As of the 2009 season, Western Kentucky officially joins the Sun Belt conference and the ranks of the DIA college football. A number of schools have made the same jump in recent years.
In 2005, FAU and FIU also moved up from DIAA and joined the Sun Belt.
I started thinking, "What are the best schools each state has to offer from the DIAA ranks?"
I decided to look at what the schools in each state had going over the last few years, 2002-2008. Those years were selected because that is as far back as ESPN.com has them.
If a state is not included, it means that there is no DIAA school in that state.
I included if they beat a DIA team in that time.
Alabama - Alabama A&M - The Bulldogs just had their first losing season in quite a few years. Before that they have had a good run of eight or nine win seasons.
Arizona - Northern Arizona - The Lumberjacks have become middle of the road lately, compiling six win seasons each of the last three years.
Arkansas - Central Arkansas - The Bears have been the most successful DIAA school in Arkansas. They had a 10 win season in 2008.
California - San Diego - The Toreros have turned in two 11 wins seasons followed by two nine win seasons in the last four.
Colorado - Northern Colorado - The Bears have been low in the Big West standings for a while now. There are no other DIAA teams in Colorado.
Connecticut - Yale - It was close but the Bulldogs ended up with less losses than the others. Plus, they do have more history.
Delaware - Delaware - The Blue Hens edge in by having the DIAA in 2003 and an appearance in the title game in 2007. They beat Navy in 2007.
Florida - Bethune-Cookman - The last few years, all the Florida schools have been pretty even. Over a longer period, the Wildcats have been the best. They beat FAU and FIU right before they moved up.
Georgia - Georgia Southern - The Eagles have been a bit down lately compared to how they were in 2002. They are still the better choice. They beat FIU the last couple years they were DIAA.
Idaho - Idaho State - The Bengals are no better than Idaho has been the last few seasons. For lack of another choice is the only reason to pick them.
Illinois - Southern Illinois - The Salukis have not had less than nine wins since 2002. They beat Western Kentucky a few times in there, if you want to count that.
Indiana - Butler - The Bulldogs are the best of what there is in Indiana. That’s not saying much.
Iowa - Northern Iowa - The Panthers have had a couple good runs to the DIAA playoffs in the last few years. They beat Iowa State in 2007.
Kentucky - Eastern Kentucky - The Colonels have been a pretty good team with winning seasons since at least 2002.
Louisiana - Grambling State - The Tigers edge out McNeese State by having a few more wins over the last five seasons.
Maine - Maine - Black Bears had a good year in 2008 with a nine win season. Before that it was mostly average seasons. They beat Mississippi State in 2004.
Maryland - Morgan State - The Bears have been pretty average lately averaging about six wins each season.
Massachusetts - Umass - The Minutemen have had three 10 plus wins seasons in the last seven. Three others were winning the last was .500.
Mississippi - Jackson State - The Tigers have been middle of the pack with seasons over .500, but not by much.
Missouri - Missouri State - The Bears only get the nod because they have a won the last couple meetings with Southeast Missouri State, the other DIAA school. They have no recent wins over a DIA team.
Montana - Montana - The Grizzlies have had much greater success than Montana State and have been a mainstay in the DIAA playoffs. They beat Idaho in 2003.
New Hampshire - New Hampshire - The Wildcats have put together numerous playoff runs in the past few seasons. They beat Army in ‘08, Marshall in ‘07, Northwestern in ‘06 and Rutgers in ‘04.
New Jersey - Monmouth - The Hawks haven’t been great, but they haven’t been bad either. They have had up and down records going from 10 wins to six wins, back up to 10 then down to four and up to seven.
New York - Albany - A close race with Colgate, but I felt with a better record over the last couple years and a conference championship in a deeper conference, the Great Danes were the better choice.
North Carolina - Appalachian State - Not even a discussion here. The Mountaineers won three of the last four National Championships. Of course, they beat Michigan in 2007.
North Dakota - North Dakota State - The Bison have had winning season after winning season. They beat Minnesota and Central Michigan in 2007.
Ohio - Dayton - The Flyers have had greater success recently, over a number of years than Youngstown State, which historically has been better.
Oregon - Portland State - The Vikings have not been any kind of powerhouse team and in the past couple years have had losing seasons. They beat New Mexico in 2006.
Pennsylvania - Villanova - The Wildcats are more well known for basketball but the football team has been pretty good too. They beat Temple in 03 and Rutgers in 02.
Rhode Island - Brown - The Bears have been up, down in the middle and back up again in the last few years. None of the other RI schools have been up though.
South Carolina - Wofford - The Terriers have been done pretty well for themselves considering they have to play in the same league as Appalachian State. They have been second in the conference to App St. the last couple seasons.
South Dakota - South Dakota State - The Jackrabbits have been playing at the DIAA level a little longer than South Dakota. They have no recent wins over a DIA team.
Tennessee - Tennessee-Martin - The Skyhawks edge Tennessee State, who they are pretty even with. They had just a few more wins over the last couple seasons.
Texas - Prairie View A&M - The Panthers are the only team in Texas to have winning seasons the last couple years.
Utah - Weber State - They just had a 10 win season which was by far their best in years. Their down years have been better than the best of Southern Utah. They have no recent wins over a DIA team.
Virginia - James Madison - I thought I would end up putting Richmond here but looking over the last few seasons, the Dukes have been more consistent and have an overall better record. Richmond actually came in third behind Hampton as well.
Washington - Eastern Washington - The Eagles have been up and down and made a few appearances in the DIAA playoffs in the last couple years. They beat Idaho in 2003.
In part II I look at moving all these schools to DIA at the same time, just for fun. It’s conference realignment time.