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How Women’s Sports Have Been Impacted Due To NCAA Conference Restructuring

By Spencer Chism

With the recent conference shakeup of the college sports world, there has mostly been talk regarding the effects on football programs. However, there will also be some significant long-lasting effects for the other sports fielded by these schools.

AMERICAN

Additions: Alabama-Birmingham, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UT-San Antonio

Subtractions: Central Florida, Cincinnati, Houston

Where they got stronger: None

Where they got weaker: Volleyball, Soccer

While Rice generally fields a solid volleyball program, the AAC is replacing 3 top-60 teams with five teams that struggle to crack the top 100 list. While the teams leaving are not necessarily powerhouses, they are the best teams in the conference while the teams being added will bring down the average ranking significantly. For soccer, the story is similar. UCF, Houston, and Cincinnati will all field very solid soccer programs, all of which have historically been ranked higher than the teams being added. 

BIG 12

Additions: Brigham Young, Central Florida, Cincinnati, Houston

Subtractions: Oklahoma, Texas

Where they got stronger: Cross Country

Where they got weaker: Basketball, Volleyball, Track

A strong cross country contender in Texas was removed from the conference and replaced by powerhouse BYU, who is currently ranked No. 4 in the Coaches Poll and No. 1 in the preseason poll. However, it’s not the same story for track & field. Oklahoma and Texas are perennial top-25 teams, with Texas finishing in the top 10 last year. The teams are still replaced by strong contenders in BYU and Houston, however, the track records are not the same as the teams leaving. Big 12 volleyball will be losing a huge contender in Texas — currently ranked RPI #3, it will be replaced by respectable programs in UCF and BYU, but neither are expected to be a top 10 team anytime soon. Where the conference will be most affected is basketball — Texas and Oklahoma are usually ranked teams while UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston are usually fringe-ranked teams on good years. UCF and BYU have very solid programs, but generally do not compete at the same level of Texas and Oklahoma.

CONFERENCE USA

Additions: Jacksonville State, Liberty, New Mexico State, Sam Houston

Subtractions: Alabama-Birmingham, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, Marshall, North Texas, Old Dominion, Rice, Southern Mississippi, UT-San Antonio

Where they got stronger: Cross Country

Where they got weaker: Basketball

The biggest impact to women’s sports for Conference USA is basketball. With the loss of underrated programs such as UAB, FAU, Old Dominion, and Southern Miss, the replacements were not of any noteworthy programs. The strongest program coming in is Liberty, who historically has not had as competitive of a program as many of the schools leaving the conference. While the addition of Liberty cross-country isn’t a huge deal, it’s certainly notable due to its top-30 status. No other C-USA teams have cracked the top-30. 

SEC

Additions: Oklahoma, Texas

Subtractions: None

Where they got stronger: Volleyball, Track, Basketball

Where they got weaker: None

With no subtractions and the addition of all-around strong programs in Oklahoma and Texas, it’s no surprise that the SEC only got stronger. Texas is the most notable of the two, with ranked teams for all volleyball, track, and basketball. Although Texas isn’t having the strongest year in basketball, it is generally a highly ranked team and will certainly be a strong team in the conference. 

SUN BELT

Additions: James Madison, Southern Mississippi, Old Dominion, Marshall

Subtractions: None

Where they got stronger: Basketball

Where they got weaker: None

Since no schools left the conference, it only left room to add strength, most notably, for basketball. Old Dominion is historically known as a great women’s basketball school, but Southern Miss is no slouch either. Hopefully, by joining the Sun Belt, this will open these schools to more recruitment, leading to stronger programs in the future.

Photo Credits: Shutterstock

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