It's been almost a decade since the last time a school moved into a P5 league when Louisville joined the ACC in 2014 and Maryland and Rutgers began play in the Big Ten in the same season.
We are about to embark on a new era of realignment in the upcoming season with UCF, Cincinnati, Houston and BYU joining the Big 12 and Oklahoma and Texas jumping to the SEC in 2024. That same season UCLA and USC will move to the Big Ten.
Each group of teams are moving for different reasons. Oklahoma and Texas head to the SEC for the money and a chance to compete in the best football conference in the country. The move by the Longhorns and Sooners led the Big 12 to make a move and add teams, which held off any attempts to be raided, and then secure its future with a new media deal. UCLA and USC are headed to the Big Ten for money reasons and a chance to compete in the biggest football conference in the country and leaving the Pac 12 behind to figure out how to survive.
But does a move to a new league lead to success on the field? For the new arrivals to the Big 12 their move is about making a lot more money than they had been making in the AAC or life as an independent in football. The other four schools (Oklahoma, Texas, USC, UCLA) had already been making good money but now will make more and compete in what is perceived to be tougher leagues.
History tells us winning is much tougher even you are moving from one P5 to another. The few examples of moving from a G5 league to a P5 have been more successful with their move.
Since 2011, all five P5 conferences have added teams. In total, 12 programs moved from one league to another. Counting the Big East as a major conference- because it was in the BCS- only two of the dozen moved from non-major conferences up. Those two were TCU from the Mountain West to the Big East for an hour and then to the Big 12 and Utah who jumped from the Mountain West to the Pac 12.
The ACC added Pitt and Syracuse in 2013 and Louisville in 2014- coming from the Big East. The Big Ten added Nebraska in 2011 and then Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. The Big 12 took TCU and West Virginia in 2012. The Pac 12 welcomed Utah and Colorado in 2011 and the SEC brought in Texas A&M and Missouri in 2012.
Using conference records only, what team has had the highest winning percentage since they moved into a new league? The Pitt Panthers.
The Panthers have gone 48-34 (.585 winning percentage) and played in two ACC title games, winning in 2021.
Utah has posted a 60-44 (.577) record in the Pac 12, which is second best on the list. The Utes have played in four Pac 12 titles games and won two and have played in two Rose Bowls
TCU is next with a 56-43 (.566) Big 12 mark. The Horned Frogs have played and lost in two conference championship games but did make the College Football Playoff title game this past season.
Texas A&M is fourth and the only other of the 12 teams who changed conferences on our list to have a winning conference record. The Aggies have gone 48-41 during their time in the SEC but have never played in the SEC title game.
The others schools and their records (win percentage) in their new leagues:
Louisville 47-47 (.500)
West Virginia 47-51 (.480)
Nebraska 47-55 (.461)
Missouri 41-49 (.456) - has played in two title games, the last in 2014
Syracuse 26-56 (.317)
Maryland 23-52 (.307)
Colorado 27-76 (.262)
Rutgers 13-66 (.165)
One can argue the move to a new league has benefitted all financially, but it has not led to success on the field. Which leads to the question of what fans want? Has the move to the Big Ten been fun for Maryland going 23-52? Would Syracuse have competed for a football title every year if they played in the AAC instead of the ACC? Yes, they have enjoyed the money of being in the ACC but fans don't get the media money after a 4-8 season.
The move the Big 12 doesn't mean that UCF, Cincinnati, Houston and BYU will struggle. All four have had success in recent seasons and they move into a league where the dominant program, Oklahoma, is moving on. But there will be an adjustment in caliber of opponent and the week-to-week grind of a nine-game conference slate is tougher than a year in the American and BYU will face a tougher slate verses their independent scheduling model.
But this latest round of movement might show competitive numbers in the coming years. Again, the new four to the Big 12 may be competitive earlier than later. Oklahoma, despite last season's subpar season, has been one of the best in the country. Maybe that was all Bob Stoops and Lincoln Riley, but the Sooners may be able to step into the SEC and be competitive. Texas certainly has the resources but the on field performance has fallen short. USC appears to rolling with Lincoln Riley and could enter the Big Ten as an upper tier team.
But for the dozen teams who moved since 2011, how many have improved their football brand? I would say TCU and Utah have and they both came from the Mountain West- now considered a G5 league. Some of the brands have remained stable while some have seen their football brand drop.
It's always been about the money and why these moves take place. There may be more movement in the coming years with the Pac 12 adding and perhaps the Big 12 as well. But changing a conference is not a guarantee for success on the field, at least that's what the numbers tell us.
Final note: The ACC was formed in 1953 when seven members of the Southern Conference left after the league banned post-season play in football. Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina and Wake Forest formed the Atlantic Coast Conference.