AWK’s 2012 NCAA Soccer Preview – Conference Realignment Breakdown

Preview Index


DI Independents

Big East – Cincinnati | DePaul | Pittsburgh | Rutgers | Seton Hall | St. John’s (NY) | Syracuse | Villanova
Big Ten – Indiana | Nebraska | Purdue
Mid-Majors – Florida Gulf Coast
Pac-12 – Arizona State | Colorado | Oregon | Utah | Washington
SEC – Mississippi State
WCC – Gonzaga | Loyola Marymount | San Francisco

It’s July 1, which means all those conference moves that were dated for 2012 have become official. While everyone checks their schedule for the beginning of new conference rivalries, here’s a breakdown of the current (and future) moves:

-In: Pittsburgh (2014), Syracuse (2014)

While there have been bigger rumblings over the future of the comings and goings in the ACC, the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse are set in stone, though the exact date is up for debate. Many think both will enter the league in 2013, but such affairs seem destined for a protracted debate in the courts. On the pitch, Pittsburgh looks woefully understrength to compete in the ACC, while Syracuse looks likely to struggle early on again.

America East
-Out: Boston University (2013)

With the news that the Terriers would be banned from conference tournaments in the 2012-13 athletic season by the league prior to their departure, the ramifications of BU leaving for the Patriot League are already being felt. It’s especially painful in the world of soccer for the Terriers, as BU are almost always overwhelming favorites to lift league silverware. While they have enough talent to contend for an at-large bid if they win enough out of conference and run the table in the league, the margin of error is slim for the Terriers. As for the rest of the league, the likes of Albany, Vermont, and Hartford will be highly tipped for a spot in the NCAA Tournament via the conference tournament this season. Don’t expect the murmurs of movement to be over yet either. Stony Brook has been rumored to be coveted as a conference addition in recent months.

Atlantic 10
-In: Butler (2012), VCU (2012)
-Out: Temple (2013), Charlotte (2013)

The timetable for Butler and VCU’s moves got sped up a year as both schools sought to avoid conference tournament bans. Naturally, the late nature of the announcement caused no end of havoc for clubs forced to rearrange their league schedules to accommodate the additions. Butler is just a few years removed from a league title, and VCU were runners up in the CAA last season, so both should be able to at least compete with most A10 teams, though neither seems likely for silverware this season. Temple were bottom feeders in the league and probably won’t be missed, but Charlotte is a big loss, despite the program’s recent downturn.

Atlantic Sun
-In: Northern Kentucky (2012)
-Out: Belmont (2012)

NKU’s a fine addition from the DII ranks and should be a contender for mid-table at the very least right off the bat this year. It’s a more than fair trade for the loss of Belmont, a solid side in their own right over the past half decade or so in the ASun.

-In: TCU (2012), West Virginia (2012)
-Out: Missouri (2012), Texas A&M (2012)

Trading Texas A&M for West Virginia is likely a wash, with both programs threats to win the league every season and packing dedicated fanbases with high expectations. In the short term, trading Missouri for TCU’s a loss for the league, with the Horned Frogs looking like a club set to finish in the basement in 2012. But TCU still has a ton of upside as a program and could develop into a future power. By contrast, Missouri looks like a side spinning their wheels at the moment, though they should be respectable in the SEC right away.

Big East
-In: Houston (2013), Memphis (2013), Temple (2013), SMU (2013), UCF (2013)
-Out: Pittsburgh (2014), Syracuse (2014), West Virginia (2012)

Much depends on how the situation with Pittsburgh and Syracuse sorts itself out. If the schools and the league can come to an agreement for an early move to the ACC in 2013, the league will be ridiculously big. If the club’s stay until 2014…uh, twenty team conference? Hey, why not. From a competitive standpoint, there are likely to be few tears shed over the departure of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, but losing the defending league champions is a big blow. As for the new additions, Memphis and UCF are picking a fine time to move with their national profiles both being boosted in a big way by last season’s exploits. Houston and SMU have been slumbering lately, but with both clubs changing coaches before 2012, hope has been renewed. Temple? Yeesh. That could be very ugly in the short-term.

