 21 0.449 +0.157
Temple 1991 EAST 0.192 IND 20 0.517 -0.325
Rutgers 1991 EAST 0.407 IND 45 0.571 -0.164
Pittsburgh 1991 EAST 0.481 IND 86 0.614 -0.133
Syracuse 1991 EAST 0.539 IND 47 0.546 -0.007
Boston College 1991 EAST 0.564 IND 47 0.553 +0.011
West Virginia 1991 EAST 0.640 IND 22 0.595 +0.045
Connecticut 2004 EAST 0.570 IND 4 0.426 +0.144
Virginia Tech 1991 EAST 0.687 IND 26 0.538 +0.149
Miami (FL) 1991 EAST 0.812 IND 47 0.591 +0.221
UL Lafayette 1996 IND 0.200 BWEST 3 0.606 -0.406
Northern Illinois 1996 IND 0.091 BWEST 3 0.334 -0.243
Utah St 2001 IND 0.364 BWEST 13 0.423 -0.059
Arkansas St 1996 IND 0.293 BWEST 3 0.288 +0.005
Army 2005 IND 0.345 CUSA 7 0.168 +0.177
Louisiana Tech 1996 IND 0.568 BWEST 3 0.303 +0.265
Central Florida 2002 MAC 0.278 IND 6 0.546 -0.268
Akron 1992 MAC 0.388 IND 5 0.437 -0.049
Northern Illinois 1997 MAC 0.504 IND 1 0.091 +0.413
Temple 2007 MAC 0.527 IND 2 0.042 +0.485
South Carolina 1992 SEC 0.480 IND 20 0.527 -0.047
Western Kentucky 2008 SUN 0.111 IND 1 0.583 -0.472
Utah St 2003 SUN 0.262 IND 2 0.364 -0.102
UL Monroe 1996 SUN 0.351 IND 7 0.333 +0.018
Middle Tennessee St 2001 SUN 0.482 IND 2 0.409 +0.073
Troy 2004 SUN 0.593 IND 3 0.490 +0.103
UL Lafayette 2001 SUN 0.377 IND 5 0.200 +0.177
Tulsa 1996 WAC 0.292 IND 10 0.429 -0.137



BYU is one of only seven teams since 1990 to join the independent ranks, from the ranks of a conference.


This year’s conference realignment brings up an interesting situation in which you have some schools which could complete the feat of winning a conference championships in two different current FBS conferences (three in the case of Utah).  Listed below are the 11 schools that have won conference titles in two or more of the current FBS conferences.

School Year(s) Year(s)  Year(s)
Arizona 2 WAC 1964, 73 1 PAC 1993
Arizona St 7 WAC 1969-73, 75, 77 3 PAC 1986. 96, 07
BYU 19 WAC Last: 1996 4 MWC 1999, 01, 06-07
Cincinnati 1 CUSA 2002 2 Big East 2008-09
Colorado St 3 WAC 1994-95, 97 3 MWC 1999-00, 02
Georgia Tech 5 SEC 39, 43-44, 51-52 3 ACC 1990, 98, 09
Louisville 3 CUSA 2001-01, 04 1 Big East 2006
TCU 2 WAC 1999-00 1 CUSA 2002 3 MWC 05, 09, 10
Tulane 3 SEC 1934, 39, 49 1 CUSA 1998
Utah 2 WAC 1964, 95 4 MWC 1999, 03-04, 08
Virginia Tech 3 Big East 1995-96, 99 4 ACC 2004, 07-08, 10



TCU is not only the first and only team to win conference titles in three of the current FBS conferences, but by 2012 could be the first to win in four different FBS conferences (joining Big East 2012).

A few more interesting notes:

  • This season Nebraska is attempting to be the first team to go to back to back conference title games in two different conferences (lost last year’s Big 12 title game to Oklahoma 20-23).
  • All of the schools switching conferences this year, won conference titles in the conference they are leaving.



Check out below to see how realigned schools have historically fared against schools in their new conferences.

