Jan 152012

Note: This post will have to be updated to reflect Temple’s departure from the Mid-American Conference to the Big East.


There has and will continue to be a lot of conference movement in Division I FBS college football in the upcoming years. It seems the more conferences change, the less geographically aligned they become. In this post I’ll publish research I did in my attempt to find the most geographically aligned conference in Division I FBS college football.

There will be a few changes to the FBS landscape in 2012.  Check out Phil Steele’s website for a clear explanation of these changes.

When I crunched the numbers (see the methodology below), the Mid-American Conference (MAC) is what I would call the most geographically aligned conference in FBS college football. Schools from the MAC are on average 295 miles apart; the lowest average distance by any conference at the FBS level.

The conference with the highest average distance among it’s schools is the Mountain West (MWC), at an average distance of 1,032 miles. But keep in mind Hawaii now calls the MWC home. Without Hawaii the average distance falls to 553 miles.

The conference Hawaii left, the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) is truly the most geographically misaligned conference at the FBS level. Schools from the WAC are on average 954 miles apart.

Note: Average distance is calculated from the city the school actually plays its games, i.e. Massachusetts is from Foxborough not Amherst for the purpose of this article. All mileage figures are approximate.

Average Distance Between Schools in Each Conference

ConferenceTms# StatesAvg Distance (Miles)Change from 2011
ACC127415No Change
Big East77543+48 miles
Big Ten129350No Change
Big 12105498+100 miles
Conference USA129639No Change
Independents441090No Change
MAC147295+53 miles
Mountain West1071032+419 miles
Pac-12126630No Change
SEC1411417+61 miles
Sun Belt107518-30 miles
WAC76954-404 miles


Additional Info

  • The following conferences have contiguous states (all the states from the conference connect): Big Ten, MAC, Pac-12, SEC, and the Sun Belt. All the states from the Mountain West in the contiguous U.S. also connect.
  • The SEC is spread out over 11 states (contiguous), the most by any FBS conference.
  • Of the seven conferences making changes in 2012, five of them increased the average distance between schools. Only the Sun Belt and the WAC (mostly from Hawaii) reduced their average distance.
  • The average distance between all FBS schools is 1,023 miles. When you don’t include Hawaii the average distance falls to 974 miles.

Methodology: Finding the average distance between schools in each conference was a bit of a process. First I found the GPS coordinates of each school thanks to a database provided by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. To calculate the distance between two places I used an Excel formula developed by BlueMM. From there I created a mileage chart for each conference, from which I calculated the average distance between schools.

  4 Responses to “Most Geographically Aligned Conference in the FBS”

  1. If you still have a list of all the FBS schools and their GPS coordinates, could you post that? I’m not seeing a way to download just universities and colleges from the BGN site.

  2. Once things are all updated I’ll look into posting such a list. What do you think would be more appropriate… The GPS coordinates of the team’s home stadium or the coordinates of the campus?

  3. Hi! I just found your site, and I love it. I was wondering if you’ve had the chance to post the coordinates for the stadiums, or if you could point me to your source. I’ve looked over your site and thus far I haven’t found anything other than NFL stadiums. Thanks!

  4. No sorry, I haven’t. It’s probably something I’m not going to do for awhile either. BTW – Wikipedia and Geo Hack are great sources for coordinates. Just double check that the location is indeed the correct one. Best of luck!

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