The 2011 college football season is about halfway over and the 2011-12 basketball campaign mercifully starts in less than two weeks, but despite all of the action on the field and the promise of excitement on the hardwood, realignment is still occupying too much of the nation's focus. At the moment, everyone is seemingly waiting on big time, football-related moves to take place. Missouri is supposed to be moving to the SEC at any moment. And since Google Maps is apparently blocked at the Big 12's offices in suburban Dallas, West Virginia is in line to replace the Tigers. That move, reportedly due to happen tomorrow or Thursday, would leave the Big East scrambling. It's even possible that South Florida could join them in the formerly-Heartland-focused conference.
And then there's the whole 32-team megaconference idea floating around. The less said about that the better.
However, today there was a piece of actual realignment news that both impacts basketball significantly and makes geographic and financial sense. (Read on for more...)
Oral Roberts announced this afternoon that it is departing the Summit League, a conference it joined in 1997 (back when it was known as the Mid-Continent), to join the Southland Conference. While the Golden Eagles will be the Southland's first Oklahoma school and the only private institution in the loop, Oral Roberts now finds itself in a league filled with more convenient rivals based in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas.
The move is not only a positive for the conference's newest member, but also for the league itself. The Southland needed a quality athletic program to fill the void that will soon be left by the departures of UT Arlington, UT San Antonio, and Texas State, all of whom are bound for the new-look WAC. While the Golden Eagles do not sponsor football, their other athletic programs, particularly basketball and baseball, will boost the conference's overall quality. On the hoops front, Oral Roberts' presence could help keep the Southland out of the First Four, which is where UTSA ended up last season. ORU will be the Southland's tenth member, meaning the conference will likely establish an 18-game double round-robin conference schedule for the 2012-13 season.
Meanwhile, the move means the 2012-13 version of the Summit League will feature nine teams, all based in the Midwest. Oral Roberts is now the third geographic outlier to depart in the past couple of years, as Southern Utah is headed to the Big Sky next year, and Centenary, in Shreveport, Louisiana, played its final Division I schedule last year. Reportedly, the newfound influence of the Summit's three Dakota-based schools, all relative newcomers to Division I, helped push ORU Southwest.
Don't expect the Golden Eagles to take it easy on their rivals in their final Summit basketball campaign. The Golden Eagles look to be a heavy favorite to win one last conference title and NCAA bid, which would be their fourth since 2006, before they depart.
I've updated the Conference Changes For 2012-13 (And Beyond) page with this information.