As former mid majors Houston, UCF, Cincinnati, and BYU depart to the Big 12 next season, we here at Mid-Major Madness have lost four more teams to the spreading danger of Power 5 (6?) conferences that threaten the once-sacred nature of the mid-major program. Plus, we have other big moves with Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB, and UTSA moving to fill the void in the AAC (kinda mid major but also kinda not).
We wanted to look over other programs that could possibly make moves soon, given the wave of conference realignment we are currently in.
This list will be organized into two categories.
First, will be the moves that fit perfectly, and could almost definitely happen (doesn’t mean they will, but they are things that are too perfect for me to not mention). In the second category will be the moves that are very feasible, but need a lot more dominoes to fall before I can definitely say they should happen.
Moves that could happen
- San Diego State finally joins declining Pac-12: After an impressive tournament run, the Aztecs are one of the prime candidates to fill the Trojan-and-Bruin-shaped hole left by USC and UCLA with their surprising (and, frankly, head-scratching) move to the Big 10 in 2024. This move also makes sense from a viewership standpoint, with SDSU being the most popular basketball team in the ninth-largest metro area in the country, and they showed that at the Final Four, packing the house with red and black despite a much shorter travel distance for the other three schools. They have also shown success with their football program, an important factor for the Pac-12. Combining that with head coach Brian Dutcher’s comments on how SDSU should not be considered a mid-major due to their yearly success in the Mountain West, the Aztecs have a compelling case for a Pac-12 move in the near future.
- Grand Canyon makes a leap to WCC: With the Antelopes coming very close to knocking off the No. 3-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs in the first round of the tourney this year, a new rivalry between the Phoenix-based GCU and the perennial power could give the Bulldogs another reason to stay in a conference that has proved to be detrimental to Gonzaga come tourney time every season. Filling the space left by BYU, Grand Canyon brings in good facilities and devoted fans to the conference, and its religious backing fits the mold of the WCC. Also, with its location in Phoenix, GCU would give the WCC another big market to go along with San Diego, San Francisco, and Portland. With its newfound success in the WAC, the Antelopes are a new, promising program that could see great success in the West Coast Conference.
- Memphis makes an upgrade to move to ACC: “Wait, Memphis isn’t on the Atlantic Coast,” I hear you say. Yes, that’s very true, but, as my good friend Sam Federman made known to me, neither is Notre Dame, Louisville or Georgia Tech, who all are at least 250 miles from the Atlantic ocean. As UCLA and USC remind us, location doesn’t matter anymore when it comes to bigger conferences. It’s all about who can grab up all of the big-name programs first, so even though the Tigers would be the furthest West team in the conference, the ACC desperately needs another program that will help them compete with the other Power schools that have made significant moves. With the big market of Memphis combined with the school’s historically successful football and basketball programs, this move would be mutually beneficial for both the Tigers, who have just lost three competitive teams in the AAC, and the Atlantic Coast Conference who needs to stay relevant.
- DePaul DeCends down to A-10: Since joining the Big East in 2005, the Blue Demons have had just one season with a winning record in conference play. They have found almost no success in a basketball centered conference, meaning that it’s time to go. They came from Conference USA back in 2005, but without a football team, DePaul would have a hard time integrating back into the league. Furthermore, the school has expressed its desire to be with other Catholic universities, seeing as it was a part of the presumed failed conference that involved all-Catholic schools in the past. The best fit for the Blue Demons would be in the Atlantic-10, where it can join other Catholic schools in St. Joe’s and St. Bonaventure.
- Oral Roberts joins the WAC: I’ll go ahead and say the one problem with this: ORU has a student population of just over 4,000 students. Other than that, they have a perfect case for a WAC bid. Their arena, the Mabee Center, seats over 10,000 people in the middle of the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, which could add another metro area to the WAC. The Golden Eagles have dominated the Summit League ever since they joined in 1998, and a move up in conferences is inevitable at this point after their past tournament success.
Moves that take some imagining
- Hofstra jumps to Atlantic-10: This came from a bit of brainstorming on my part, but after looking over Hofstra’s extensive success in their program’s history (10-time regular season conference champions), it wouldn’t be far off to suppose that an A-10 move is out of the question. With some schools in the conference looking to move to Power status, Hofstra makes a case to slide in behind the schools moving out. Besides it’s location on Long Island in the prime of New York City, Hofstra has the fans and support to make a move. Unfortunately, there are a few things keeping them from making my “moves that could happen” list is their program’s severe lack of tournament success. They have made the Big Dance just four times in program history and has never won a game when they’ve gotten there. Also, a move from the CAA (which is a very solid league don’t get us wrong) all the way up to one of the most prominent mid-major conferences is definitely a stretch, but it’s always fun to speculate.
- VCU joins Big East: It’s too much of a perfect fit for me not to mention. The Rams would fit in perfectly with the other schools in the Eastern U.S. (and Creighton). With their historic success, the Rams would be another addition to a conference filled with former mid-majors that have made the move up. With a location in Richmond, the market is big enough to support Power money, and their lack of a football program matches many of the other schools in the conference. The only thing keeping them from such a move is the lack of interest from the Big East in expansion. Otherwise, the Rams make a prime candidate out of the plenty of other schools in the A-10 that also have good cases.
- Ohio takes on C-USA: After losing nine teams in the past two seasons, I’m really trying to help out this conference that just can’t stay together. The Bobcats have been a regular in the MAC for quite some time, but it might be time for some turnaround in Athens, Ohio. Even though there’s been a few years of mediocrity in the conference, Ohio has turned themselves around from a bottom-feeder to a regular contender with the addition of head coach Jeff Boals in 2019. With the name to boot, Conference USA is in desperate need of a team that will stick around for the long haul, and after 77 years in the MAC, the Bobcats may be a good candidate.
- UC Irvine to WCC: In our second edition of “Ways to keep Gonzaga around” the West Coast Conference adds regular powerhouse of the Big West. Out of UC Irvine, Long Beach St, and UCSB, I opted to go with the Anteaters due to their more regular success in the conference, but Long Beach State also makes a good case. Adding another team from the Los Angeles metro area will only help bring in more for the conference, and UC-Irvine’s facilities match those of other WCC schools. The only thing keeping the Anteaters where they are is that they have no big reason to leave, and putting themselves in a position where they have even less of a chance to make the Big Dance does not seem like a good selling point for the conference.
- Texas Southern in the WAC: The biggest enigma in college basketball, TSU, would be a smart choice for the WAC after losing their presence in Houston with the departure of Sam Houston State this offseason. I would be very interested to see the Tigers go 0-18 in conference play, just to see them make a miraculous WAC tournament run and make it to another March Madness. There is really nothing behind this other than just sheer intrigue, but everyone has to have one crazy pick, right?