Why Colleges Should Be in Separate Conferences for Football and Other Sports
Hello, college basketball fans!
With huge increases in athletic conferences' television contracts and the profitability of in-house networks like the Big Ten Network, universities are changing athletic conferences at an unprecedented rate. Conferences are trying to add schools with good football programs and/or schools in desirable geographic areas.
This is causing conferences to increase in size. This year, the SEC added two teams for 14 total. Next year, the ACC will be playing at 14 teams in football (i15 in men's basketball once Notre Dame joins in other sports). The Big Ten will be at 14 teams once Maryland and Rutgers join. There are rumors that conference expansion is not done, and conferences (specifically the Big Ten) may want to expand to 16 teams.
A negative in college football is that the more teams in a conference, fewer teams play each other within the conference. If a conference has 16 teams, splits into two divisions of eight teams, and plays a nine-game schedule, teams would play only twice a season against teams in the opposite division. This holds true in other sports.
The Big 12 currently has just 10 teams. The current football schedule is a true nine-game round robin, and the current men's basketball schedule is a true double round robin. To me, it is the best way to crown a conference champion. The negative is that a conference must have at least 12 teams to be eligible for a potentially lucrative conference championship.
While conference expansion and realignment has introduced conferences to new geographical areas, introduced new exciting football rivalries such as Nebraska vs. Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State and Texas A&M vs. LSU and Alabama, and increased the value of television contracts, not all of the changes have been good.
Problems with "Super" Conferences
The larger conferences have introduced a new set of challenges.
The additions have in many cases increased the geographical footprint of these conferences, thus increasing the travel distances of many schools.
Nebraska gave up playing schools in Kansas, Oklahoma, and (at the time) Missouri to play against schools in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. In 2014, Nebraska and Iowa will be playing against Rutgers and Maryland.
Texas A&M is now playing schools in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
The football-playing members of what was the Big East now stretch from Connecticut to Texas.
Even the non-football-playing members of the Big East added Creighton, a school from Omaha, Nebraska. Next year, schools like Georgetown, Villanova, and St. John's will be forced to play in Omaha.
The biggest loser when it comes to air travel is West Virginia. It joined a conference with no teams east of the Mississippi River and no teams in its own time zone.
In football, teams play once a week on (in most cases) the weekend. The amount of class time missed is minimized. Plus, football teams usually have the largest budgets of any athletic team and bring in the largest amount of revenue.
The problem is that most of these conference changes are for all sports, not just football. A Nebraska vs. Michigan or a Nebraska vs. Ohio State football game is popular. But a Nebraska basketball game against either team is not as attractive. A Nebraska vs. Penn State game in men's or women's soccer, baseball or softball or any other sport requires long plane trips for little, if any, revenue.
The problem is the model that works for football does not work for other sports. While West Virginia football may need to play football at a high level, West Virginia women's volleyball doesn't need to play all of its nonconference games in the Central Time Zone.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences proposed an agreement in which teams in both conferences would play nonconference games in all sports. I said that it may be a positive in football, but it will be a negative in most other sports. Luckily for both conferences, it did not happen. I don't think Illinois' softball team was looking forward to playing at Oregon State.
In addition, Texas and Texas A&M currently are not scheduled to play each other in football. Kansas and Missouri (the Border War) aren't playing in football or men's basketball. Since Penn State left for the Big Ten, Penn State and Pittsburgh have not played very often. Basketball fans cannot be happy if you consider that next year three Big East staples (Syracuse, Georgetown and Connecticut) will play in three different conferences.
While some nonconference rivals (Florida/Florida State, Kentucky/Louisville) do play each other, it would be nice for them to be in the same conference. The problem is that the SEC does not want to add any team in a state in which they already have a member—and none of the SEC teams want to leave.
So how can we fix these problems? Click to the next slide to find a possible solution.
A Possible Solution
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My solution is to put together a group of conferences for all sports except football.
I will use many of the current names but in many cases, teams may be in one conference for football and a different one for basketball and non-revenue sports.
A good example is Hawaii. It is a member of the Mountain West (MWC) Conference in football but in the Big West for other sports. This allows the Rainbow Warriors to play Boise State and other good football schools, but they only have to travel to California in other sports rather than travel to Boise State or Colorado State. I think this model should be applied to other schools.
Another example is Notre Dame, which will join the ACC for all sports except football. This will give the ACC 15 schools in men's basketball, which I think is awkward.
