The college football landscape has changed dramatically since the summer of 2009. Back in those halcyon days of old, the Big 12 still had twelve teams, the SEC was located in the southeast, and the Big East
were still conferences. In order to give you a primer on all the changes, over the next three posts, I’ll look at where the current ten conferences (and the Independents) have drawn their membership. We’ll take a brief sojourn down memory lane and see where the current members of each conference were playing in three separate years: 2009, 2000, and 1995. We’ll begin with 2009 and work our backward.
Let’s start with what are now known as the Power 5 (or P5) conferences.
Atlantic Coast Conference
The ACC currently has 14 teams, but in 2009, it had twelve, eleven of which are still in the league. The lone dissenter is of course, Maryland. The Terrapins packed up their shells and headed to the midwest to join the Big 10. The other three teams all played in the Big East in 2009 (Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse).
Big 10 Conference
Back in 2009, the Big 10 was still a bit of misnomer as the conference had eleven teams. Since 2009, three teams have joined, with each coming from a different conference. In 2009, Maryland was a member of the ACC, Nebraska was a Big 12 member, and Rutgers was pulling itself out of the primordial ooze in the Big East.
Big 12 Conference
Sometimes downsizing can be a good thing. While the league has lost four members (Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and Texas A&M) since 2009, it remains a powerful force. Eight of the original twelve members remain (Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech), and the league has added TCU (a Mountain West member in 2009) and West Virginia (Big East), making the conference span half of the country.
The Pac-12 was known as the Pac-10 in 2009, and featured, you guessed it, ten teams. Those ten teams remain, and the league has added a Big 12 member (Colorado) and called up a mid-major from the Mountain West (Utah).
The SEC was a twelve team league in 2009. The preeminent college football conference has since poached two solid Big 12 teams (Missouri and Texas A&M) to add to its coffers.
So that does it for the P5 conferences. What it boils down to is there has been a little game of musical chairs, but only two ‘call-ups’ (TCU and Utah). Remember, the Big East was considered a power conference in 2009 and five of its members (Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, and West Virginia) are now in P5 conferences. As such, there have been three demotions (Cincinnati, Connecticut, and South Florida) from the Big East to the Group of 5 (G5) conferences which we will tackle now.
American Athletic Conference
The current incarnation of the American (in its second year of existence) features the three Big East teams that were demoted by not being called up (Cincinnati, Connecticut, and South Florida). However, a majority of its members were in Conference USA just five seasons ago (East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa, and UCF). Finally, Temple was a member of the Mid-American Conference in 2009, when they were being revitalized under Al Golden
So if a majority of Conference USA remained patriotic, but moved to the American, where were Conference USA members five years ago? Five of the twelve teams (Marshall, Rice, Southern Miss, UAB, and UTEP) from 2009 remain in the league. Reinforcements have come from the Sun Belt (Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, and Western Kentucky), the defunct Western Athletic Conference (Louisiana Tech), and from the non-IA ranks (Old Dominion and Texas-San Antonio).
The MAC looks pretty much the same as it did in 2009. It was a thirteen team league then and is a thirteen team league now. The lone defection was Temple, who was replaced by Massachusetts when they moved up to IA.
Mountain West Conference
The Mountain West featured nine teams in 2009. It lost BYU, TCU, and Utah to independence, the Big 12, and the Pac-12 respectively. Buttressing the remaining six teams (Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, and Wyoming) are six teams that were residents of the WAC in 2009 (Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, San Jose State, and Utah State).
Sun Belt Conference
The Sun Belt featured nine teams in 2009. Four remain (Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, and Troy), and they are joined by a pair of former WAC teams (Idaho and New Mexico State). However, nearly half of the current Sun Belt conference teams were not playing IA football a half-decade ago. Some have made the jump from IAA (Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, and Texas State), while others have started football programs from scratch (Georgia State and South Alabama).
And let’s not forget about the independents.
Army, Navy, and Notre Dame were all independents in 2009. The only new addition is BYU which left the Mountain West Conference to move out on its own. Check back in tomorrow when we'll look at conference affiliation from the year 2000.