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Newest Conference Realignment Involves Texas Schools

Conference realignment
© Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman/USA TODAY NETWORK

The latest wave of conference realignment in college sports became official as teams jumped conferences again on Monday. Just about every conference was affected in some way.

Here are the schools across Texas that were part of the latest realignment phase.

Texas Longhorns

The big headliner, of course, is the University of Texas. The Longhorns have long been one of the premier brands of the Big 12 Conference and have eyed greener pastures.

Both Texas and Oklahoma announced their intentions to move to the Southeastern Conference in 2021. Things picked up quickly from there and sent other conferences toppling.

The move allows the Longhorns the ability to compete in one of college football's top two conferences in America. It also reignites several old rivalries with teams from the defunct Southwest Conference like Arkansas and Texas A&M. It comes with deep hatreds and traditions but also increased exposure and competition. And the money probably helps, too.

Georgia and Oklahoma will be the most difficult SEC opponents for Texas this season. The Longhorns also will play Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Florida, Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas A&M. They also have a nonconference road game against defending National Champion Michigan on Sept. 7.

While TCU will remain in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs released a video celebrating past wins over the Longhorns and bidding them farewell.

SMU Mustangs

Thirty-seven years after Southern Methodist was given the "death penalty" that helped cause the program's collapse into the "Group of 5," the Mustangs are back in a power conference. They are one of three new Atlantic Coast Conference members.

SMU joins the conference at an opportune time, having just won 11 games in 2023 and capturing the AAC Championship. SMU capitalized on that momentum through the transfer portal and brought plenty of contributors back from last season's team.

There will undoubtedly be questions about whether SMU can hang with teams like Florida State and Clemson, but that will all be settled on the field.

Moving to the ACC has also brought in additional funds from donors and alumni. In addition, there have been advantages in recruiting as a Power Four school in a Dallas area bursting with highly-coveted high school recruits. SMU's inaugural ACC football schedule includes Florida State, Stanford, Louisville, Cal, Pitt, Duke, Virginia and Boston College. BC just beat the Mustangs in the Wasabi Fenway Bowl.

SMU held a celebration in Dallas on Monday, enlisting the help of celebrities and athletes on social media. Among those involved were former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, and many other SMU and pro athletes.

Stanford and Cal also joined the ACC after the extinction of the Pac-12 Conference.

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

FCS schools were affected as well. Stephen F. Austin left the Western Athletic Conference for the Southland Conference. This gives the SLC 11 current football members—six in Texas and five in Louisiana.

SFA spent 34 years in the SLC before leaving for the WAC in 2021. The Lumberjacks went 6-4 in their most recent SLC season (2020) and are coming off a 3-8 season in the WAC.

UT-Rio Grande Valley also joined the SLC as the 12th conference member, but its football team does not officially start play until 2025.

National Conference Realignment Notes

  • The Big Ten Conference and the Big 12 will welcome many former Pac-12 members. Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado enter the Big 12. USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington join the Big Ten. Oregon State and Washington State have formed a scheduling alliance with the Mountain West Conference.

  • The AAC adds a new member this season as Army, previously independent, fills SMU's vacancy. Kennesaw State joins Conference USA, moving up from the FCS to become the FBS's 134th member.


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