The ACC cannot add another football school without causing the football divisions to be unbalanced. But they can add a member in all sports but football. Georgetown is a top academic school and would give the ACC the Washington, DC market back after Maryland leaves for the Big Ten. It would also allow the heated Syracuse vs. Georgetown rivalry to continue.
The ACC may even want to add a football-playing school like UConn or Temple. I would think either school would rather play in the ACC in basketball than a conference with two Texas schools.
In these conferences, football will not be a consideration except in the case of historic rivalries. Men's basketball will be the primary moneymaker, but geography and rivalries (especially in-state) will also be considered. In some conferences, academics will be a strong consideration as well.
In addition, I will have (at least for most conferences) a limit of only 10 teams in each conference. This will allow for a double round robin, 18-game schedule in men's basketball. Since football is not included in these conferences, there is no need to go to 12 for a football conference championship game.
Teams in each conference are listed in order of the number of NCAA tournament wins from 2000-2012.
I will begin with the new Big Ten and the new ACC.
New Big Ten and New ACC
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For the Big Ten, I took out the schools west of the Mississippi River (Iowa and Nebraska). For the ACC, I removed the schools south of North Carolina (Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Miami), so they can join their SEC rivals (where they probably would rather be anyway).
Although Syracuse and Boston College fit in the ACC academically, I moved them back to the Big East to rejoin their old rivals. I kept Pittsburgh in the ACC to renew their in-state rivalry with Penn State. Louisville geographically does not fit and academically is outside the top 100.
Between the two conferences, I moved Penn State, Maryland, and Rutgers over to the ACC (in Maryland's case, it returns to the ACC). Notre Dame also joins the more regional Big Ten (since football is not included, why not?).
The Big Ten goes back to a true Midwestern feel, and the ACC trades away its southeastern presence for an increased presence in the Northeast.
While football isn't a consideration, and Penn State isn't well known for men's basketball, Penn State is the flagship university in Pennsylvania, giving the ACC a big presence there as well as adding a great academic school to the already strong ACC. You can say the same about Rutgers and New Jersey.
These two conferences hopefully will continue the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Of the proposed new conferences, they have the most number of NCAA tournament wins since 2000.
The new Big Ten has combined for 113 NCAA wins with 28 Sweet 16 appearances, 10 Final Fours, and one national championship (Michigan State in 2000).
The new ACC has 112 wins with 29 Sweet 16s, nine Final Fours, and, five national championships (Duke in 2001 and 2010, North Carolina in 2005 and 2009, and Maryland in 2010).
Next up is the new Big East and Great Midwest conferences.
New Big East and Great Midwest
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This realignment brings back the original "Big East" (minus Pittsburgh, which is in the ACC). I have always wanted Temple in the Big East, so I put it there to form rivalries with Villanova, Syracuse, Georgetown and Connecticut. Boston College has struggled in most of its time in the ACC, so it goes back to the Big East to rejoin New England rivals Connecticut and Boston College. For the final Big East team, I decided on West Virginia. It wasn't an original Big East member, but it has been in for a long time, and it didn't fit with any other conference.
To me, Marquette and DePaul never have and never will be Big East schools. However, I will stick with the private school mentality and put together a bunch of Midwestern private (most, although not all, Catholic). I decided on the Great Midwest, the old name of a conference back in the 1990s.
Like the ACC and Big Ten, I would consider these conferences brother conferences.
None of the Great Midwest schools sponsor FBS football (although five of the 10 Big East schools do). The Big East has six Roman Catholic schools, while the Great Midwest has eight.
The Big East has the Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington markets just like the original Big East. West Virginia gives some presence in Pittsburgh. The Great Midwest will have Chicago (two schools, DePaul and Loyola), Detroit, Cincinnati (Xavier and nearby Dayton), Indianapolis (Butler), St. Louis and Milwaukee (Marquette).
While I am not happy that Creighton is joining the Big East, most of the proposed Great Midwest members are closer to Omaha (the farthest away would be the two Ohio schools and Detroit).
Between the two, the Big East has outperformed the Great Midwest since 2000. But the Great Midwest has Butler, Marquette and Xavier (all of which will be in the real Big East next year).
Next up is the new SEC.
New SEC (South Atlantic and South Central)
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South Atlantic (SEC East):
South Central (SEC West):
The SEC has won seven consecutive FBS national championships, making it the envy of most teams outside of the SEC.
