Missouri’s placement in the SEC’s East Division now has company as college football’s wackiest divisional alignment. On Friday, the American Athletic Conference announced a divisional alignment – which goes into effect in 2015 – that will place new member Navy in the league’s West Division.
The divisions will break out as follows:
Swap Memphis for Rice and UTEP for Navy, and the American West has the exact same roster as Conference USA’s West Division through 2012.
“The East-West format we have adopted gives each division a distinct identity, provides long-term competitive balance and protects traditional rivalries while allowing each school to travel across the conference’s geographical footprint on a regular basis,” American commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement.
Given the reality of the conference, though, this was best the American could have possibly done to put this puzzle together. Simple geography demanded on eastern team had to go west, and is the only one that makes some semblance of sense. Central Florida and South Florida need to be in the same division, and Cincinnati is a better fit in the East and the West. Given Navy’s long history of playing national schedules as a football independent and its coast-to-coast appeal as a service academy, the Midshipmen make the most sense as the token Eastern outlier.
(Update: Indeed, Navy actually requested to be in the West Division. “We preferred to be in the West and actually were very insistent that be the case,” Naval Academy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told the Capital Gazette. “We are very grateful to the commissioner and member schools for accommodating our wishes.”)
Again, the East-West format does not go into effect until 2015, when Navy joins the conference.
East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa join the league in 2014 which, coupled with Rutgers’ departure for the Big Ten, will give the American 11 members in 2014.