The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) claims to be the oldest collegiate athletics conference in the nation. It began play in 1888.
Today, the NCAA Division III league features nine schools today, including seven from Michigan. The non-Michigan schools are St. Mary’s and Trine, which joined the conference more than 100 years after its founding. It was definitely Michigan-centric at the start.
But, it’s a new day with conference affiliations as memberships cross state borders more than ever before. The days of seven schools in Michigan joining hands are long gone.
There are positives (“bigger geographical foot print” touted by some) and negatives (loss of “traditional” rivalries and/or forced creation of “new” rivalries) as conference borders expand.
The point of this blog isn’t to suggest that one model is better than the other, but rather it’s a refresher on what “was” and what “is” from a conference alignment standpoint.
Twenty-five years ago (1989), there were nine leagues playing big-school college football. Geography was a key factor in aligning the schools.
Most interestingly, 25 schools were football independents in ‘89. That list included Miami, Florida State, Penn State, Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Rutgers and Boston College among others. This fall, there will be six independents in Division 1A.
The number of states represented in each league has mushroomed in the last quarter century.
Atlantic Coast Conference: schools from 5 different states
Big 8 / Southwest Conferences: schools from 8 different states (6 in the Big 8 and 2 in the SWC)
Big Ten Conference: schools from 7 different states
Pac-10 Conference: schools from 4 different states
Southeastern Conference: schools from 7 different states
ACC: 9 states represented; Big 12: 5 states; Big Ten: 11 states; Pac-12: 6 states; and SEC: 11 states
The ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC have all added representation from new states in the last 25 years. The Big 12 today has fewer states in its membership than what the Big 8 / SWC had a quarter century ago.
Is bigger (as in “footprint”) better? It is a personal preference. The real question is, what will things look like 25 years from now?