Big Sky
-In: North Dakota (2012), Southern Utah (2012)

Neither North Dakota nor Southern Utah seem likely to push for honors this season, but both look like solid additions to the league in both the short and long term. Both will likely look towards Montana’s rise from doormat to NCAA Tournament team as an example of just how quickly fortunes can turn in the Big Sky.

Big South
-In: Longwood (2012)

Longwood’s been a program in desperate need of a conference home for a while now and looks to have fallen into the perfect fit in the Big South. The Lancers have beaten Big South calibre opposition with regularity in recent seasons, meaning it might not be long until the newbies end up lifting some silverware.

Big West
-In: Hawaii (2012), San Diego State (2013)
-Out: Pacific (2013)

The Big West might be coming out of the conference shuffle as big winners, ditching a middling Pacific side for two intriguing programs. Hawaii was way down before 2011 and a coaching change but showed real signs of progress late last season in WAC play. San Diego State hasn’t quite lived up to the promise of a few seasons ago but remain one of the Mountain West’s premier sides and should fit in well in the Big West.

-Out: Georgia State (2013), VCU (2012), Old Dominion (2013)

The traditional power curve in the CAA of William & Mary, James Madison, Hofstra, and Northeastern hasn’t been affected by the conference shuffle so far, but there are still big changes afoot, including the loss of the league’s runners-up, VCU, this year. That was one thing, but with Georgia State and Old Dominion’s ban from conference tournaments pending their moves next year, nine teams will be fighting for six spots in the CAA Tournament this season. Removing underachieving Georgia State and Old Dominion may be a case of addition by subtraction in terms of strength of the league, but it’s unlikely the league will stay at nine teams, which means more additions may be pending.

Conference USA
-In: Charlotte (2013), Florida International (2013), Louisiana Tech (2013), North Texas (2013), Texas-San Antonio (2013), Old Dominion (2013)
-Out: Houston (2013), Memphis (2013), SMU (2013), UCF (2013)

That’s a whole lot of muscle to be losing, but all things considered, C-USA didn’t do too badly in earmarking replacements. Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion probably aren’t going to be much more than flotsam, but the other additions are solid. North Texas has been consistently strong in the Sun Belt, and Texas-San Antonio has done well from themselves in the Southland despite being an embryonic program, with both schools going some way in shoring up the league’s power base in Texas with the loss of Houston and SMU. Charlotte’s been down lately but still has been historically successful, while Florida International has made big strides in the Sun Belt as of late. I’m not sure anyone in the league will be able to reach Memphis and UCF’s level in the short-term, but there’s a lot of potential to grow for many programs in the long-term.

Great West
-Out: Houston Baptist (2013), North Dakota (2012)

The grim reaper’s likely coming a’ knockin’ for the Great West as a soccer league in the not so distant future. They’ll be down to five teams after Houston Baptist’s exit next season, and you could practically feel Utah Valley trying to claw their way out of the league. Unless they can somehow convince Francis Marion and Cal State Bakersfield to come aboard, it could be lights out.

-Out: Butler (2012)

The Bulldogs were league champs in 2010 but sank a little bit last year and have been a middle of the road program for most of their recent history. Still, in an environment where conferences are adding, adding, adding teams, the loss of the Bulldogs cuts the numbers of the league to eight, one departure away from having some real problems.

Mountain West
-In: Fresno State (2012), Nevada (2012), San Jose State (2013), Utah State (2013)
-Out: Boise State (2013), San Diego State (2013), TCU (2012)

Say hello to the new Mountain West…same as the old WAC. Well, in many respects at least. Few will likely lose too much sleep over the losses of Boise State and TCU, but San Diego State was one of the club’s marquee programs, along with New Mexico. The league did make some solid additions though, with Fresno State and San Jose State shoring up the base in California, while Utah State has been a burgeoning power in the WAC as of late. The wasteland that has been the Nevada program the last few seasons probably doesn’t bode well for the league’s RPI though.

Ohio Valley
-In: Belmont (2012)

A brief run from Morehead State aside, the OVC has been one of the nation’s more unpredictable leagues and adds in a solid new club in Belmont. The Bruins were down in 2010 but made a solid comeback under new management last year and should be contenders for mid-table at the very least this season.

