With the June 10 announcement that Colorado had been invited to join the Pac-10 conference, coming as it did, on the heels of countless winter and spring rumors regarding possible Big 10 expansion, the world of major college football is set for more change and turmoil.
With the June 10 & 11, 2010 announcements that the University of Colorado had been invited to join the Pacific 10 conference, fellow Big 12 school Nebraska had been offered a position with the Big 10, and Boise State University had been extended a similar offer from the Mountain West Conference, coming as they did, on the heels of countless winter and spring rumors regarding possible Big 10 expansion, the world of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) college football (formerly Division I-A) is set for more change and turmoil. But this will hardly be the first time the fabric of major college football has been tugged, torn and tweaked.
In its 110-plus years college football has undergone countless evolutions and revolutions in conference alignments, births and deaths, from the relatively minor (Michigan State joining the Big 10 in 1949) to seismic shifts (the disbanding of the Southwest Conference in 1996). As a result it’s time for interested fans to take a look back at the state of the 120 member schools of the FBS at the beginning of this next shift.
Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)
Founded in 1953, the ACC’s members were Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, and Wake Forest. The University of Virginia was added in 1953, but South Carolina was lost in 1971, Georgia Tech came on in 1978, and Florida State was added in 1991. The University of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College came over from the Big East in a controversial 2004-2005 conference realignment (more below in Big East and Conference USA).
- Boston College (BC) Eagles
- Clemson University Tigers
- Duke University Blue Devils
- Florida State University Seminoles
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) Yellow Jackets
- University of Maryland Terrapins
- University of Miami Hurricanes
- University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels
- North Carolina State University (NC State) Wolfpack
- University of Virginia (UVA) Cavaliers
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) Hokies
- Wake Forest University Demon Deacons
The charter members at its founding in 1979 were Providence, St. John's, Georgetown, Syracuse, Seton Hall, the University of Connecticut and Boston College. Miami, Temple, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and Rutgers were added in 1991, and Notre Dame came on as a non-football member in 1995. From 2003-2005 Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College left for the ACC, and Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Marquette, and DePaul came over from Conference USA. At that time Connecticut’s football program stepped up to the FBS from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS, formerly called Division I-AA)
- University of Cincinnati Bearcats
- University of Connecticut (UConn) Huskies
- University of Louisville Cardinals
- University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) Panthers
- Rutgers University Scarlet Knights
- University of South Florida (USF) Bulls
- Syracuse University Orange
- West Virginia University (WV) Mountaineers
In addition several non-FBS member schools compete in the Big East in all other sports:
- DePaul University Blue Demons
- Georgetown University Hoyas
- Marquette University Golden Eagles
- Providence College Friars
- St. John's University Red Storm
- Seton Hall University Pirates
- Villanova University Wildcats
Lastly, the University of Notre Dame competes in all non-football sports as a member of the Big East, but is an Independent in FBS football.
Founded in 1896 by Purdue, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Chicago, and Northwestern, this collection was originally known as the Western Conference. Iowa and Indiana were added in 1899, and Ohio State joined in 1912. The University of Chicago dropped football in 1939 and fully withdrew from the conference in 1946, however Michigan State joined in 1949, bringing the membership back to ten. Penn State (formerly an Independent) joined in 1990 as the 11th team, but the conference chose not to change its name.
- University of Illinois Fighting Illini
- Indiana University Hoosiers
- University of Iowa Hawkeyes
- University of Michigan Wolverines
- Michigan State University Spartans
- University of Minnesota Golden Gophers
- Northwestern University Wildcats
- (The) Ohio State University Buckeyes
- Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) Nittany Lions
- Purdue University Boilermakers
- University of Wisconsin Badgers
The Big 12 (not “Twelve” or “XII”) was founded in 1994 as a fusion of the Big Eight Conference (Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) and portions of the defunct Southwest Conference (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor). The conference currently competes in 2 divisions (north* and south**), but the departures of Colorado and Nebraska to the Pac-10 and Big 10, respectively, will likely cause a restructuring, depending on further developments.
