Conference realignment is the name of the game in college football. Since 2000, 15 schools have moved up from FCS to FBS in pursuit of bowl glory and money.
In FCS, 125 schools remain, which includes Coastal Carolina for now. The Chanticleers will play as an FCS independent as they transition to full-time Sun Belt and FBS membership in 2018.
CCU's departure leaves the Big South with six teams, just enough teams to earn their automatic bid to the FCS playoffs.
“With the current landscape we all have to be very forward-thinking about our leagues, about our membership, about doing what we can do to ensure long term stability,” said Commissioner Kyle Kallander.
“The Big South has seen relatively little membership change recently, and is confident on its ongoing stability.”
Long-term stability is something Kallander and the members of the Big South have worked hard to achieve. When Kallander arrived in 1996 there were just six schools committed to the league. Today the Big South sits at 10 full-time members competing in 19 sports. But only four play football, which includes associate members Kennesaw State and Monmouth.
VMI left for the Southern Conference in 2014, but only six other schools have left the Big South in the past 20 years — Birmingham Southern (2007), Elon (2003), Maryland-Baltimore County (1998), UNC Greensboro (1997), Towson (1995) and CCU (2016).
Charleston Southern (Baptist College), Radford and Winthrop are the remaining charter members from the 1983 start. Campbell, a charter member, left the conference but rejoined in 2011. UNC Asheville joined in 1984.
Expansion candidates include Kennesaw State, which competes in all other sports in the Atlantic Sun. Division II teams are another possibility.
Presbyterian College moved up from Division II to join the conference in 2007. Armstrong State and Augusta State (now Georgia Regents University) were charter members of the Big South and now compete in the Division II Peach Belt Conference.
That's a question to be decided another day.
CONFERENCE CHANGES FOR 2016
AT A GLANCE
MAC returns to a 12-team conference with two six-team divisions in 2016.
Blazers dropped football in 2015-16, rejoins as 12th member eligible for postseason play in 2017.
AT A GLANCE
Sun Belt (FBS)
FCS independent in 2016, joins Sun Belt in 2017, eligible for postseason play in 2018
East Tennessee State
Officially becomes SoCon’s 10th member, eligible for postseason play in 2016.
Above: De'Angelo Henderson returns to Coastal Carolina this season, but Coastal Carolina is not returning to the Big South. (Courtesy of Johnny Gasque/Coastal Carolina Athletics)