Conference Realignment

Texas, Oklahoma, USC, UCLA

conference realignment

Conference realignment is at the forefront of the conversation in college athletics. Texas and Oklahoma, bound for the SEC, were the first big dominoes to fall, kicking off the largest collegiate athletics shakeup in over a decade. Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington followed suit with bombshell announcement to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. But the reshuffle – the first phase kicked into effect on July 1 – goes much deeper than those five programs.

Keep tabs on this page for the latest in conference realignment – from college football to college basketball and beyond.

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Conference Realignment 2023: Big 12, American, Conference USA

The first Phase of the massive realignment comes with the Big 12, AAC, and CUSA, beginning July 1. The following moves include all sports unless otherwise noted.

Big 12 Conference Moves

TeamComing From (since)Previous Affiliations
BYUIndependent (2011)Mountain West, WAC, Skyline, MSAC, Rocky Mountain
CincinnatiAAC (2013)Big East, CUSA, Missouri Valley
HoustonAAC (2013)CUSA, Southwest, Missouri Valley

BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF joined the Big 12 starting July 1, 2023. Aside from football, Cincinnati and Houston bring a storied basketball program to the country’s top league. Those two schools historically also belonged to major conferences in the Big East and Southwest, respectively. Although UCF joined Division I-A in just 1996, the Knights boast one of the best records in the country since 2017.

BYU has played as an independent in football and in the West Coast Conference in basketball. The Cougars boast a Heisman trophy winner (Ty Detmer, 1990) and a national championship in football (1984). They also played as a member of the old Mountain West that featured programs like TCU and Utah until 2011.

American Athletic Conference Moves

TeamComing From (since)Previous Affiliations
CharlotteCUSA (2015)None — Joined FBS in 2015
FAUCUSA (2013)Sun Belt
North TexasCUSA (2013)Sun Belt, Big West, Missouri Valley
RiceCUSA (2005)WAC, Southwest
UABCUSA (1999)*None

*UAB folded their football program after the 2014 season before reinstating it in 2017.

Following the departure of three of the biggest programs in the AAC, the league added six new members: Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB, and UTSA. These six programs accounted for the last six Conference USA championships in football and the last three champions in basketball. However, four of the schools turned over their coaching staff this past offseason.

While many of these schools lack the athletic prowess as those departing, most are strategically placed in major TV markets: Charlotte, Miami, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. UAB gives the AAC a footprint in the southeast, a market they largely didn’t have prior (save Tulane in New Orleans).

FAU comes off a year in which they made a run at the Final Four in men’s basketball and Rice brings academic prowess highly sought by the league. FAU, Rice, and UTSA also bring strong baseball programs.

Conference USA Moves

TeamComing From (since)Previous Affiliations
Jacksonville StateFCSNone
LibertyIndependent (2018)None — Joined FBS in 2018
New Mexico StateIndependent (2018)Sun Belt, WAC, Big West, PCAA, Missouri Valley, BIAA
Sam Houston StateFCSNone

Now a conglomeration of who’s left, Conference USA did not benefit from this round of realignment. As mentioned, gone are its last six football and three basketball titles. CUSA also becomes the weakest conference in the country, falling behind the MAC given its remaining members. Perhaps the worst blow to CUSA, though, is its loss of major TV networks like Dallas-Fort Worth and Miami.

To combat the losses, CUSA brings in Liberty – an independent only recently jumped to FBS, but a successful program at that – and New Mexico State, also an independent. They also take on rising FBS members Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State. The Bearkats won the FCS National Championship in the spring of 2021.

Conference Realignment 2024: SEC, Big Ten, Big 12

While 2023 offers the most movement and kicks off the biggest realignment since 2013, 2024 is when the biggest players move.

First, Oklahoma and Texas depart the Big 12 and join the SEC, agreeing to a $100M buyout to leave early in February, 2023. Texas joined the Big 12 in 1996 following the dissolving of the Southwestern Conference while Oklahoma has been a part of the league (and its various forms) since 1928.

A year after the bombshell SEC announcement, UCLA and USC announced they would be leaving the Pac-12 in favor of the Big Ten beginning in 2024. While concerns arose around the Big 12, that league effectively filled its membership with BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF. The two LA schools leaving the Pac-12 so far went un-countered, and created real stability questions. The Pac-12 also struggled to find a TV deal for the better part of two years, further shaking faith in its members.

These four movers are the highest-volume programs to move to new conferences since Texas A&M left the Big 12 in 2012. But this number of schools realigning is unprecedented in the modern era.

Colorado then announced in July that they would be leaving the Pac-12 for the Big 12 beginning in 2024.

Not to be overshadowed, Kennesaw State also joins the FBS ranks in 2024 and will align with Conference USA.

Oregon, Washington To Leave Pac-12

In a move likely to close the book on the Pac-12, both Oregon and Washington received invites to the Big Ten. The two schools will join the Big Ten ahead of the 2024 college football season.

ACC Votes To Add SMU, Cal, Stanford

A long-rumored move became official days before the remaining 2023 college football slate kicked off. The ACC – in an attempt to absorb rather than be absorbed – added Cal, SMU, and Stanford starting in 2024. The two current Pac-12 schools didn’t have much negotiating leverage, and thus will receive a cut share from TV revenue. SMU won’t receive any media rights revenue for the first seven seasons in the ACC.

Conference Realignment Timeline, Rumors

July 1, 2024: Texas and Oklahoma leave the Big 12, join the SEC. UCLA and USC leave the Pac-12, join the Big Ten. Kennesaw State becomes the 134th FBS member, joins Conference USA.

Sept. 1, 2023: ACC votes to add Cal, SMU, and Stanford beginning in 2024.

Aug. 4, 2023: Oregon and Washington will be invited to the Big Ten and are expected to leave the Pac-12. The Big 12 also voted unanimously to add Arizona State and Utah to the league, beginning in 2024.

July 26, 2023: Colorado confirmed it will leave the Pac-12 after 12 years and return to the Big 12 beginning in 2024.

July 1, 2023: 12 schools move conferences, two more (Jacksonville State, Sam Houston State) join the FBS ranks.

June 16, 2023: San Diego State announces its intent to leave the Mountain West for the Pac-12. The Mountain West later denied the request.

May 15, 2023: Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellinger reports that the Pac-12 is looking to add San Diego State, “possibly” SMU.

Feb. 9, 2023: Oklahoma and Texas reached an early exit agreement with Big 12, will begin SEC membership in 2024.

Dec. 14, 2022: University of California’s board of regents approve UCLA and USC’s departure to the Big Ten beginning July 1, 2024.

Oct. 14, 2022: Kennesaw State announces its intent to join the FBS and CUSA, becoming its 134th member.

June 30, 2022: UCLA, USC announce their intent to leave the Pac-12 and join the Big Ten.

June 15, 2022: AAC approves membership for its six new members, beginning July 1, 2023.

Nov 5, 2021: Liberty, New Mexico State announce plans to join CUSA. Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State also announce their move to the FBS ranks – becoming members No. 132 and No. 133 – and join CUSA in 2023.

Oct. 21, 2021: Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB, and UTSA announce their departure from CUSA to AAC.

July 30, 2021: Oklahoma, Texas boards unanimously approve move to SEC.

July 26, 2021: Oklahoma, Texas announce intent to leave Big 12 Conference and join the SEC.