- Iowa State University Cyclones*
- Kansas State University (K State) Wildcats*
- University of Colorado (CU) Buffaloes*––Set to join the Pac-10 in 2012
- University of Kansas (KU) Jayhawks*
- University of Missouri (Mizzou) Tigers*
- University of Nebraska (NU) Cornhuskers*––Set to join the Big 10 in 2012
- Baylor University Bears (BU)**
- Oklahoma State University (OSU) Cowboys**
- Texas A&M University (A&M)**
- Texas Tech University Red Raiders**
- University of Oklahoma (OU) Sooners**
- University of Texas (UT) Longhorns**
Conference USA (C-USA)
Founded in 1995 by the University of Houston, Tulane University, UAB, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida (with Marquette, DePaul, North Carolina at Charlotte and St. Louis University as non-football members), this conference has seen almost constant change.
East Carolina University joined in 1997, and the Army followed in 1998, but was out by 2004 (becoming an Independent). Likewise TCU came on in 2001, but left for the Mountain West Conference in 2005 (NC Charlotte and St. Louis left in 2005 as well). Finally, Rice, SMU, UTEP, Tulsa, UCF and Marshall joined in 2005 when Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Marquette, and DePaul left for the Big East.
- University of Houston Cougars
- Rice University Owls
- Southern Methodist University (SMU) Mustangs
- University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Miners
- Tulane University Green Wave
- University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane
- University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Blazers
- University of Central Florida (UCF) Knights
- East Carolina University (ECU) Pirates
- Marshall University Thundering Herd
- University of Memphis Tigers
- University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
Scores of teams have claimed independent status over the years, but since 1887 the University of Notre Dame has been the only major program to consistently avoid conference entanglements (in football, at any rate. ND competes in the Big East for all other sports). Army (team founded in 1890) was a member of C-USA from 1998-2004, and now participates in all other sports in the FCS Patriot League. Similarly, Navy (team founded in 1879) participates in non-football sports in the Patriot League.
- U.S. Military Academy (Army) Black Knights
- U.S. Naval Academy (Navy) Midshipmen
- University of Notre Dame (ND) Fighting Irish
Mid-American Conference (MAC)
The MAC was founded in 1946 by Ohio University, Butler University, the University of Cincinnati, Wayne State University and Western Reserve University, but Wayne State and Butler dropped out in the first year. Miami University and Western Michigan University joined in 1948, and the University of Toledo, Kent State University and Bowling Green State University came onboard from 1950-52.
Cincinnati dropped out in 1953 and Western Reserve followed in 1954. Marshall joined that same year but was kicked out for NCAA violations in 1969. Central Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University joined in 1972, and Ball State University and Northern Illinois University joined in 1973 (though NIU left in ’86). Akron came on in 1992 and Marshall and NIU were readmitted in ’97. Buffalo then joined in 1998. UCF came on in 2001, but left with Marshall for C-USA in 2005, as Temple came onboard (football only). The MAC currently competes in 2 divisions, East* and West**.
- University of Akron Zips*
- Bowling Green State University Falcons*
- University at Buffalo Bulls*
- Kent State University Golden Flashes*
- Miami University RedHawks*
- Ohio University Bobcats*
- Ball State University Cardinals**
- Central Michigan University Chippewas**
- Eastern Michigan University Eagles**
- Northern Illinois University (NIU) Huskies**
- University of Toledo Rockets**
- Western Michigan University Broncos**
Mountain West Conference (MWC)
The MWC was founded in 1999 by WAC breakaways Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah, and Wyoming (see WAC below). TCU joined in 2005, and Boise State University is planning a move to the MWC as well.
- U.S. Air Force Academy (AFA, Air Force) Falcons
- Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars
- Colorado State University (CSU) Rams
- University of New Mexico (UNM) Lobos
- San Diego State University (SDSU) Aztecs
- Texas Christian University (TCU) Horned Frogs
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Rebels
- University of Utah Utes
- University of Wyoming Cowboys
Pacific Ten (Pac-10)
The Pacific Coast Conference was founded in 1915 by Cal, Washington, Oregon and Oregon State. Washington State joined in 1917, Stanford in 1918. USC and Idaho came onboard in 1922, and Montana joined in 1924, but left in 1950. Finally UCLA joined in 1928.
