Making sense of conference realignment and how it affects men’s soccer

Policy

Even before the recent break-up of the Big East and the defections of colleges from one conference to another, making sense of what teams were in what conference was a tricky business for college soccer fans. Traditional powerhouse conferences in other sports like the SEC and Big 12 don’t field men’s soccer programs and only half of the PAC 12 field teams just to name a couple examples.

So while under normal circumstances it can be difficult figuring out what team plays in what conference for men’s soccer, making sense of conference alignment for the upcoming fall season requires an Excel spreadsheet. Fortunately for you I’ve already done the heavy lifting. According to the spreadsheet I’ve developed, there are 29 Division 1 colleges that will be competing in a new conference this fall, including two schools making their debut at the highest level of college soccer.

The biggest shake-up of all is one that had little to do with “non-revenue” sports and everything to do with “research dollars,” which is an NCAA euphemism for big greedy American football conferences stealing schools away from rival conferences to help pad their TV revenue and the insane salaries of the executives who run the conferences and those ridiculous post-season exhibition games they play called bowl games.

If you follow the mainstream sports media, you’ll never hear anything about how, for example, the old Big East dissolving to create a new “Catholic 7” Big East affect sports like soccer, particularly for schools like Creighton that’s now more than 400 miles away from its nearest conference rival. Or how, in the case of West Virginia a year ago, the men’s soccer team was sent looking for a conference because the school joined a men’s soccer-less Big 12 (closest conference rival 871 miles away).

Going into the fall 2013 season, the conference benefiting most from all of the shuffling – NCAA haters might optimistically call it shuffling the deck chairs of a sinking ship – is probably the traditional powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference. The already strong conference is arguably stronger now with the addition of Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, all teams whose fleeing of the Big East for “revenue sport”l reasons was a big reason why the Big East is now the old Big East and essentially no longer exists.

For the non-Catholic 7 schools who aren’t joining the ACC, the American Athletic Conference, which opens up shop officially on July 1, is the new Big East with Cincinnati, UConn, Memphis, SMU, South Florida, Temple (transferring from the A-10), UCF and one-year members Louisville and Rutgers. Louisville will be joining the ACC in 2014 and Rutgers the Big 10.

The new Big East, which is the Catholic 7 plus 3, will be a strong conference with 2012 College Cup teams Creighton and Georgetown joined by St. John’s, Marquette, Butler, DePaul, Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova. Butler is joining the new conference with an old name from the Atlantic 10 and Creighton from the Missouri Valley.

The Western Athletic Conference, or WAC as its commonly known joins the American and the new Big East as a new conference for men’s soccer this season. The WAC pulled six teams from the Mountain Pacific – Air Force, Houston Baptist, San Jose State, UNLV, Cal State Bakersfield and Seattle – and added D-1 newcomer Grand Canyon and Summit League transfer UMKC.

Conference USA will see four new teams this year with Charlotte joining from the Atlantic 10, Florida Atlantic from the Mid-American, Old Dominion from Colonial Athletic and New Mexico from Mountain Pacific.

Other conference changes for men’s soccer include:

  • Towson (Colonial Athletic) and Richmond (Atlantic 10) have discontinued their men’s soccer teams
  • UMass Lowell is joining the American East Conference, which lost Boston University
  • George Mason is joining the Atlantic 10, which lost Charlotte, Temple, Xavier and Butler
  • College of Charleston is joining the Colonial Athletic, which lost George Mason and Old Dominion
  • Oakland is joining the Horizon League, which lost Loyola University
  • Georgia State is leaving the Colonial Athletic and will be independent
  • Monmouth and Quinnipac are both leaving the Northeast Conference to join the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
  • Loyola University Chicago is joining the Missouri Valley Conference, which lost Creighton
  • Boston University and Loyola University Maryland are joining the Patriot League
  • Denver is joining the Summit League, which is losing UMKC

Looking ahead to the 2014 season, teams moving will include:

  • Tulsa joining The American in 2014, which will lose Louisville to the ACC and Rutgers to the Big 10
  • Maryland joining the Big 10
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