'Lesser' conferences in a realignment frenzy

Mike Huguenin

Last summer was notable for conference realignment. This summer forever will be known as "the playoff summer."

But that doesn't mean the realignment has stopped; indeed, there has been frenzied activity of late.

Geography lesson

Conference makeup for the 2013 football season:

Conference USA: East Carolina, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, North Texas, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UTEP, UT San Antonio

Mountain West: Air Force, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State, Wyoming

Sun Belt: Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee, South Alabama, Texas State, Troy, Western Kentucky

WAC: Idaho, New Mexico State

The latest: The Mountain West Conference officially announced Friday that San Jose State and Utah State were coming aboard next summer and leaving the WAC behind.

Those two schools were among those left behind when Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada bolted the WAC for the Mountain West last summer; that trio will play its first games in the Mountain West this fall.

And it was announced earlier in the week that UT San Antonio and Texas State – two schools making the move from the FCS ranks to the WAC this fall – would be moving on again, UTSA to Conference USA and Texas State to the Sun Belt. In other words, two schools announced they are leaving the WAC before they've even played a game as a WAC member.

C-USA also announced that it was brining aboard WAC member Louisiana Tech, as well as Sun Belt members Florida International and North Texas. C-USA also is welcoming Charlotte from the Atlantic 10; Charlotte is starting football in 2013 and will play C-USA football in 2015.

The Sun Belt – knowing it would be losing teams – already had announced that it was adding Texas State and Georgia State, which also is moving up from the FCS ranks. South Alabama is joining for this season, which will be its first as a FBS school.

(You may want to re-read the preceding graphs; there will be a test later.)

The loser in all this (well, the biggest loser, anyway) is the WAC, which at one time was one of the most forward-thinking leagues of all. From 1996-98, the league had 16 members, making it the first Division I-A football league to have more than 12. But the league was torn apart by vastly different agendas, and eight schools left to form the Mountain West in time for the 1999-2000 academic year.

As of right now, the league has just two schools, Idaho and New Mexico State, that would be football-playing members in 2013.

Tuesday night, once news broke that San Jose State and Utah State were leaving, New Mexico State president Barbara Couture and athletic director McKinley Boston issued a statement that read, in part: "This is truly a new day when sports, primarily football, are ruled by the potential for TV coverage. We all understand that. Now we are beginning to better comprehend just how far-reaching this new reality can be. Of course, New Mexico State University has no major media market to bring to the table. Without that market, our 'value' as a conference member appears to be less than other schools with less successful programs but that are located in areas with a greater population. The same thing appears to be the case for the University of Idaho."

The statement was a stunner: Did it really just dawn on New Mexico State officials that TV was driving the realignment train? If they truly just realized that, they have no business overseeing a Division I program. The message should've been succinctly driven home last summer during the realignment frenzy.

[Related: Dan Wetzel: Four issues to fix ahead of a college football playoff]

Meanwhile, as Idaho ponders its athletic future, things are going quite well at rival Boise State. Shortly after Nike announced a six-year apparel deal with Boise State that will pay the school a total of $6.24 million, Boise State announced that it had broken ground on a $22 million football complex.

Boise State and Idaho left the Division I-AA ranks (now called FCS) for Division I-A (now called FBS) after the 1995 season, and both played five seasons (1996-2000) in the now-defunct Big West Conference.

Idaho went 6-5 in its first season in the Big West, Boise 2-10. Idaho also had winning records in 1998 and '99, but the program has had one just winning record since. Meanwhile, Boise had another losing record in '97, but the Broncos have had a winning record every season since.

When the Big West disbanded, Idaho left for the Sun Belt Conference. Boise, meanwhile, went to the WAC and ended up dominating the league. Idaho spent four seasons in the Sun Belt, then moved to the WAC in 2005; it has spent most of its time mired near the bottom of the conference.

Boise State moved from the WAC to the Mountain West last season and will move to the Big East next season. Idaho, meanwhile, seems better-suited for a move back down to the FCS ranks, i.e., a return to the Big Sky Conference.

[Also: Ten college football coaches on the hottest seats heading into 2012 season]

Grid bits

• There's a proven 1,000-yard rusher looking for a home after Boston College dismissed senior TB Montel Harris for repeated violations of team rules. Harris has rushed for 3,735 yards and 27 TDs in his career, and would've been the nation's active career rushing leader this fall. He played in just two games last season because of a knee injury. Harris has had two 1,000-yard seasons and also rushed for 900 yards as a true freshman in 2008. He has 22 career 100-yard games.

• The Mtn. network goes away May 31, so the league had to scramble to find TV homes for its marquee games this fall. The league announced a schedule last week that features 23 nationally televised games, with the possibility that more could be added later. CBS (one game), CBS Sports Network (eight), NBC Sports Network (10) and the ESPN family of networks (four) currently are scheduled to show MWC games this fall. The best looks as if it will be the Boise State at Michigan State game on Aug. 31 on ESPN.

• Staying with the "games on TV" theme, ESPN already has picked six Big Ten contests to televise in prime time this season. Among them: Nebraska at Ohio State on Oct. 6, and Michigan at Nebraska on Oct. 27.

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