Nebraska Big Ten
vs. W L T Last Meeting Last Win Last Loss Strk
Illinois 7 2 1 1986: 59-14 at - 1924: 6-9 vs 2W
Indiana 7 9 3 1978: 69-17 at - 1959: 7-23 vs 4W
Iowa 26 12 3 2000: 42-13 vs - 1981: 7-10 3W
Michigan 2 3 1 2005: 32-28 Bowl - 1986: 23-27 Bowl 1W
Michigan St 5 0 0 2003: 17-3 Bowl - - 5W
Minnesota 20 29 2 1990: 56-0 vs - 1960: 14-26 vs 14W
Northwestern 3 1 0 2000: 66-17 Bowl - 1931: 7-19 at 2W
Ohio St 0 2 0 1956: 7-34 at - - 2L
Penn St 6 7 0 2003: 18-10 vs - 2002: 7-40 at 1W
Purdue 0 1 0 1958: 0-28 at - - 1L
Wisconsin 3 2 0 1974: 20-21 at 1973: 20-16 vs - 1L
79 68 10



One of Nebraska’s greatest margin of victories came against Minnesota on September 17th, 1983.  Nebraska beat Minnesota 84-13 on the road.

Colorado Pac-12
vs. W L T Last Meeting Last Win Last Loss Streak
Arizona 12 1 0 1986: 21-24 vs 1985: 14-13 at - 1L
Arizona St 0 2 0 2007: 14-33 at - - 2L
California 2 3 0 2010: 7-52 at 1975: 34-27 vs - 2L
Oregon 8 7 0 2001: 16-38 Bowl 1998: 51-43 Bowl - 1L
Oregon St 2 3 0 1988: 28-21 vs 1964: 7-14 vs - 2W
Stanford 3 3 0 1993: 37-41 at 1990: 21-17 vs - 2L
UCLA 2 4 0 2003: 16-14 vs - 1984: 16-33 vs 2W
USC 0 5 0 2002: 3-40 vs - - 5L
Utah 30 24 3 1962: 21-37 at 1958: 7-0 at - 2L
Washington 5 5 1 2000: 14-17 at 1996: 33-21 Bowl 2L
Washington St 4 2 0 2004: 20-12 N - 2003: 26-47 vs 1W
68 59 4



Colorado defeated Arizona in nine straight games from 1952-60.

Utah Pac-12
vs. W L T Last Meeting Last Win Last Loss Streak
Arizona 19 15 2 2005: 27-24 vs - 2002: 17-23 at 2W
Arizona St 6 16 0 1993: 0-38 at 1976: 31-28 at - 7W
California 3 4 0 2009: 37-27 Bowl - 2000: 21-24 at 2W
Colorado 24 30 3 1962: 37-21 vs - 1958: 0-7 vs 2W
Oregon 8 18 0 2009: 24-31 at 2003: 17-13 vs - 1L
Oregon St 5 9 1 2008: 31-28 vs - 2007: 7-24 at 1W
Stanford 2 3 0 1996: 17-10 at - 1995: 20-27 vs 1W
UCLA 1 8 0 2007: 44-6 vs - 2006: 10-31 at 1W
USC 3 6 0 2001: 10-6 Bowl - 1993: 21-28 Bowl 1W
Washington 0 6 0 1979: 7-41 at - - 6L
Washington St 5 5 0 2000: 21-38 vs 1999: 27-7 at - 1L
76 120 6



Out of all the schools realigning this year, Utah has played their new conference opponents the most (202 games).

Boise St Mountain West
vs. W L T Last Meeting Last Win Last Loss Streak
Air Force - - -
Colorado St - - -
New Mexico 2 0 0 2000: 31-14 at - - 2W
San Diego St - - -
TCU 2 1 0 2009: 17-10 Bowl - 2008: 16-17 Bowl 1W
UNLV 3 3 0 1977: 45-14 vs - 1976: 26-31 at 1W
Wyoming 5 0 0 2010: 51-6 at - - 5W
12 4 0



The match up of Boise State and TCU has always provided great results (all bowl games).  Average margin of victory has been 3.7 points. Unfortunately this will be the only year both teams are in the same conference, with TCU leaving for the Big East in 2012.

BYU Independents
vs. W L T Last Meeting Last Win Last Loss Streak
Army - - -
Navy 1 1 0 1989: 31-10 at - 1978: 16-23 Bowl 1W
Notre Dame 2 4 0 2005: 23-49 at 2004: 20-17 vs - 1L
3 5 0



In 2012 and 2013 BYU will head to South Bend to face Notre Dame.  Their last victory in South Bend was in 1994, a 21-14 victory.


One last note.  Phil Steele has posted a quick an easy reference page to this year’s, as well as future years college football realignment.


Reference: Sports-Reference.com/College Football, College Football Data Warehouse, Phil Steele Publications

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