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‚Äô 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‚Äôs Saturday opponent, North Texas, plays in now.
‚ÄúI want to say the MAC, Mountain West or something,‚Äù Dawson said.
Actually, North Texas is in its first season in Conference USA after leaving the Sun Belt Conference. Of seven Georgia players quizzed this week, only two answered correctly on the Mean Green‚Äôs league affiliation.
In the age of conference expansion and realignment, it‚Äôs hard to keep up with all the changes.
Even for an athletic director.
‚ÄúMaybe it‚Äôs sad to say but I couldn‚Äôt tell you who‚Äôs in the conference now,‚Äù Georgia‚Äôs Greg McGarity said of Conference USA. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not to demean that conference. It changes. I have a hard time figuring out who‚Äôs in the ACC. ‚Ä¶It‚Äôs all so fluid right now, it‚Äôs kind of hard to figure out who‚Äôs where.‚Äù
It‚Äôs 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 UCF were the best teams in Conference USA.
Problem is UCF 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 UCF‚Äôs win at Penn State Saturday.
‚ÄúYou‚Äôve got to win the big games,‚Äù SMU coach June Jones said. ‚ÄúCentral Florida beating Penn State, that makes a statement. That‚Äôs 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‚Äôs pretty exciting.‚Äù
North Texas isn‚Äôt the only non-conference game on Georgia‚Äôs 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‚Äôs not eligible for the Southern Conference title or the FCS playoffs this season during the transition.
Knowing the play calls and opponent‚Äôs tendencies are important for a player to prepare for a matchup. Knowing what league they are in matters less.
‚ÄúTo be honest when I was being recruited, I didn‚Äôt even know who all was in the SEC,‚Äù cornerback Damian Swann said. ‚ÄúOver the past couple of years, I‚Äôm really just learning every team in the SEC. I probably really don‚Äôt even know who all is in the ACC.‚Äù
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.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs hard to keep track of it,‚Äù 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 from that conference next season.
Unless another round of realignment changes things again.