2021 college football conference realignment tracker

By Kevin Kelley -

College football conference realignment and expansion has returned in 2021, with several conferences set to add members while other teams will move to different leagues.

We’ve created a College Football Realignment Tracker to list all of the changes in one place. Most of these changes, if not all, will become official on July 1, 2023.

Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS)

Team Current conference Future conference
BYU FBS Independent Big 12
Charlotte C-USA American
Cincinnati American Big 12
Florida Atlantic C-USA American
Houston American Big 12
Liberty FBS Independent C-USA
Marshall C-USA Sun Belt
New Mexico State FBS Independent C-USA
North Texas C-USA American
Oklahoma Big 12 SEC (2025)
Old Dominion C-USA Sun Belt
Rice C-USA American
Southern Miss C-USA Sun Belt
Texas Big 12 SEC (2025)
UAB C-USA American
UCF American Big 12
UTSA C-USA American

Football Championship Subdivision (FCS)

Team Current conference Future conference
Jacksonville State ASUN C-USA (FBS)
James Madison CAA Sun Belt (FBS)
Sam Houston WAC C-USA (FBS)
Texas A&M-Commerce Lone Star (D-II) Southland
UIW Southland WAC

FBS Conference Overview

ACC

Leaving: None

Joining: None

2023 Lineup: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, NC State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

The ACC has survived this round of conference realignment, so far.


AMERICAN

Leaving: Cincinnati, Houston, UCF

Joining: Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB, UTSA

2023 Lineup: Charlotte, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Memphis, Navy, North Texas, Rice, SMU, South Florida, Temple, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UTSA

All six schools that are joining the American are moving from Conference USA.


BIG 12

Leaving: Oklahoma (2025), Texas (2025)

Joining: BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, UCF

2023 Lineup: Baylor, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, UCF, West Virginia

2025 Lineup: Baylor, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, UCF, West Virginia

BYU joins after playing as an FBS Independent, while Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF move from the American Athletic Conference.


BIG TEN

Leaving: None

Joining: None

2023 Lineup: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

Like the ACC, the Big Ten appears to be holding at 14 members.


CONFERENCE USA

Leaving: Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, Marshall, North Texas, Old Dominion, Rice, Southern Miss, UAB, UTSA

Joining: Liberty, New Mexico State, Jacksonville State, Sam Houston

2023 Lineup: FIU, Jacksonville State, Liberty, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico State, Sam Houston, UTEP, WKU

The six schools leaving Conference USA will each join the American. Liberty and New Mexico State are currently FBS Independents, while Jacksonville State (ASUN) and Sam Houston (WAC) will move up from the FCS.

Middle Tennessee and WKU have been rumored to make a move to the MAC.


FBS INDEPENDENTS

Leaving: BYU, Liberty, New Mexico State

Joining: None

2023 Lineup: Army, Notre Dame, UConn, UMass

BYU is leaving for the Big 12, while Liberty and New Mexico State will join Conference USA.


MAC

Leaving: None

Joining: None

2023 Lineup: Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Ohio, Toledo, Western Michigan

Middle Tennessee and WKU have been rumored to make a move to the MAC.


MOUNTAIN WEST

Leaving: None

Joining: None

2023 Lineup: Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State, Wyoming

Air Force and Colorado State considered a move to the American, but decided to remain in the Mountain West.


PAC-12

Leaving: None

Joining: None

2023 Lineup: Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Utah, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State

Not much has been rumored for the Pac-12. If there were some movement into the conference, it would likely be the best teams from the Mountain West such as Boise State and San Diego State.


SEC

Leaving: None

Joining: Oklahoma (2025), Texas (2025)

2025 Lineup: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt

Arguably the top conference in college football gets better with the addition of Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12, likely in 2025 unless lawyers get involved. The question now is, does the conference keep their divisions, scrap the divisions, or go to four-team pods?


SUN BELT

Leaving: None

Joining: James Madison, Marshall, Old Dominion, Southern Miss

2023 Lineup: Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, James Madison, Louisiana, Marshall, Old Dominion, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Texas State, Troy, ULM

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Comments (15)

@KevinKelley,

Dan-ke for the consolidated article laying out all the Football Conference moves so far…

All this lateral movement by the American, & C-USA to stay afloat in the 1A Pond & the Sunbelt’s opportunity to Raid C-USA before they can recover doesn’t gain any of these Conferences Traction VS the Autonomous Five Conference’s Trust: controlling Legal standing, REVENUE, Reputation, & Social Standing.

1A Football will only expand as a preferred Sport in the 1A University sports Market by having their own Governing, growing, revenue expanding, merit focused League. Separate from all other Division 1 Non football sports, especially men’s Basketball.
130 growing 1A programs under 1 mutually administered Association. #National College Football Association built on the researched, financed Model presented by the knightfoundation.org . National #College #Football Association.

Thanks for this. It was getting a little tough to keep track of! I saw some other rumors about possible jumps from FCS to C-USA a while back (that included SHSU and NMSU but others beyond just Liberty and Jacksonville St), so I’m curious to see if that will play out.

Also will be interesting to see if there will be any more movement with the Big 12 or other P5 conferences, since that would likely shake up all the lower conferences.

One note: I see you’ve listed all the new lineups as the “2023” version… which seems like it may reasonably be the case, but there are definitely some of these moves (not the least of which is the one that kicked this all other, the Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC) for which 2023 is not currently the official date, right?

