The conference realignments of the past six months or so have drawn both praise and criticism from college athletics administrators, fans and sports observers. The shuffle has been contentious at times -- debate on the issue often has been filled with rancor -- and many have been left wondering if their conferences would survive and their teams could prosper in the new alliances.
The flood of media attention given to the subject might cause the casual observer to think such a seismic shift had never before taken place in college athletics.
That's not the case.
Since the first what-is-now Division I-A conference was formed in 1895, conferences have been adding new members, casting off those that no longer fit and changing their geographic landscapes. Just about a decade ago, for example, the Big Eight Conference regrouped and became the Big 12 Conference, leading to the demise of the Southwest Conference.
Here's a look back at the history of the 11 Division I-A conferences, not including the realignments that took place this year:
Atlantic Coast Conference
The ACC was founded in 1953 with seven charter members: Clemson University; Duke University; the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; North Carolina State University; the University of South Carolina, Columbia; and Wake Forest University. Those schools had withdrawn from the Southern Conference to create the newly formed ACC. The University of Virginia was admitted in 1953.
In 1971, South Carolina withdrew from the group -- it was the first and only school ever to do so. Georgia Institute of Technology was admitted in 1978 and Florida State University was added in 1991.
Big East Conference
The Big East was formed in 1979 with Providence College, St. John's University (New York), Georgetown University, Syracuse University, Seton Hall University, the University of Connecticut and Boston College as its founding members. Villanova University began play in 1980, the University of Pittsburgh in 1982 and the University of Miami (Florida) in 1991. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick; West Virginia University; and the University of Notre Dame (for all sports except football) began competing in 1995. Also, Temple University joined in 1991 for football only.
The Big East, before the current expansion, had 14 schools in its total membership. Of those, eight played football.
Big Ten Conference
The Big Ten is the oldest Division I-A conference, having been formed in 1895. The seven founding universities were the University of Chicago; the University of Illinois, Champaign; the University of Michigan; the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Northwestern University; Purdue University; and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Indiana University, Bloomington; and the University of Iowa were admitted in 1899 and Ohio State University joined in 1912. Chicago pulled out in 1946, and Michigan State University was added in 1949.
This configuration remained intact until 1990, when Pennsylvania State University was added as an 11th member of the conference.
Big 12 Conference
The Big 12 was formed in 1994 with the following members: Baylor University; the University of Colorado, Boulder; Iowa State University; the University of Kansas; Kansas State University; the University of Missouri, Columbia; the University of Nebraska, Lincoln; the University of Oklahoma; Oklahoma State University; the University of Texas at Austin; Texas A&M University, College Station; and Texas Tech University.
There has been no shift in membership since the league's inception.
Conference USA was formed in 1995 with 11 members: the University of North Carolina, Charlotte; the University of Cincinnati; DePaul University; the University of Louisville; Marquette University; the University of Memphis; Saint Louis University; the University of South Florida; the University of Southern Mississippi; Tulane University; and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
East Carolina University was added in 1996 and the U.S. Military Academy came on board in 1997 as football members. The University of Houston also joined in 1996. Texas Christian University began competition in 2001 and that same year East Carolina began competing in all sports. South Florida began competing in football in 2003.
The MAC was founded in 1946 with original members Butler University, Ohio University, Miami University (Ohio), Western Michigan University, Case Western Reserve University, Cincinnati and Wayne State University (Michigan).
Wayne State left in 1947, Butler followed in 1950, Cincinnati left in 1953 and Case Western Reserve dropped out in 1955, leaving Miami (Ohio), Ohio and Western Michigan as the only original conference members remaining.
The University of Toledo joined the MAC in 1950, followed by Kent State University in 1951 and Bowling Green State University in 1952. Marshall University joined in 1954, stayed until 1968, and rejoined in 1997. Central Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University both came on board in 1971 and Ball State University soon followed in 1973.
Northern Illinois University joined in 1975, stayed until 1986, and rejoined in 1997. The University of Akron joined the MAC in 1992 and University at Buffalo, the State University of New York in 1998. The University of Central Florida joined for football only in 2002.
The MAC also has other affiliate members. They are: the University of Kentucky in soccer, Louisville in field hockey and Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, in tennis.
Mountain West Conference
The Mountain West is the newest of the Division I-A conferences. It was formed in 1998 and began operations in 1999. Its members are the U.S. Air Force Academy; Brigham Young University; Colorado State University; the University of New Mexico; San Diego State University; the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; the University of Utah; and the University of Wyoming.
The Pac-10 began in 1915 as the Pacific Coast Conference. Its original members were the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Washington; the University of Oregon; and Oregon State University.
The PCC began play in 1916 and Washington State University joined a year later, followed by Stanford University in 1918. In 1922, the PCC added the University of Southern California and the University of Idaho. The University of Montana joined in 1924 and the University of California, Los Angeles, was added in 1928.
In 1950, Montana left for the Mountain States Conference.
In 1959, the PCC was dissolved and a new conference was formed. The Athletic Association of Western Universities consisted of California, Stanford, Southern California, UCLA and Washington. Washington State joined in 1962, and Oregon and Oregon State joined in 1964.
In 1968, the conference once again changed its name to the Pacific-8 Conference.
In 1978, the University of Arizona and Arizona State University were admitted and the conference became the Pacific-10.
The SEC was founded in 1933 after its 13 charter members all left the Southern Conference to form a new group. The charter members were the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; Auburn University; the University of Florida; the University of Georgia; Georgia Tech; Kentucky; Louisiana State University; the University of Mississippi; Mississippi State University; the University of the South; the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Tulane University; and Vanderbilt University.
Sewanee (University of the South) withdrew from the conference in 1940, followed by Georgia Tech in 1964 and Tulane in 1966.
The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and South Carolina joined the SEC in 1991.
Sun Belt Conference
The Sun Belt Conference was formed in 1976, though its first year as a football conference was 2001. That's when four former members of the Big West Conference combined with three former Division I-A independents to make up the football portion of the conference.
Its members include the University of Arkansas, Little Rock; Arkansas State University; the University of Denver; Florida International University; the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; Middle Tennessee State University; New Mexico State University; the University of New Orleans; the University of North Texas; the University of South Alabama; and Western Kentucky University.
Also, Idaho, the University of Louisiana at Monroe and Utah State University hold football-only memberships, joining Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State and North Texas on the football field.
Western Athletic Conference
The WAC was born in 1962 with Arizona, Arizona State, Brigham Young, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The two Arizona schools had been members of the Border Conference and the other schools came in from the Skyline Conference.
The University of Texas at El Paso and Colorado State joined the WAC in 1967, while Arizona and Arizona State withdrew in 1978.
San Diego State joined in 1978, followed by the University of Hawaii, Manoa, in 1979, Air Force in 1980, California State University, Fresno, in 1992 and UNLV, Rice University, San Jose State University, Southern Methodist University, TCU and the University of Tulsa in 1996. The University of Nevada, Reno, came on board in 2000.
Air Force, Brigham Young, Colorado State, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah and Wyoming withdrew in 1999. Boise State University and Louisiana Tech University were admitted in 2001.
TCU withdrew after the 2000-01 season.
Source: NCAA Football Records book; conference Web sites.