The Southeast is home to many strong in-state rivalries such as Florida and Florida State, Kentucky and Louisville, and Georgia and Georgia Tech. The problem is that all of these are nonconference rivals. The SEC is reportedly not interested in teams from states in which it already has members. Since it does not appear any SEC team is interested in leaving, the chances of any of these in-state rivals becoming conference rivals is slim or none. On the other hand, Auburn and the Mississippi schools are already in the SEC. I hate the fact that Florida State and Louisville aren't "good enough" for the SEC, but Auburn and both Mississippi schools are.
I think Florida is more of an ACC school than an SEC school. Unlike most of the SEC, the University of Florida is a very strong academic (high-ranked) school and an AAU member. It has also won two national championships in college basketball, a sport most SEC schools south of Lexington struggle with.
Before Texas A&M joined the SEC, Florida was by far the most populous SEC state. I associate the SEC more with small towns and small states. In addition, several SEC fans are known for dressing up for football games (which I personally think is dumb), but Florida fans dress like normal fans.
I also think Kentucky belongs in the ACC. I would rather see UK play Duke and North Carolina (and Louisville starting in 2014-15) than most of the other SEC schools. I think a good trade would be Kentucky to the ACC and Clemson (which has not been great in basketball) to the SEC.
That being said, why not just bring all of the major Southeastern schools together? Of course there are far more than ten schools, so I split the SEC into two conferences, the South Atlantic (or SEC East, if you like) and the South Central (or SEC Central or SEC West). Just like the Big Ten, I moved the schools west of the Mississippi (Arkansas and LSU) to another conference.
My No. 1 priority is to unite Florida and Florida State in the same conference. I also put the University of Miami with them. The three may not play in football, but they will play in every other sport. Miami basketball won the ACC regular season and tournament this year, while Florida State won last year's ACC tournament. I can see basketball games between the Gators, Seminoles, and Hurricanes to be exciting in years to come. Baseball is very big in Florida, so additional games between the three schools have to be welcomed by their fans.
In addition to Florida, Florida State, and Miami, I added South Florida and Central Florida, giving the South Atlantic (SEC East) five Florida schools.
I also added to the South Atlantic Conferences the in-state rivals from Georgia (Georgia and Georgia Tech) and South Carolina (South Carolina and Clemson).
Unfortunately, if you keep conferences at 10 teams, you can't add Kentucky without splitting it from Louisville, Tennessee without splitting it from Vanderbilt and/or Memphis or even Alabama without splitting it from Auburn.
I believe this would be a good conference with nine schools, but I decided to add East Carolina from North Carolina as a tenth school. Charlotte might have worked as well, but it is a private school in a conference with mostly (all but Miami) private schools.
Kentucky and Louisville headline the South Central (SEC Central or SEC West). If nothing else, Kentucky and Louisville would meet twice every season, meaning the Wildcats and Cardinals would host each other every season rather than every other season. The UK-UL rivalry would be right up there with Duke vs. North Carolina, especially as long as Pitino is coaching (he coached Kentucky a long time ago).
In addition to Louisville, I also feel Memphis belongs in the SEC. So it joins the South Central with Tennessee and Vanderbilt, putting all three schools together.
Joining the Kentucky and Tennessee schools is the University of Cincinnati. It doesn't seem like a Southern school, but Louisville, Cincinnati and Memphis were once in the Metro Conference, which was founded in 1975. The three schools were all in Conference USA before Cincinnati and Louisville left for the Big East. Memphis eventually was invited to the Big East, but Louisville will leave for the ACC.
Rounding out the South Central Conference are the two Alabama rivals and the two Mississippi rivals.
The South Central should be one of the best basketball conferences with Kentucky, Louisville, Memphis and Cincinnati leading the way. Tennessee has had recent success with Bruce Pearl (and Cuonzo Martin took the Volunteers to the NCAA's last year). Vanderbilt and Alabama also made the NCAA tournament last year. Mississippi won the SEC Tournament this year and won its first NCAA tournament game in over a decade this season.
On the other hand, the South Atlantic will be far weaker. Florida has won more NCAA games between 2000 and 2012 (26 wins) than the other nine schools combined (15). Georgia Tech made the 2004 Final Four but has struggled in the ACC since. If the South Atlantic formed today, I would expect Florida to dominate this conference in most years. Florida State and Miami should be its biggest challengers.
