BCS Conferences Would Look a Whole Lot Different If Formed During This Decade
Hello, college football fans!
Last night wrapped up another college football season and another BCS season.
Of the conferences that currently have an automatic bid to a BCS bowl, all six have or will have invited at least one new member since 2010. Some teams were invited to new conferences, while others are either waiting or have been denied.
Several factors have contributed to certain conferences being invited while others were turned down.
With conferences cashing in on TV contracts, new members were sought to expand geographical footprints.
The Pac-12 expanded into two new states and two new TV markets (Denver and Salt Lake City). If it weren't for the dispute over the Longhorn Network, Texas could be in the Pac-12 today.
The SEC expanded into Texas (A&M) and Missouri.
The ACC added Syracuse and Pittsburgh to expand their presence in the Northeast.
The Big East (despite their conference name) added teams in Florida, Texas and California.
Other conferences chose members with the goal of strengthening football competitiveness and chose teams that did not significantly expand their geographical footprint. The Big Ten added Nebraska, the Big 12 added West Virginia and TCU, and the Big East added Boise State.
For the Big Ten and Pac-12, expanding allowed both conferences to introduce lucrative conference championship games.
The Big East, meanwhile, expanded to maintain its football conference after three longtime members received invites to other conferences.
While some schools were able to upgrade, others were not or are still waiting.
Some had to settle for their second choice conference. Missouri wanted to be in the Big Ten, according to the Chicago Tribune but instead joined the SEC. West Virginia had to settle for the Big 12 (no conference members East of the Mississippi) because the ACC and SEC turned them down, according to CBS Sports.
For some conferences, academics was an important factor in inviting schools.
The ACC's choices (Pittsburgh and Syracuse) are ranked in the Top 70 in US News & World Report's National University Rankings (while West Virginia ranked outside of the Top 100).
When Nebraska was invited to the Big Ten, all existing Big Ten members were members of the AAU. Nebraska was at the time (even though later they were voted out).
Another reason schools may not have been invited to specific conferences is the fear of competition. Some schools do not want to invite members that may directly compete with them.
NBC Sports says the SEC has a gentleman's agreement that they will not invite any member from a state that currently has an SEC member.
Connecticut wanted in to the Big East, but Boston College didn't want them in, according to USA Today. BC's athletic director Gene DeFilippo was quoted as saying "It was a matter of turf. We wanted to be the New England team.''
Meanwhile, The Inquirer said Villanova is not in favor of Temple joining the Big East.
Also, some conferences have decided to cap membership for the time being.
Since conference revenue is—in many conferences—shared equally, every additional member school results in the revenue pie being cut into more pieces.
While fans may want superconferences of 16 members, conferences don't seem to be in a hurry to expand to 16 teams. The Big 12 is staying at ten schools now, even though having just ten members disqualifies them from a lucrative conference championship game.
While some schools were denied bids to conferences, I have to think about current members of these conferences.
Many of the members of these conferences were charter members of the specific conference and have been members for over fifty years. Back in the earlier part of the 20th century, television money was not a factor. When the Big Ten was formed 1895, the television hadn't even been invented.
Of course, no member is going to be expelled from any conference (to my knowledge, only the Big East has ever kicked a member out). But the question I am trying to answer is if the conferences were formed "today," who would not be in them?
When I say today, I am considering this decade and possibly last decade (when several invitations were extended as well). Timing is everything.
If the Big Ten started from scratch today, Penn State would arguably not be invited. But a year ago, it would have been a slam dunk. Same with Miami and the ACC before all the allegations came out.
On the other hand, Baylor may be a hot property now with RG3 and their undefeated men's basketball team (their women's team isn't bad now either). But two or three years ago, Baylor was the joke of the Big 12, and many Big 12 fans would have considered them dead weight.
So who do I feel would not be in BCS conferences today if the conferences were formed this decade or this millennium as opposed to back in the 20th (or 19th) century?
Big Ten Conference
Would not be invited: Northwestern
Northwestern is well known for its athletic futility. They have never made the NCAA basketball tournament in their history. While the Wildcats have made seven bowls since 2000, they lost all seven of them. They somehow lost a bowl game to a MAC team. Their last and only bowl win was in 1948.
They are also the only private school in a conference full of state universities. They have—by far—the smallest enrollment of any Big Ten school (before they added Nebraska, the gap was even larger). Fewer students over the long run means fewer alumni and fewer fans.
Northwestern's assets are geography and academics. They are directly in the Chicago market.
