"Rants and Raves" is an open forum for coaches to discuss topics, ranging from issues to observations on the state of college basketball and beyond.
 
 
The Great Migration
By Seth Greenberg, Virginia Tech

Much has been made about the 'new landscape' of college athletics. The departure of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College, from the Big East to Atlantic Coast Conference, created a void, which was quickly filled.

But while the arrival of Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida garners big headlines, it is simply nothing new in college athletics. Every year there is change, across the board.

At the mid-major level there is seemingly constant migration. Last year Jacksonville State and Samford faced off against competition in the Atlantic Sun Conference. This season those two institutions are members of the Ohio Valley Conference.

With the exception of Independents and schools making the jump to division I, anytime there is migration it obviously changes the landscape of at least two conferences. But while the recent changes in the ACC, A-10, Big East and C-USA are familiar to virtually anyone that follows college athletics, the new-look Atlantic Sun and OVC simply didn't get much national attention.

The realignment of the 'power conferences' is big news for the landscape of college athletics, but for years there has been a great migration among 'smaller profile' schools.

Such changes aren't as visible, but they have become common place.

In 1998 Lamar, Louisiana Tech, Jacksonville and Texas Pan American were all members of the Sun Belt Conference. Three of those four schools are in different leagues now, with Pan American being an Independent.

If you go back seven years earlier (1991) you will find South Alabama and Western Kentucky to be the only two members of the Sun Belt that are still affiliated with the league today.

In a little more than a decade the face of the Sun Belt has completely changed.

Remember the Eastern 8? First Villanova and later Pittsburgh left to join the emerging Big East Conference. The Eastern 8 then added four new schools and became the Atlantic 10.

And what ever happened to the Metro Conference? Well, it changed membership and became the Great Midwest Conference, which in turn went through change and became Conference USA.

With few exceptions, over the past 10-15 years your favorite conference has undoubtedly gone through change. What we are witnessing now is simply nothing new.

So why all the change? Sure money is a major contributing factor, but much of the change has been brought on by a desire to find a good fit.

Universities want to compete in conferences with other like schools. If your basketball program has an arena that hold 3,000 people you would prefer not to be affiliated with a conference that has members, which put 10 to 15,000 in the stands every night.

Schools look for leagues in which the members have similar size, similar academic standards and a common mission. Thus, many presidents and athletic directors are always exploring the possibilities of better fits for their respective institutions.

There is no question that football has been a driving force in reshaping the college landscape and anticipated this, years in advance.

Former South Florida athletic director, Paul Griffin was ahead of the curve when he brought football to USF. Had such a move not been initiated, South Florida would not been as attractive to the Big East.

Nobody is naive enough to think that college athletics is not big business. And in big business we witness mergers and change every day. Those companies that thrive are those that stay one step ahead and put themselves in the best situation to exceed on all levels.

In corporate America, if you align yourself with the right people you will improve your standing and make your stock holders very happy.

If you follow that same path in college athletics you will give your institution an opportunity to win championships, in turn making your fans and alumnus very happy.

Perhaps we will not see much more movement, if any, among the 'high profile' conferences, but we will undoubtedly continue to see migration in athletics as a whole.