Another wave of NCAA conference realignment is upon us, and college sports fans have begun readying themselves for major changes across the Division I college basketball conference landscape as they have known it.
While realignment in college sports has largely been centered around the earth-shaking moves to come in college football, men’s and women’s college basketball have hardly been immune to imminent change. Of college basketball’s 32 Division I conferences, 15 have pending membership changes on the horizon. The biggest moves — all driven by football — will occur in the Big 12, SEC, AAC, Conference USA and the Sun Belt, but frequent multibid basketball conferences including the Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley and WCC will also be undergoing alterations to their footprints.
To keep track of the changes, ESPN put together a conference-by-conference guide to the pending movement throughout Division I. Future league footprints for each affected conference are included, as well as the latest on the timetable for the forthcoming moves. This page will be continuously updated as further changes occur.
Hartford announced in May that it was departing Division I, with the school planning to apply for reclassification into Division III in January 2022. Although Hartford’s move to D-III is not expected to be completed until 2025, outgoing America East commissioner Amy Huchthausen told the Lowell Sun in July that 2021-22 would be the school’s final year in the conference after a 38-season affiliation.
Future look: Albany, Binghamton, Maine, UMBC, UMass Lowell, New Hampshire, NJIT, Stony Brook, Vermont
Current AAC members Cincinnati, Houston and UCF accepted invitations to the Big 12 in September, and will depart the American “no later than” the 2024-25 season (it’s still possible that an exit could be negotiated in time for the 2023-24 season).
In October, the American announced it would add six former members of Conference USA: Charlotte, FAU, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTSA, bringing the basketball membership of the conference to 13 schools, pending the departure of the Big 12 defectors. (The football side of the league will have 14 programs, including affiliate member Navy, which will continue to serve as a core member of the Patriot League for other sports). All six incoming schools are reportedly planning to start AAC play in 2023-24.
Future look: Charlotte, East Carolina, FAU, Memphis, North Texas, Rice, SMU, South Florida, Temple, UTSA, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB
Jacksonville State and Liberty will each end short stints with the ASUN when they move to Conference USA in 2023. The league’s other move, announced in September, was the addition of Austin Peay from the OVC for the 2022-23 season.
Future look: Austin Peay, Bellarmine, Central Arkansas, Eastern Kentucky, Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Lipscomb, North Alabama, North Florida, Stetson
Loyola Chicago accepted an invitation from the A-10 in November, announcing it will depart the Missouri Valley and expand its new conference to 15 schools.
Future look: Davidson, Dayton, Duquesne, Fordham, George Mason, George Washington, La Salle, Loyola Chicago, UMass, Rhode Island, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis, VCU
Southern Utah announced in January that it would join the WAC in July 2022.
Future look: Eastern Washington, Idaho, Idaho State, Montana, Montana State, Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado, Portland State, Sacramento State, Weber State
In the first major shot across the realignment bow, Oklahoma and Texas announced in July that they would leave the Big 12 for the SEC in the summer of 2025. Though there has been speculation that an exit could be negotiated for the schools to leave by 2023, no known progress has been made in those negotiations.
Current AAC members Cincinnati, Houston and UCF accepted invitations to the Big 12 in September and will depart the American “no later than” the 2024-25 season (it’s still possible that an exit could be negotiated in time for the 2023-24 season). BYU, a member of the WCC in men’s and women’s basketball, is scheduled to join the Big 12 across the board in 2023-24, though it is possible the school could pay the WCC’s relatively small buyout and join as a basketball member next season.
Future look: Baylor, BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, UCF, West Virginia
James Madison, which had been actively and transparently seeking an FBS conference for its football program for the better part of 20 years, in November accepted an invitation to join the Sun Belt in time for the 2022-23 season. In response, the CAA took the unusual (and in this round of realignment, unprecedented) measure of banning the Dukes from winning any more conference titles for the remainder of the 2021-22 season. This means the men’s basketball Dukes (who started the season 9-2, including a win over Virginia) would have to earn an at-large bid to reach the NCAA tournament unless CAA presidents and ADs reconsider their hurt feelings and/or the conference’s arcane bylaws and allow JMU to compete in the CAA tournament.
