Old Dominion and Sun Belt Conference officials say their new partnership makes perfect sense given a new wave of conference realignment.
The pending moves of Texas and Oklahoma to the Southeastern Conference has started a trickle-down effect that has triggered another shift in the college football landscape.
The Monarchs announced their move to the Sun Belt on Wednesday, one day after Southern Mississippi said it was also joining the league. Conference USA member Marshall and James Madison of the Colonial Athletic Association are expected to do the same in the coming days, once the details of their moves are finalized.
“It's not over for us,” Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill said.
Within four of five days of Texas and Oklahoma announcing they were leaving the Big 12 for the already dominant SEC, the Sun Belt met to discuss expansion, Gill said. He was very familiar with Old Dominion from his time as Richmond's athletic director.
“There’s so much volatility, you just never know if something else would have triggered it. But certainly that's such a seismic change in our enterprise,” Gill said of the impetus for realignment discussions. “Something else could have done it, but certainly that was the trigger.”
Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig also sensed change was afoot.
“It wasn’t long when Texas and Oklahoma announced that they were moving to the SEC, I think everyone at the FBS level knew that it was going to be a situation of dominoes and how long would it be until the dominoes affected you,” Selig said. Among athletic directors and the changes forthcoming, “they could have never gotten that right and if they could, they should be in Vegas.”
With the Sun Belt planning to divide into two divisions, with East Coast and West Coast rivalries being formed, the ODU athletic said “that was for us, like hitting the lottery.”
As a member of Conference USA, the Monarchs regularly faced four teams from Texas, but now it will be in the Eastern division, playing more games closer to home.
“It really does make sense to be really compressed into the Mid-Atlantic, which is what we have the potential to be,” Selig said, with potential rivalries being rekindled with James Madison and built against Appalachian State, No. 24 Coastal Carolina, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe.
The American Athletic Conference will also have a new look, announcing last week it was adding six C-USA schools at a date to be determined. C-USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a statement the Dallas-based conference was working to rebuild its ranks and could turn to FCS schools or FBS independents as replacements for departing members.
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