College Football Conference Realignment

It seems with each passing college football season there’s a new development that changes the way we view the sport. With the transfer portal, and NIL deals, and now conference realignment, nobody’s can ever say college football is boring. 

With schools constantly looking for ways to increase revenue or increase their chances at finding postseason success, the impending conference realignment should come as no surprise. The prestige of the schools slated to move conferences, however, is notable. With the likes of UCLA, USC, Oklahoma, and Texas (and many more) all primed to move to new conferences, the effects are far-reaching. 

Reports surfaced recently indicating more schools could soon be on the move.

How does it affect recruits? The magnitude of any development such as the upcoming conference realignment should always impact the way a recruit goes about their respective process. Considerations ranging from NIL money to opponents (strength of schedule), to traveling all come into play. And that’s just the start. 

At Signing Day Sports, we strive to ensure that our users and readers stay up to date regarding recent news and developments that could alter the way they are recruited or the way they view schools. 

How does conference realignment work?

To put it simply, college football is divided into conferences that consist of around 10-15 teams each. They are typically divided by geographic location and organized into groupings of similar schools regarding their athletic budgets, recruiting power, student population, and other criteria. This is done to create regional league competition, boost revenue, and regulate member schools. 

Now, as things pan out, schools are always looking for ways to improve their situation. Sometimes, this is done by switching conferences. The grass is always greener, right?

College football conferences are further divided into what is called the “Power 5” conferences and the “Group of 5” conferences. 

Power 5 Conferences

Group of 5 Conferences

  • AAC
  • C-USA
  • MAC
  • MWC                                  
  • SBC

Amongst the Power 5 schools, shifting happens every so often. The most recent example is UCLA and USC announcing their move to the Big Ten, and Oklahoma and Texas announcing their move to the SEC. It’s almost like a free agency period or a trade deadline that you would see in professional sports. Except, in this iteration, it’s conference executives trying to court entire universities. 

George Kliavkoff

(Photo of Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff: Alika Jenner / Getty Images)

For the Group of 5 schools, it usually pans out like this: school X performs well in the Group of 5 for a number of years. While the level of competition is lower, their following begins to grow, along with their budget. Soon, they start challenging Power 5 schools and competing regularly against them in bowl games. This inevitably leads to a Power 5 conference picking them up. Think Houston or Cincinnati

The shuffling is dizzying at times. But it creates a healthy competition and definite intrigue. 

How does conference realignment affect recruits?

Recruits beware! Things are not always as they seem. Like we already mentioned, even during the course of writing this blog, reports continue to surface. Things like conference alignment are always subject to change. It’s up to each individual athlete to do their due diligence when it comes to school’s situations. 

When a school changes conferences, it significantly affects high school recruits. It changes the landscape of college football as a whole and can change the opportunities available to recruits. 

If an athlete is considering committing to a school that is in a weaker conference, and that conference is close to disbanding, the athlete would be far less likely to commit. On the other hand, if a school is in a weak conference but potentially being moved to a Power 5 conference, the athlete should be more inclined to commit. Of course, these decisions go hand-in-hand with many other factors including how moving conferences can affect a school’s recruiting power, which may then alter an athlete’s assumed playing time. 

Outside of the sport itself, playing in a bigger conference means coverage increases tenfold. Media rights deals are becoming more and more expensive every season, and 24/7 media contingents are covering a handful of schools that reside in Power 5 conferences. If NIL money is what you’re after, then you would also be doing yourself a service by keeping up with conference realignment. 

Another aspect for recruits to consider is the fluctuating competitiveness of each conference. Losing marquee schools to other conferences can greatly diminish the way the remaining teams are viewed in the eyes of the College Football Playoff Committee. Strength of schedule is a huge component that is mainly due to each school’s respective conference. 

Overall, understanding how conference realignment works and impacts all aspects of college football is imperative for recruits, current student-athletes, parents, and everyone in between. Keep an eye out on The Wire or other news sources for further updates on school movement. Your ability to make an informed decision that is best for you depends on staying educated and informed. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to reach out or comment below.

(Top photo: Scott Wachter / USA Today)

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