Future look: Charleston, Delaware, Drexel, Elon, Hofstra, Northeastern, Towson, UNC Wilmington, William & Mary
No Division I league will undergo a bigger transformation than C-USA, which will lose nine schools — UAB (American), Florida Atlantic (American), Charlotte (American), Marshall (Sun Belt), North Texas (American), Old Dominion (Sun Belt), Rice (American), Southern Miss (Sun Belt) and UTSA (American) — from its current roster by 2023-24.
The conference announced in November that it would counter by adding Jacksonville State, Liberty, New Mexico State and Sam Houston in time for the 2023-24 season.
Future look: FIU, Jacksonville State, Liberty, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico State, Sam Houston, UTEP, Western Kentucky
The Valley will trade a good program for another good program (at least in men’s basketball terms) in 2022, as Loyola Chicago departs for the Atlantic 10 and Belmont comes over from the OVC. The league also reportedly reached out to UT Arlington (the only remaining non-football member of the Sun Belt) last December to gauge the school’s interest in joining, but nothing further has materialized there.
Future look: Belmont, Bradley, Drake, Evansville, Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, Valparaiso
The OVC will lose two programs in 2022-23, with Austin Peay (ASUN) and Belmont (Missouri Valley) leaving a conference that lost Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State to a previous round of realignment.
The league countered by adding Little Rock, which comes over from the Sun Belt in 2022-23.
Future look: Eastern Illinois, Little Rock, Morehead State, Murray State, SIU Edwardsville, Southeast Missouri State, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, UT Martin
Oklahoma and Texas announced in July that they would leave the Big 12 for the SEC in July 2025. As mentioned, there has been speculation that an exit could be negotiated for the schools to depart the Big 12 and join the SEC by 2023, but no known progress has been made in those negotiations.
Future look: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
The Southland lost one of its newest programs when Incarnate Word announced it would join the WAC in 2022-23. The conference countered by extending an invitation to Division II Texas A&M-Commerce, which is scheduled to join the league and begin its four-year transition to Division I in 2022.
Future look: Houston Baptist, McNeese State, New Orleans, Nicholls State, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana, Texas A&M-Commerce, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
The Sun Belt was mostly a buyer in this wave of realignment, adding Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss from Conference USA and James Madison from the CAA. JMU is slated to join the basketball side of the league in 2022-23, the others in 2023-24.
The conference did suffer some attrition, with Little Rock announcing in December that it would move to the OVC in 2022-23. That leaves UT Arlington as the only Sun Belt school without a football program, and the university’s reported discussions with the Missouri Valley are perhaps an indication that there’s more to come there.
Future look: Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, James Madison, Louisiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Marshall, Old Dominion, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Texas State, Troy, UT Arlington
BYU is scheduled to move from the WCC to the Big 12 in 2023-24, though as mentioned, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the Cougars could relocate for everything other than football (which is effectively bound by existing schedule commitments to remain an independent in 2022) by 2022-23.
Future look: Gonzaga, Loyola Marymount, Pacific, Pepperdine, Portland, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Diego
The WAC will undergo major alterations next season, with Chicago State departing without a known conference destination and New Mexico State and short-timer Sam Houston both joining Conference USA.
In the additions category, Incarnate Word (Southland) and Southern Utah (Big Sky) are both on their way in for 2022-23. (Although not an addition, current WAC member Dixie State will also become known as Utah Tech beginning next season.)
Future look: Abilene Christian, Cal Baptist, Grand Canyon, Incarnate Word, Lamar, Seattle, Southern Utah, Stephen F. Austin, Tarleton State, UT Rio Grande Valley, Utah Tech (formerly Dixie State), Utah Valley
Conferences with no pending membership changes (as of Dec. 14, 2021): ACC, Big East, Big South, Big Ten, Big West, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Mountain West, NEC, Pac-12, Patriot, SoCon, SWAC, Summit