ATHENS, Ga. — When Sheldon Dawson gave Memphis a commitment and then later backed away from it to sign with Georgia, his hometown school was a member of Conference USA.
The Bulldogs sophomore cornerback knows that the Tigers are now a member of the new American Athletic Conference, but he was stumped when asked what league Georgia’s Saturday opponent, North Texas, plays in now.
“I want to say the MAC, Mountain West or something,” Dawson said.
North Texas is in its first season in Conference USA after leaving the Sun Belt Conference. Of the seven Georgia players quizzed this week, only two answered correctly on the Mean Green’s league affiliation.
In the age of conference expansion and realignment, it’s hard to keep up with all the changes.
Even for an athletic director.
“Maybe it’s sad to say but I couldn’t tell you who’s in the conference now,” Georgia’s Greg McGarity said of Conference USA. “It’s not to demean that conference. It changes. I have a hard time figuring out who’s in the ACC. … It’s all so fluid right now, it’s kind of hard to figure out who’s where.”
It’s confusing for the coaches, too.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said on a teleconference Monday, according to The Washington Post, that East Carolina, Marshall and Central Florida were the best teams in Conference USA.
Problem is Central Florida is now in the American Athletic Conference, which formed after seven schools broke away from the Big East and struck a deal to take the conference name with them for a basketball-focused league.
The fledgling American Athletic can trumpet Central Florida’s win at Penn State on Saturday.
“You’ve got to win the big games,” SMU coach June Jones said. “Central Florida beating Penn State, that makes a statement. That’s basically what we have to do. I think our TV contract with ESPN is really, really going to help us, not just financially but all of our games will be on one of the ESPN channels so that’s pretty exciting.”
North Texas isn’t the only non-conference game on Georgia’s schedule where the opponent is on the move since signing a contract to play the Bulldogs.
Georgia defensive lineman Garrison Smith knew that Appalachian State is moving up to FBS play, joining the Sun Belt Conference starting in 2014. It’s not eligible for the Southern Conference title or the FCS playoffs this season during the transition.
Knowing the play calls and opponent’s tendencies are important for a player to prepare for a matchup. Knowing what league they are in matters less.
“To be honest when I was being recruited, I didn’t even know who all was in the SEC,” cornerback Damian Swann said. “Over the past couple of years, I’m really just learning every team in the SEC. I probably really don’t even know who all is in the ACC.”
Dawson said he thought all of Conference USA merged with the Big East to form the American Athletic. Rutgers, Louisville. Connecticut, South Florida, Cincinnati and Temple are in the American, but Rutgers will move to the Big Ten next season and Louisville is going to the ACC, joining former Big East members Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Maryland is leaving the ACC for the Big Ten.
“It’s hard to keep track of it,” Georgia outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said.
The American Athletic also now includes former Conference USA member Houston and will be getting East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa next season.