On the other hand, plenty of Illinois students and alumni are from the Chicago area. Purdue, Wisconsin and Indiana are fairly close to Chicago, as well. Northwestern is clearly not needed for the Big Ten to command the Chicago market.
As for academics, while very important to the Big Ten, it is still an athletic conference. Athletic performance still has to count. I don't see the Big Ten inviting any Ivy League schools. Rice would leave whatever conference they are in now to join the Big Ten (and they would open up the Big Ten to Texas).
But no one in the Big Ten wants them because Rice is terrible in sports.
Another possibility is for Northwestern to be in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and not the Big Ten. The CIC includes all Big Ten members and the University of Chicago. Northwestern can be academically linked to the rest of the Big Ten, but not athletically.
Who would be the 12th member then to replace Northwestern? If Notre Dame wants in, it's a slam dunk (Notre Dame's athletics and marketability are far more valuable than Northwestern's are). Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Missouri and Rutgers would probably be interested.
All would be more valuable to the Big Ten than Northwestern would.
Would not be invited: Washington State, Oregon State
Oregon State and Washington State are among the worst performing schools in football and men's basketball in the Pac-12.
The Beavers men's basketball team hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 1990. They haven't won an NCAA game since 1982. Their football team hasn't been in the Rose Bowl since 1965. They've been to only one January bowl since then.
Washington State has had some success in both sports recently. They've been to two Rose Bowls (1998 and 2003), but lost both games. They also haven't been to a bowl game since 2003. Their basketball team has made just three NCAA Tournaments since 1985 (the introduction of the 64-team field).
In other sports, the two schools combined for just five NCAA championships (Oregon State has three and Washington State has two). No other school in the Pac-12 has fewer than seven.
Geographically, Oregon State and Washington State are in small cities compared to the other members. The Pac-12 has two members in Los Angeles, two members in the San Francisco Bay Area, one in Seattle, one in the Phoenix area and one in Salt Lake City. Tucson, Arizona has more than 500,000 people.
By contrast, Corvallis, Oregon has just just under 55,000 people. Pullman, Washington has under 30,000. They are clearly the "boon dock" schools of the Pac-12. Washington State has the smallest enrollment of any Pac-12 school (even Stanford and USC, both private schools, have more students).
Academically, Oregon State ranked dead last among Pac-12 schools in the US News & World Report rankings. Washington State also finished outside of the Top 100.
To me, Washington State and Oregon State bring no value to the Pac-12. The University of Washington and the University of Oregon have the Pacific Northwest covered.
If the Pac-12 had to choose one school from the state of Washington, you know the University of Washington would be the one. The University of Oregon is clearly the No. 1 school in the state of Oregon. Wazzou and Oregon State would be extra mouths to feed.
The Apple Cup and Civil War rivalries would be affected, but many state rivals flourish even though the schools come from different conferences. Plus, Washington and Oregon could become rivals as well for Pacific Northwest supremacy.
Larry Scott certainly would like to go back to 12 teams, but there are no geographically and academically compatible programs out there. The Pac-12 may be comfortable going back to the Pac-10, football can go back to a full round robin schedule and they would have the same geographical footprint they have now with two fewer mouths to feed.
Would not be invited: Vanderbilt, Mississippi, Mississippi State
I think Vanderbilt would not be invited to the SEC for the same reason Northwestern would not be invited to the Big Ten. They are a private school in a conference full of state schools.
If you are the only private university, you had better distinguish yourself like USC football or Duke basketball. I don't think I have to discuss Vanderbilt football to any SEC fan. Vanderbilt men's basketball is better (that's not saying much) but unless you are in Kentucky, basketball means little to the SEC.
The SEC also doesn't need Vanderbilt. There are enough Tennessee fans in Nashville. While academics seem to be a high priority and a point of pride in the Big Ten, the same is not true in the SEC.
Vanderbilt has the lowest football stadium capacity in the SEC. The next two lowest are the two Mississippi schools.
The Mississippi schools also are at the bottom two of the SEC among public universities. Starkville and Oxford Mississippi are tiny towns.
Now if the SEC did start from scratch, I would assume they would choose one school per state before they double up.
So the first choice schools would be Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M (assuming Texas would say no) and Missouri (assuming they don't join the Big Ten).
Don't even get me started, Auburn fans, you know you're No. 2 in Alabama.
As for South Carolina, would the SEC rather have South Carolina or Clemson? When South Carolina joined the SEC, Clemson was already in the ACC and my guess is they were happy there.
But if the SEC did get to choose between Clemson and the University of South Carolina, I would think Clemson's football history would be better. It really is a moot point because if the SEC took Clemson, South Carolina would likely be invited to the ACC.
