Examining Factors Influencing NCAA Division-I Conference Realignment

Ginikachi O. Nwosu, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


The landscape of intercollegiate athletics continues to evolve and become

more dynamic. One of the most visible aspects of these changes is athletic conference realignment. During the period from 2010 to 2014 alone, over 30 institutions across the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) changed or announced imminent plans to change athletic conference affiliation (Mandel, 2012). Conference realignment is described as institutional changes in athletic conference affiliation (Covell & Barr, 2010; Groza, 2010; Sweitzer, 2009). Various literature has identified variables which influence NCAA Division-I institutions’ decisions in regard to conference realignment, yet no comprehensive study has examined the topic. This study examines factors believed to serve as incentive for institutions to engage in realignment.

Four institutional decision makers are tasked with athletics oversight: university presidents, athletic directors, senior woman administrators, and faculty athletic representatives. Based on their perceptions, factors emerged which serve as incentive for NCAA Division-I institutions to engage in realignment. Data were collected utilizing a five-point Likert-item survey. Subsequently data were submitted to exploratory factor analysis, a series of paired samples t-tests, and one-way analyses of variance. Findings indicate that Revenue, Academic Prestige, Team Travel, Athletic Prestige, Exposure, and Competitive Balance are factors that incentivize institutions to consider a change in conference affiliation.