College Realignment Yet Again – Big Suggestions for Big Changes

Posted: August 23, 2012 in Basketball, College, Football

So I have been interested for a while about the movement of teams from one conference to another and it can easily be frustrating to see rivalries split up, fines from the conference organizations for leaving and waiting times for teams sitting in limbo. West Virginia, TCU, Missouri, Temple and Texas A&M are just a few changes to the landscape this year, but a trail of addition changes are on the horizon. Syracuse, Pitt, Boise State, Air Force, SMU, San Diego State, Memphis and Houston are only a year or two away from making their changes, but I have to believe that this is not the end of the conversation because there are still some other challenges with these changes.

First of all, the Mountain West conference has been gutted and no longer with have the opportunity to compete at football. Even the commissioner believes that their football days are over for a while after this season. The major conferences are all out of alignment right now as well. The Big East is trying to maintain 16 teams for basketball, but then you have the Big-10 at 12 teams, the Big-12 at 10 teams (although this is changing) and each conference with a different number of total teams. The Big East also has the problem of being one personality as a football conference and another as a basketball conference.

With the addition of the playoff system, there is also a new challenge of determining who deserves to make it to football’s version of the big dance. If there were only 4 major conferences, you could send the top team from each to the playoff. If it was expanded to a 6-team playoff, you could give the voted top 2 teams a bye and run the playoff like a conference playoff in the NFL. The strength of the conferences is currently extremely lopsided whether you talk basketball or football.

So this means that a major realignment may be in need across the landscape of D-1a sports, at least one large enough to match the needs of the current landscape. I played this game a bit during the drama of the Big East and the movement of multiple schools in 2011, but I would like to try again and recognize that the problem expands to more than just the challenging Big East arrangement, but consider the survival or conversation of some of the mid-major conferences. Here is my attempt:

ACC

  • Atlantic:¬†Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, NC State, Wake Forest, Syracuse
  • Coastal: Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, UNC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Pitt

Great American Conference – GAC (formerly the Big 12)

  • North: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State,¬†West Virginia,¬†Temple,¬†Cincinnati
  • South:¬†Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor,¬†TCU

Big 14 (formerly the Big Ten)

  • Legends: Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota,¬†Connecticut
  • Leaders: Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Indiana,¬†Rutgers

Pac-14

  • North: Stanford, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, Boise State
  • South:¬†USC, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, UCLA, Utah,¬†San Diego State

SEC

  • East:¬†Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisville
  • West:¬†LSU, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State,¬†Texas A&M

Big East (basketball only; independents for D1a otherwise)

  • Notre Dame, St. John’s, Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence, Depaul, South Florida, Xavier, George Washington, ODU

Conference USA

  • East:¬†UAB,¬†SMU,¬†Houston,¬†Tulane, Northern Illinois,¬†North Texas
  • West:¬†Rice, UTEP,¬†Colorado State,¬†Wyoming,¬†UNLV,¬†New Mexico

Mid-American

  • East:¬†Ohio, Bowling Green, Miami (OH), Buffalo, Akron, Massachusetts
  • West:¬†Ball State, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Toledo, Central Michigan,¬†Kent State

Sun Belt

  • East:¬†FIU, FAU, Middle Tennessee State,¬†UCF, East Carolina,¬†Memphis
  • West:¬†Troy, Western Kentucky,¬†Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe,¬†Southern Miss

Additional Independents

  • BYU, Army, Navy,¬†Air Force,¬†Marshall

This organization allows for a couple of interesting things. The power conferences (ACC, GAC, Big 14, Pac 14 and SEC) all even out at 14-team, 2-division conferences. This could also result in extra consideration for how to move forward with the playoff system. The 4-team playoff seems to push for there to be a dissolution of the ACC and possibly the Big East, even after putting the effort into realignment. Both conferences are currently vulnerable to getting picked apart and turned into 18-team conferences. With this 14-team setup for each conference, there could be 5 automatic qualifiers and an additional slot for an independent, mid-major or 2nd deserving power conference team. Many of the rivalries in football are still maintain and some are actually revitalized with the addition of new teams (Louisville/Kentucky in the same division and Maryland/Syracuse reconnecting to develop a new focus for the Terps’ athletic focus). Boise State finally gets into a deserving position to prove their value as a power conference team.

The problem is that the current movement with the 4-team playoff would suggest that the ACC and Big East are going to be left out in the cold. Their television contracts could fizzle and die out, causing both conferences to get picked apart by the remaining 4 power conferences. Since the Big East has no chance of stepping up as a power football conference with their current presentation, the ACC would have a shot at using a partnership with Notre Dame to also solidify the foundation of the ACC, keep FSU from bailing and possibly also attract Connecticut to come over. If the ACC fails to attract Notre Dame or prove its ability to compete with the SEC and Big 12 teams, the new makeup (at least with the power conferences) could look like this…

Great American Conference – GAC (formerly the Big 12)

  • North:¬†Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State,¬†West Virginia,¬†Temple,¬†Virginia Tech,¬†UNC, Duke, Pitt
  • South:¬†Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State,¬†Miami, Florida State,¬†Georgia Tech,¬†Clemson,¬†South Florida

Big 14 (formerly the Big Ten)

  • Legends:¬†Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota,¬†Connecticut,¬†Boston College,¬†Cincinnati,¬†Syracuse, Connecticut
  • Leaders:¬†Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Indiana,¬†Rutgers, Maryland, Virginia

Pac-14

  • North:¬†Stanford, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State,¬†Boise State,¬†Nebraska, Iowa
  • South:¬†USC, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, UCLA, Utah,¬†San Diego State,¬†Baylor,¬†TCU

SEC

  • East:¬†Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Tennessee,¬†Louisville, Wake Forest, NC State, Missouri
  • West:¬†LSU, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State,¬†Kentucky,¬†Texas A&M, SMU

I think that some big conversations need to happen, and if there is going to be some sort of support for this big four setup for the playoff system, then another option would have to be considered. Realign the teams by region and eliminate the current conferences. This would be the new alignment…

Eastern Atlantic Conference 20

  • North: Army, Boston College, Connecticut, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple
  • South: Cincinnati,¬†Duke, Maryland, Navy, NC State, Ohio State, UNC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

Pacific Mountain Conference 20

  • Coastal: Arizona, California, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, USC, San Diego State, Stanford, Washington, Washington State
  • Mountain:¬†Air Force,¬†Arizona State,¬†Boise State, BYU, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, UNLV, Utah, Wyoming

Southeastern Conference 20

  • North:¬†Arkansas, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
  • South:¬†Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Florida, Southern Mississippi

Big Heartland Conference 20

  • North: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Purdue, West Virginia, Wisconsin
  • South:¬†Baylor, Houston,¬†Kansas, Kansas State,¬†Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

I would be curious about anyone’s thoughts on these variations of the landscape of college sports.

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