That puts us at ten members. While the Big 12 seems to be content with ten members for the time being, the SEC's conference championship was the first of its kind and is a huge money maker.
If the SEC wants to keep its conference championship, it needs two more members. Even if the SEC decides to keep one Mississippi school (take your pick of which one they want), they still need to add a second school from a state.
If you throw the one school per state rule out, then the two most dominant football programs remaining would be Florida State and Auburn.
If you take one Mississippi school and have to choose one "second" school, Florida State is in a much larger state. Forget history, if Auburn wasn't in the SEC, Alabama would object to Auburn joining the SEC as much as Florida would Florida State.
So Mike Slive would have to choose what is best financially for the SEC as a whole, and that is Florida State.
Would Not Be Invited: None
If the SEC is the more valued conference, they would likely get first choice from the two South Carolina schools. Even if Clemson gets picked by the ACC, South Carolina would probably gain an ACC invite, although I feel the ACC is better off without either school.
Remember that basketball is the top sport in most of the ACC, and neither South Carolina nor Clemson has ever been mistaken for a basketball power.
The question is which team(s) would be taken by the more profitable Big Ten (Pitt, Syracuse?) and/or SEC (Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech?). If they lose any members, Connecticut (despite Boston College's objections), would likely get a call if needed to get to an even number. Rutgers would also be in play.
Big 12 and Big East Conferences
Would not be invited:: Iowa State?
Assuming the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC and ACC choose their conferences first, the Big 12 will get whoever is left over.
The Big 12 will start with the University of Texas.
Oklahoma would be the second choice and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have had a desire to remain together so both schools would be next.
You would want Kansas and Kansas would insist on Kansas State coming as well.
Since West Virginia was invited, I will include them in the Big 12 despite the fact that they are geographically incompatible (then again, does that mean anything today?)
Here is where it gets interesting.
I'm sure if Texas had its way, they would be the only Big 12 school in the state (maybe Texas A&M would be included but we all know how that played out). Political pressure may have forced the Big 12 to take Baylor and Texas Tech back in the 90s.
Who would be favored today? If Texas Tech, Houston, Baylor, TCU, SMU and Rice were all available today, who would be in the Big 12? Would Texas be able to block all of the other schools from the Big 12? If they take some, who would they take?
The other wild cards the Big 12 would be interested are schools that wouldn't be in the Big Ten or SEC.
They can expand to the Chicago area if they took Northwestern and to the Southeast with Vanderbilt. But neither is an established football power. One or both Mississippi schools would also be in the running. So would Louisville, who did receive consideration for the Big 12, and Cincinnati.
If Texas wanted to be the only Big 12 school in Texas, it can easily invite four other schools (assuming the ideal number is 10) and have more of a geographical footprint than it does now.
I think Iowa State would probably not be invited unless a lot of teams said no. The old Big 12 was formed out of the old Big Eight, a Midwestern conference.
If they started the Big 12 now, it would be more of a Southwest Conference. Iowa State doesn't have top sports programs and the state of Iowa is on no one's list of expansion targets. If the Big 12 chose between Iowa State and Ole Miss, I think they take Ole Miss.
Big East Conference
Would not be invited: All non-football members
Assuming the Big East starts from scratch, football would probably be the first criteria (or at least much higher than it was when the conference was formed). There is a good chance none of the non-football or non FBS football schools would be invited to the Big East now.
Their first choices would probably be Connecticut and Rutgers if either or both aren't invited to another conference.
Temple would likely get an invite if Villanova isn't in the way. Heads up, Temple would be the preferred Philadelphia school.
The current Big East was interested in the Chicago market, so Northwestern probably would get a call.
Their next calls would be to the Florida and Texas schools still available.
Boise State would be chosen because of its play on the field, and San Diego State would be its western partner (just like now).
I doubt the Big East would have any interest in Iowa State, Oregon State, Washington State or either Mississippi school as demographics seem to be valued right now.
Vanderbilt is a possibility because of Nashville, but Memphis is similar in size to Nashville and the Big East appears to have no interest in Memphis right now.
Schools in Trouble
Schools that could be on the outside looking in today:
Northwestern (possible Big 12 and/or Big East)
Vanderbilt (possible Big 12 and/or Big East)
Mississippi and/or Mississippi State (possible Big 12)
It goes without saying the college sports world would be much different than what it is today if these conferences were formed today as opposed to when they were.
There are some schools that are on the outside looking in to specific conferences, or to the BCS itself. While conferences give reasons why certain schools aren't invited, you have to wonder if some of the schools deserve to be in these conferences collecting big money while contributing little.