Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Season Preview: Conference Affiliation in 1995

For our final edition of ‘Where Were They Then?’ we go back to 1995. Alternative rock was all the rage on the radio, the Playstation was about to take the video game world by storm, and the Big 12 did not exist (neither did Conference USA, the Mountain West, or the Sun Belt for that matter). It’s hard to believe 1995 was nearly two decades ago and a lot has changed since then. Where were the current crop of college football teams playing in 1995? Once again, we start with the Power 5 (P5) conferences.

Atlantic Coast Conference
Back in 1995, the ACC had nine members (Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia, and Wake Forest). Eight of the nine remain with the league today (Maryland is the lone dissenter). Their other six members were in the Big East (Boston College, Miami, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Virginia Tech) and on the Independent circuit (Louisville) in 1995.

Big 10 Conference
The Big 10 had eleven teams in 1995 (Penn State was the last team added in 1993). The three Big 10 newbies were playing in the ACC (Maryland), Big East (Rutgers) and Big 8 (Nebraska) in 1995.

Big 12 Conference
The Big 12 would not hold its first football game until 1996. Half of the current Big 12 membership was playing the final season of the Big 8 in 1995 (Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State). Forty percent of the conference was closing out the Southwest Conference (Baylor, Texas, TCU, and Texas Tech). TCU would be a bit of a college football nomad, bouncing around a few mid-major leagues before finally rejoining their old in-state mates in 2012. Finally, West Virginia, under Don Nehlen, was a member of the Big East in 1995.

Pac-12 Conference
The Pac-12 was still known as the Pac-10 in 1995. Its membership included Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Southern Cal, Stanford, UCLA, Washington, and Washington State. Those ten teams remain in the league today and have been joined by Colorado (Big 8) and Utah (WAC).

Southeastern Conference
The SEC played its fourth season as a twelve-team league in 1995. The league would hold steady at twelve teams, despite expansion rumors, until 2012 when they added Missouri (Big 8) and Texas A&M (Southwest Conference).

Now we can turn our attention to the Group of 5 (G5) conferences. Where were their members in 1995?

American Athletic Conference
Nearly half of the teams in the American were Independents in 1995 (Cincinnati, East Carolina, Memphis, Tulane, and Tulsa). In fact, the number of teams playing as Independents in 1995 (12) is three times the number in 2014 (4). Three American members were not even playing IA football in 1995 (Connecticut, South Florida, and UCF), two were part of the final season of the Southwest Conference (Houston and SMU), and one was trying to compete in the Big East (Temple).

Conference USA
Like the Big 12, Conference USA did not play football in 1995. In its current form, the league features an amazing eight members that did not play IA football in 1995 (Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, Texas-San Antonio, UAB, and Western Kentucky)! That number will increase when Charlotte joins next season. Two members were Independent in 1995 (North Texas and Southern Miss), and three conferences shared the distinction of producing one future Conference USA member apiece (Big West – Louisiana Tech, Southwest Conference – Rice, and the WAC – UTEP).

Mid-American Conference
The MAC featured ten members in 1995 (Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami, Ohio, Toledo, and Western Michigan). Those ten teams are still members. Two current MAC members were not playing IA football in 1995 (Buffalo and Massachusetts). Amazingly, one member was in the Big West (Northern Illinois). Obviously, that was a very liberal interpretation of the word ‘west’.

Mountain West Conference
The Mountain West did not exist in 1995. Seven of its current members were part of the WAC (Air Force, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, New Mexico, San Diego State, and Wyoming). Four members would eventually join the WAC (remember the WAC was the first mega-conference in 1996), but were Big West members in 1995 (Nevada, San Jose State, UNLV, and Utah State). As hard as it may be to believe, Boise State was not playing IA football in 1995.

Sun Belt Conference
Like several other conferences on this list, the Sun Belt was merely an idea in 1995. Seven current Sun Belt members were not playing IA football back in the mid-90’s (Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Idaho, South Alabama, Texas State, and Troy). Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, and New Mexico State were members of the Big West, and Louisiana-Monroe was an Independent.

And finally, the let’s look at the Independents.

Army, Navy, and Notre Dame were Independents in 1995 and remain Independents today (although Notre Dame has an open relationship with the ACC). BYU was a WAC member in 1995.

One thing I noticed when making these charts is the number of teams that have either moved up to IA football or started football teams from scratch in the last twenty years. By my calculations, there have been 21 teams that have joined the ranks since 1995. In 1995, there were 108 IA teams. Now there are 128 (Pacific dropped football after 1995 if you were wondering why 108 + 21 = 128). That means there are more than 18% more teams playing IA football now than there were in 1995. Some have been successful (Boise State and UCF), others not so much (Massachusetts), and the jury is still out on many (Appalachian State and Georgia Southern to name two). Will more teams continue to make the jump over the next two decades or has the bubble effectively burst with the autonomy the P5 conferences have gained (remember no new IA program is in a P5 conference since Connecticut and South Florida were demoted from the Big East)? I won’t pretend to read the tea leaves in regards to this area, but I know that whatever the future holds for conference realignment, expect the unexpected.


Anonymous said...

So what is your point? Are you saying there should not have been any move-ups? Frankly, up until this last flurry of realignment, the only move-ups were individual teams that had accomplished all they could at their level and moved up for level competition. These would include Marshall, Boise State, Middle Tennessee etc. It wasn't until recently that you saw schools starting football teams from scratch to fill market demands made after the Entitled 5 raided other conferences. They have nobody to blame but themselves. As far as Appalachian State and Georgia Southern go, they are in the same category as Marshall and others. They had accomplished all that they needed to accomplish and moved up. IT WAS TIME FOR THEM!

Anonymous said...

One more thing: if you think some of the move-ups don't deserve to remain in FBS, I can name several schools in the Entitled 5 that would have a hard time competing regularly at the FCS level.

matt said...

Easy there guy. I wasn't saying these move up don't 'deserve' to be in FBS (whatever that means). I'm just saying that maybe moving up will not be in their best interest in the long run. Will App State or Georgia Southern really gain more prestige, money, etc. by moving up? I don't know the answer.