Tulsa, East Carolina To Old Big East; Sun Belt Expands By Four Schools

Beth Hall-US PRESSWIRE

Big East and Sun Belt -- Sun Beast? -- expansion! Catch the excitement!

With conference realignment among the major conferences at a momentary stand still, it's time for the mid majors to go crazy. The conference formerly known as the Big East will add the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in 2014. In addition, the conference will add East Carolina as a full member, giving the league 12 football members when Navy joins in 2015.

You can read The UConn Blog's reaction to the news here, a rather strange response to the old Big East adding a football program with over 100 more Division I-A wins, 6 more bowl wins and 60+ years at the I-A level over the Huskies. But I digress.

Tulsa is a solid add for football; arguably the best program still left in Conference USA. Granted, the adds for shootyhoops stink and will only further water down the overall NCAA Tournament resume numbers for Connecticut (if eligible), Cincinnati, Memphis and Temple. That's the main reason why ECU didn't get the full call up the first time around.

These two additions will allow the conference to (again) split into two divisions and stage a conference championship game at the stadium of the highest rated division champ. Yay? The league has not yet decided how to split the divisions. Best guess, assuming Connecticut and Cincinnati stick around in time to see the old Big East become even more Conference USA-y:

Metro East Division: Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Navy, Temple, South Florida
Metro West Division: East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa

That, or Temple gets screwed again. Either way.

The Tulsa add doesn't affect Boston College's all-time record against teams in the soon-to-be-renamed Big East, which remains at 70-31-4 (.686). In fact, of the 12 programs that will call the conference home in 2015, the Eagles have never faced one-third of those programs -- East Carolina, Memphis, South Florida and Tulsa. We should totally go back, you guys.

In other mid-major conference realignment news, the Sun Belt will add four programs to bolster the ranks of the depleted conference. On Monday, SB Nation reported that Appalachian State and Georgia Southern would make the jump from the FCS to join the Sun Belt. At the time, the move seemed a bit strange considering that two perfectly good, newly independent Division I-A programs -- one actually located in the Sun Belt -- were still without a conference home. On Tuesday, the Sun Belt corrected this egregious error by extending football-only invites to Idaho and New Mexico State.

The Vandals and Aggies will end what is likely to be college football's shortest stint as an independent in 2014.

When Idaho and New Mexico State join, the Sun Belt will have a 12-member conference. Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Texas State, Troy and Western Kentucky will be full members. Idaho and New Mexico State join as football-only members. Arkansas-Little Rock and Texas-Arlington will be full members in all sports except football.

My guess is the conference will split into two geographically aligned divisions with the Mississippi River being the dividing line between divisions.

Sun Belt West Division: Arkansas State, Idaho, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, Texas State
Sun Belt East Division: Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, South Alabama, Troy, Western Kentucky

However, the conference realignment carousel likely won't stop spinning for the Sun Belt, with Western Kentucky a favorite to make the jump to Conference USA to replace Tulsa. Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Texas State are other C-USA expansion targets. The circle of life.

With New Mexico State joining the Sun Belt, the Aggies will have to cancel a number of future nonconference games to make way for an eight game conference schedule in 2014. With any luck, New Mexico State won't have any interest in a Chestnut Hill road trip in 2014 and 2015 and will cancel the return trip so BC can schedule one of any number of more interesting non-conference opponents.

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