-In: Boston University (2013)

Given how stable the Patriot League has been over the years and how few had heard barely a peep out of potential moves involving BU, it was absolutely shocking to hear of the Terriers’ move out of the America East. BU’s a strong program though and should boost the league’s RPI while also doing itself some good given the stronger calibre of opponent. Battles between Boston U and the likes of Army and Navy could be tantalizing fare to be sure.

-In: Missouri (2012), Texas A&M (2012)

Texas A&M should be comfortable with a league with some seriously soft defenses at the bottom half of the table and will be favorites to win a league title at the first time of asking thanks to a hilariously unbalanced schedule that sees all the title rivals come to College Station this year. Missouri have never really recovered from winning the Big XII in 2009 but being left out of the NCAA Tournament. Two disappointing seasons have followed, but the Tigers will be hoping a fresh start will help revitalize a laboring program.

-In: Houston Baptist (2013), Oral Roberts (2012)
-Out: Texas State (2012), UTSA (2012)

The Southland may not be getting the best end of this bargain. Texas State has been one of the league’s better programs as of late, while UTSA has shown great progress for a program so young. Oral Roberts has been nothing to write home about in the Summit League as of late, while Houston Baptist remains a program taking baby steps, but one with a fair amount of potential nonetheless. This league also remains a distinct possibility for expansion with programs from lower divisions.

-In: Nebraska-Omaha (2012)
-Out: Oral Roberts (2012), Southern Utah (2012)

Though the league shrinks in numbers this season, UNO’s been a stronger program at the lower levels than Oral Roberts and Southern Utah at this level. This has never been the most stable conference, so more moves could be afoot in the near future.

Sun Belt
-In: Georgia State (2013), Texas State (2013)
-Out: Denver (2012), Florida International (2013), North Texas (2013)

The Sun Belt really takes it on the chin with the loss of, arguably, the conference’s three best clubs. Georgia State should find their new home more agreeable both competitively and geographically, but they’ve mostly been an underachieving side throughout their history. Texas State has been a creditable side in the Southland as of late and could be a power player in the Sun Belt after some time to acclimate to their new surroundings. On the whole though, the Sun Belt as a conference could slide down the mid-major pecking order.

-In: Boise State (2013), Denver (2012), Seattle (2012), Texas State (2012), UTSA (2012)
-Out: Fresno State (2012), Hawaii (2012), Nevada (2012), Texas State (2013), Louisiana Tech (2013), San Jose State (2013), Utah State (2013), UTSA (2013)

It’s a mess. The losses this season have been compensated for with some solid additions in the form of a strong Denver program, and three teams on the rise in the form of Seattle, Texas State, and UTSA, the latter two’s departure after this season is just one of many concerns facing the league. Three other schools leave before 2013 as well, and the club only brings back Boise State at this point. That equals a five team conference for soccer, which isn’t going to fly. Bringing in Cal State Bakersfield and Utah Valley would be stopgap options as far as soccer is concerned, but the days of the league as a whole are beginning to look numbered, which isn’t good news for some reasonable programs like Denver, Seattle, and Idaho.

-In: Pacific (2013)

This might be diluting the brand in a sense. The WCC has all but sealed their place as a big conference in soccer with the addition of BYU last year and the blossoming programs beyond traditional powerhouses Portland and Santa Clara. But Pacific hasn’t done much of anything as of late in the Big West, and the Tigers are probably going to need some time to build the talent base to even get in mid-table in their new home.

One thought on “AWK’s 2012 NCAA Soccer Preview – Conference Realignment Breakdown

  1. Goaleemama

    From the standpoint of bay area soccer fans, the addition of UOP (Pacific) could turn out to be very interesting. The proximity to Santa Clara, San Francisco, and St. Mary’s should make for some new hot rivalries. Maybe lesser known is that UOP is in the middle of a fundraising project for a new soccer stadium. With UOP, even in down economic times, being the master fund-raisers that they are, starting a fundraiser for a new stadium during an Olympic year seems like a good kick-start to a new era. Also, with the explosion of growth in the central valley over the last decade or so, the area has become absolutely stuffed with unbelievably good soccer programs for kids. With the stellar academic reputation as an additional attraction, the chances of UOP becoming competitive in WCC soccer seem to be very good, so we’ll be watching…


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