First Look At NCAA Division I Conference Realignments For 2017

Though there’s nothing quite like the major conference shakeups of the last decade, there is a healthy list of changes coming to swimming and aquatics conferences next season. The most rapidly-expanding conference is the America East, which will add a men’s championship back into the mix while also adding a new women’s program for the 2017-2018 season.

We’ll run through all the conference changes we could dig up below. If there’s a school changing Division I conferences that we didn’t catch, let us know in the comment section and we’ll investigate further.

America East Expansion

The America East Conference will get a host of new programs, mostly owing to the conference’s re-adding of men’s swimming & diving as a conference sport. America East dropped men’s swimming back in 2013, but will resume the sport this coming year after adding VMI’s men’s and women’s programs to the conference slate.

The Changes:

  • Binghamton men return from being an independent program competing in the ECAC
  • Maine men return from being an independent program competing in the ECAC
  • UMBC men return from the CCSA
  • VMI men and women join from the CCSA

The America East Championships will now feature 6 women’s programs and 4 men’s programs.

Water Polo Expansion/Realignment

A pair of water polo programs will change conferences, while two more jump from the club level to the intercollegiate level. The WWPA gains two teams, the CWPA one and the Golden Coast will remain stable, gaining one and losing one.

The Changes:

  • Fresno Pacific women jump from the Golden Coast Conference into the WWPA (Western Water Polo Association)
  • Fresno State women will begin as a new program in the spring of 2018, competing in the Golden Coast Conference
  • McKendree women jump from the club level to the varsity level within the WWPA
  • McKendree men jump from the club level to the varsity level within the CWPA (Collegiate Water Polo Association)

The Program Cuts

Three conferences will see their swimming & diving roster shrink after a handful of schools elected to cut swimming and/or diving programs for the coming season.

The Changes:

  • Buffalo men cut, previously in the MAC
  • North Dakota men and women cut, previously in the WAC
  • Clemson women’s diving cut, previously in the ACC

Wichita State To The American

The biggest all-sport move of the year is Wichita State joining the American Athletic Conference (also known as “The American” or the AAC). Wichita State – previously in the Missouri Valley Conference – doesn’t sponsor men’s or women’s swimming & diving programs, so that move itself doesn’t change the swimming lineup. However, the Missouri Valley has quickly moved to replace Wichita State, extending an invitation to Valparaiso to jump into the MVC from the Horizon League.

Valparaiso has yet to officially accept the offer, but seems widely expected to make the jump. The Missouri Valley Conference currently only sponsors women’s swimming & diving. That would push the Valpo women into the MVC, but the men may have to compete in a different conference (perhaps the MAC, where the other MVC schools with men’s swim programs compete) unless their addition spurs the MVC to adopt a men’s swimming championship. The MVC would now officially have four member schools with men’s programs: Valparaiso, Missouri State, Southern Illinois and Evansville. The details of Valparaiso’s entrance to the MVC still have to be determined before the school officially makes the jump.

Valparaiso hasn’t been much of a swimming factor lately – they finished 8th of 8 women’s teams and 7th of 7 men’s teams at the Horizon League Championships this past season.

The (Projected) Changes:

  • Wichita State (all sports) moves from the MVC into the AAC (no swim programs affected)
  • Valparaiso women move from the Horizon League into the MVC*
  • Valparaiso men move from the Horizon League into the MAC*

*Pending Valparaiso’s official acceptance of the MVC’s offer and the MVC’s arrangement for its men’s swim programs

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Valpo is taking Wichita State’s spot in the Missouri Valley


As the MVC men swim in the MAC, Valpo will move to the MAC for men. The women will stay in the MVC.


So in the MAC, Buffalo drops their men’s program, which was competitive (Swimmer of the Meet, having the winner of the 100 fly and 100 free and the 100 back and 100 breast and winning 3 of the relays) and taking in Valpo, which won’t add nearly what Buffalo did. The MVC and the MAC are definitely in survival mode.


It seems that these mid-major Division I men’s programs are in a tough place in terms of organizing a good conference meet. What about combining conferences for a real championship meet? The Big East, with 5 men’s programs and the America East with 4 men’s programs could make for a solid championship meet. In the same way, the MAC became a better championship meet when they added the Missouri Valley teams. A combined Big East/America East could even score the meet together and also in their respective conferences so they had their Big East team champion and the America East team champion. What would prevent that?


Scoring it separately would raise some issues. Even if you did A-D finals one conference could only have 12 finals swims. Or one conference could have a single A finalist in which case would he just win. I like the idea of making it a better meet but scoring for their respective conferences would become problematic.

swim mom

swim coach dad has the right idea. it’s already being done at the D# level. Upper New York Small College Swim Association – one big meet and two conferences within at Ithaca College. Empire 8 + one other conference whose name escapes me. Swim swam actually wrote an article about this unique meet a few years ago.


Point taken, Trey. I just thought that there would be some insisting on a single conference champion. However it is done, I think it is worth considering combining with another conference for the men. There have been comments made about the Big 12 men’s meet and how the team champion isn’t meaningful. As AEFAN points out below, it will be a UMBC dominated meet, at least the next few years. The meet level has to improve so the meet is still relevant and meaningful. Unless others come into the conference with men’s teams, America East will not be the meet it should be.


Southern Illinois (MVC) still has men’s swimming. It’s just not fully funded anymore.


More importantly, their program is still standing.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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