Conference Realignment Fever Hits Division II College Football

David Luther@@davidrlutherFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2010

It seems that the talk of realignment isn't confined to the ranks of FBS conferences.

 

Several Division II conferences are looking to expand their ranks, leaving some conferences scrambling to either keep current members in place or add new members.

 

Like Division I's Big 12, the Lone Star Conference has several teams that may very well be bolting the conference.

 

A report in the Amarillo (TX) Globe News states that current LSC members Central Oklahoma and Northeastern (Oklahoma) State are planning on leaving for the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association, according to "sources close to UCO."

 

That would boost the MIAA to 12 teams if the moves occur.  There was no information on when the transition may take place, but the LSC has a requirement that teams notify the conference at least one year in advance if they plan to leave the conference.  That would mean a departure of UCO and NSU for the 2011-12 academic year.

 

It is also rumored that Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Southwestern Oklahoma State University, and East Central (Oklahoma) University are also shopping for a new conference. 

Should all five Oklahoma schools leave the LSC, there would be nine remaining members spread across Texas and New Mexico, including the recently added University of the Incarnate Word (TX), which announced it would be joining the LSC on July 1 (UIW was a member of the non-football Heartland Conference, and competed as an independent in football since forming a program in 2009).

 

An article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette stated that six Arkansas schools, along with the three Oklahoma schools not joining the MIAA, are in talks to form a new D-II conference.

Joining SEOSU, SWOSU, and ECU would be Arkansas Tech, Arkansas-Monticello, Harding, Henderson State, Ouachita Baptist, and Southern Arkansas.  All six Arkansas schools are currently members of the Gulf South Conference.

 

That would leave the GSC in a difficult position with only five remaining members—a number that is not high not enough to qualify for recognition from the NCAA as a conference when it comes to postseason play.

 

But for all of the movement in the GSC and LSC, the South isn't the only region in the country undergoing changes.

 

The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference is entertaining requests from Minot (ND) State University and the University of Sioux Falls (SD) to join the conference. The conference voted to grant "site visits" to the two schools at its annual summer meeting.

Both schools are current members of the NAIA, where USF captured the last two NAIA championships and is tabbed as 2010's NAIA preseason No. 1.

 

The NSIC is also planning on adding Simon Fraser University (BC) as a full member. 

Simon Fraser was approved for NCAA Division II membership, and will be the first Canadian university in any of the NCAA's three divisions.  The addition of SFU, Sioux Falls, and Minot State would balloon the NSIC to 16 teams.

 

The GLIAC has also expanded for the 2010 season, adding Ohio Dominican University and Lake Erie College to move to 14 football-playing schools (Lake Superior State is the GLIAC's 15th member).

 

All of the conference expansion, as well as the formation of an entirely new conference, points to the overall expansion of Division II—a stated goal of the NCAA Division II's Presidents' Council.  Several NAIA schools (as well as Simon Fraser from the CIS) have recently applied for membership in NCAA Division II. 

While a number of schools had their applications denied, those who had a strong tradition of athletic support while maintaining the academic focus for which Division II is known were quickly approved.

 

The overall expansion and conference realignment means, however, that the Division II football world is in for yet another round of always controversial playoff realignment. The addition of a conference nestled between the LSC and GSC, as well as the addition of new teams in the NSIC and GLIAC, will give new voice to those calling for an expansion of the playoff system (from the current 24 to 32 teams).

 

Additionally, the NCAA will have to revisit the regional classification of various conferences based on the new number of teams competing in the region (particularly the Northwest Region, as both the GLIAC and NSIC have expanded).

 

Over the next 12 months, the NCAA will undoubtedly have to delve into the playoff selection process, and that process will be further influenced by the changes the LSC and GSC will be forced to make over the next several months as their membership dwindles.

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