The conference disbanded in 1959 and was reformed later that same year by Cal, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington as the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU). Washington State re-joined in 1962, as did Oregon and Oregon State in 1964, when the group was renamed the Pacific-8 Conference (Pac-8). Arizona and Arizona State came on in 1978 making it the Pac-10. As noted above, Colorado will join the Pac-10 in 2012.
- University of Arizona Wildcats
- Arizona State University (ASU) Sun Devils
- University of California, Berkeley (Cal) Golden Bears
- University of Oregon Ducks
- Oregon State University (OSU) Beavers
- Stanford University Cardinal
- University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins
- University of Southern California (USC) Trojans
- University of Washington (UW) Huskies
- Washington State University (WSU) Cougars
Southeastern Conference (SEC)
This conference was founded in 1932 by Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Auburn, Louisiana State, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, the University of the South (“Sewanee”), Georgia Tech and Tulane. Sewanee left in 1940, Georgia Tech in 1964 and Tulane in 1966. The conference added Arkansas and South Carolina in 1991 and formed two divisions, Eastern* and Western**.
- University of Florida (UF) Gators*
- University of Georgia (UGA) Bulldogs*
- University of Kentucky Wildcats*
- University of South Carolina Gamecocks*
- University of Tennessee (UT) Volunteers*
- Vanderbilt University (Vandy) Commodores*
- University of Alabama ('Bama) Crimson Tide**
- University of Arkansas Razorbacks**
- Auburn University Tigers**
- Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers**
- University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) Rebels**
- Mississippi State University Bulldogs**
This southeastern organization was founded in 1976 by New Orleans, South Alabama, Georgia State, Jacksonville, UNC Charlotte and South Florida. The University of Alabama at Birmingham and Virginia Commonwealth joined in 1979, but New Orleans dropped out in 1980. Old Dominion and Western Kentucky then joined in 1982.
There was a major shake-up in 1991 when UAB, Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion dropped out, New Orleans came back in as the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the University of Central Florida, Lamar, Texas-Pan American, Louisiana Tech, Arkansas State and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette joined.
Florida International University joined in 1998, Denver followed in 1999, and a large group came on in 2001: New Mexico State, MTSU, North Texas, the University of Louisiana at Monroe, and Idaho. Utah State came on in 2003 but left in 2005 with New Mexico State and Idaho to join the WAC. As they left, Troy came in and Florida Atlantic University joined in 2006.
- Arkansas State University Red Wolves
- Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Owls
- Florida International University (FIU) Golden Panthers
- University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
- University of Louisiana at Monroe Warhawks
- Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) Blue Raiders
- University of North Texas Mean Green
- Troy University Trojans
- Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers
As with the Big East, several teams do not participate in FBS football:
- University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) Trojans
- University of Denver (DU) Pioneers
- University of New Orleans Privateers
- University of South Alabama Jaguars (now FCS, but scheduled to compete in the FBS in 2013)
Western Athletic Conference (WAC)
The WAC was founded in 1962 by BYU, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Arizona State, and Wyoming. UTEP and CSU joined in 1968, but Arizona and Arizona State left for the Pac-10 in 1978, and were replaced by SDSU later that year, and Hawaii in 1979. Air Force joined in 1980, and the conference was stable for the next twelve years.
1992 saw the addition of Fresno State, then in 1996 Rice, TCU and SMU come over from the defunct SWC (see Big 12, above). San Jose State, UNLV and Tulsa joined that same year. Due to its large size this new "super conference" divided into four four-team “quads,” but this pulled apart natural rivalries and led to eight schools breaking away to form the MWC in 1999 (see Mountain West Conference above).
Nevada joined in 2000. TCU left for C-USA in 2001, but Boise State came aboard that same year as did Louisiana Tech. Rice, SMU, Tulsa and UTEP then left for C-USA in 2005, so the WAC added Idaho, New Mexico State, and Utah State.
- Boise State University (BSU) Broncos––slated to join the MWC by 2011
- Fresno State University Bulldogs
- University of Hawaii Warriors
- University of Idaho Vandals
- Louisiana Tech University (La Tech) Bulldogs
- University of Nevada Wolf Pack
- New Mexico State University Aggies
- San Jose State University (SJSU) Spartans
- Utah State University Aggies