Under Big 12, Texas and OU should be listed under 2023 Lineup. They should not be listed on the SEC 2023 Lineup at this moment in time. It is widely believe that they will leave B12 early. However, officially they have stated they won’t be leaving until 2025

^ Which is why the XII held off expanding to 14 not counting UT and OU.
.
Otherwise Memphis would have already been invited. Although whether the Boise bullet will be bitten by the Big XII is the question. But the merry go round will continue….
.
McNeese is going to be in CUSA next, as soon as the MAC grabs WKU/MTSU.

David –

Truth is… I honestly wonder if Boise State would be the right move for the Big 12…? I mean, I get it… they need to have members that have done something recently in football, and in that respect Boise State is a pretty good call. AND they help make it so BYU isn’t quite out on an island as they are. Still, in my personal opinion, there are 4 east schools and 4 west schools that would be in the running for further Big 12 expansion (based on THIS lineup… if anyone else leaves, that might change the the way I figure it out). My thought is that they could go with 1 east and 1 west to help try to give UCF and BYU travel partners (though some of my options are admittedly not SUPER close)… or 2 east and 2 west if they’re up for going to 16 members. (3 east/1 west or 3 west, 1 east have crossed my mind as well, but that just adds a layer of complication to all this).

West options include:
Colorado State (which is maybe one of the safer choices since it’s a reasonably big school and helps tie the conference map together the best)
Boise State (which has the weight of being one of the “best of the rest” type teams that could help bring on-the-field respect, but is fairly small, in a fairly small market)
UNLV (which hasn’t been good in a long time, but is also a larger school AND a larger market… and basically is as close to BYU as Boise State is… plus helps tie the geography together for…)
SDSU (which would be one of the boldest calls that the Big 12 could make at this point, reaching out into a BIG city in a BIG state)

Truth be told, if you’re going with 1 east/1 west I’d be tempted to go with Colorado State, and if you’re going with 2 east and 2 west I’d probably go UNLV/SDSU. Boise would probably get the nod if you did 3 west, 1 east, and “safe choice” Colorado State would get left out unless someone said “no thanks!”

On the east side I’d look at:
– USF (which had a bit of a run for a very short period in the Big East, but helps UCF out because honestly there aren’t any other schools within 650 driving miles of them that I’d consider. they’re also a large school with more students/alumni and in a more populated metro area)
– Tulane (which is the school just over 650 driving miles from them that I’d consider, but that doesn’t bring much at this point outside of, hopefuly, New Orleans and Louisiana interest… some non-football sports, but that’s not what realignment is about generally)
– Memphis (the obvious choice and probably the only 1 that gets in if you’re taking 1 from the east, but geography-wise, they’re going to be in no man’s land more than anyone aside from UCF and BYU)
– Navy (??? I mean, ok, that’s a reach for all sorts of reasons, but truth is, short of prying someone out of a Power 5 conference, they’re the only other eastern team I’d look at right now. The other options need to simmer and develop a bit more)

So yeah, if the Big 12 wants to go to 14, Memphis is in… and honestly, I’d lean Colorado State over Boise State, but I’d understand why Boise would be considered. If the Big 12 wants to go to 16? I’d probably go USF/Memphis/UNLV/SDSU or mayyyyybe Memphis/Boise/UNLV/SDSU. Boise has the wins… but BYU, UCF, Cincy, and Houston were brought in for wins AND TV market and the number of students/alumni.

I’ve gravitated towards the Sun Belt adding Eastern Kentucky and Stephen F. Austin. The latter’s big rival, Sam Houston, is moving up to FBS too, and SFA going FBS would enable the game to continue out-of-conference.

It would also enable this as the Sun Belt’s Thanksgiving weekend schedule:

Appalachian State-Coastal Carolina
Arkansas State-Southern Miss
Georgia Southern-Georgia State
James Madison-Old Dominion
Louisiana-ULM
Eastern Kentucky-Marshall
South Alabama-Troy
Stephen F. Austin-Texas State

The Eastern time teams would form the East Division, and the Central time teams the West. The additions of EKU and SFA will be made possible by the expulsion of Little Rock and UT Arlington, who don’t sponsor football.

Southern Illinois and Youngstown State could also move up to the MAC.

The remaining Midwestern scholarship football programs in FCS could reorganize as an all-sports conference, continuing the Missouri Valley Conference legacy after the private schools in the MVC (none of which sponsor scholarship football) withdraw to form their own conference, the MVC would add all Summit League schools that play football in the MVFC, plus Eastern Illinois and Southeast Missouri from the OVC, and Augustana from the D2 NSIC, which has plans to go D1.

I also prefer if the MAC don’t add MTSU and WKU, rather alongside SIU and YSU, Cleveland State and Robert Morris join as full, non-football members, and Fordham and Richmond join for football only.

UConn and UMass should both join the MAC.
MAC East:
Buffalo
Connecticut
Ohio U.
Akron
Kent State
Massachusetts
Miami OH
Bowling Green
MAC West:
Central Michigan
Toledo
Eastern Michigan
Northern Illinois
Ball State
Western Michigan
Western Kentucky
Middle Tennessee State
* what a great league

Didn’t UMass already do that once and quit? Looks like they were in from 2012-2015. I’m not sure if all the factors, but it seems like they now have plenty of chance to compare MAC membership with Indy status.

UMass and UConn are both terrible now. They would both finish at or near the bottom in the MAC. UCF was in the MAC for one year, went 0-12. Temple was in the MAC for awhile after getting booted from the Big East. Ditto with UConn in C-USA. They could try to be competitive in the MAC for a decade then move on if the MAC no longer served their needs. UMass has lost to Rhode Island and New Hampshire and UConn only win is over Yale or Colgate?.

Got to love the idiocy here! As all these football morons fail to take into account that the OTHER sports are also affected by realignment, even moreso than football!