In addition to splitting the SEC into two conferences, I did the same to the Big 12.
New Big 12 (Big 8 and Southwest)
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The Big 12 we know today was, to a degree, a merger of two conferences, the Big Eight Conference and the Southwest Conference (SWC). The old Big Eight Conference added Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor to form the Big 12. The four SWC rivals left behind joined other conferences.
Nebraska and Oklahoma used to be conference rivals, especially in football. But when the Big 12 formed, the rivals were placed in opposite divisions, and the conference had no permanent rivals meeting every year. This meant the Sooners and Cornhuskers didn't play every year. Eventually, Nebraska joined the Big Ten.
Meanwhile, Texas and Arkansas also had a strong SWC rivalry before Arkansas left for the SEC.
I would like to put these two conferences back together.
The new Big Eight would have seven of the eight members before the merger (Nebraska and Missouri return). I decided to move Colorado to a western conference to be in the same conference with Colorado State and Air Force. I also add Iowa so the Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones would finally be back in the same conference.
To make it ten members, I added Wichita State and Tulsa, giving the new Big Eight a presence in the two cities.
As for the Southwest Conference, all eight Texas members of the old SWC are back together again along with Arkansas. I added LSU to be the tenth member.
The two conferences should be the two major conferences between the Mississippi River and the Mountain Time Zone (all twenty members are in the Central Time Zone).
In men's basketball, Kansas would be the dominant team in the Big Eight (not much different than its place in the current Big 12). It would be interesting to see Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State playing twice a year in men's basketball along with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tulsa, and Iowa and Iowa State.
On the other hand, the SWC is not going to be one of the top basketball conferences. This season, no teams from Texas made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1977. Texas made the Final Four in 2003 but missed the tournament for the first time in 15 years. While Arkansas won the 1994 national championship, its last NCAA appearance was 2008. LSU went to the Final Four in 2006 but has made one NCAA tournament since then.
I now move to the west and the Pacific 10, along with two other new western conferences.
New Pac-10, MWC, and PCAA
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|New Mexico State|
|San Diego State|
|Long Beach State|
|UC Santa Barbara|
|Cal State Fullerton|
|San Jose State|
Larry Scott (Pacific 12 commissioner) is not going to be happy, but I had to undo the addition of Colorado and Utah because of my 10-team-per-conference cap.
If I had my way, the Pac-10 would get rid of Oregon State and Washington State, but I imagine it would want to keep the Civil War and the Apple Cup, and they fit much better geographically.
Utah rejoins and Colorado joins the new Mountain West Conference (MWC). The current MWC has teams in California, but I wanted to emphasize the "Mountain" in Mountain West by having it contain only teams in the Mountain Time Zone.
This allows me to put Colorado, Colorado State, and Air Force; Utah, BYU, and Utah State; and New Mexico and New Mexico State all in the same conference. Wyoming and UTEP (nearby rival to New Mexico State) round out the ten team league. Boise State was moved back to a new Big Sky Conference with in-state rivals Idaho and Idaho State.
Meanwhile, PCAA (Pacific Coast Athletic Association) was the old name of the Big West Conference. The new Big West has UNLV and Nevada, Hawaii, and seven California schools. The seven California schools include two current MWC members (San Diego State and Fresno State), one future MWC member (San Jose State), and four current Big West members (UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, Long Beach State and Cal State-Fullerton).
The Mountain West had five teams in this year's NCAA Tournament, and it would be sad to break it up. On the other hand, these new conferences cut back travel (with the exception of travel to and from Hawaii) and strengthen in-state rivalries, especially in Colorado and Utah.
If I had to make a small change to the current Mountain West to improve men's basketball, I would add Gonzaga as an all-but-football member. That would give the MWC 12 teams in all sports (Gonzaga takes Hawaii's spot) instead of the 11 it will have next year in sports other than football.
Gonzaga would play in a stronger conference (Gonzaga would join New Mexico, UNLV, and San Diego State). The MWC would gain a presence in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to Spokane, Gonzaga plays in the State Farm Battle in Seattle, an annual game.
Several of these new conferences would probably be considered "mid-majors". The next slide looks at proposed membership of current mid-major conferences. Teams are listed in alphabetic order.
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Duquesne, Fordham, George Washington, LaSalle, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph's, Virginia Commonwealth
Bradley, Drake, Evansville, Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, Western Kentucky
Gonzaga, Loyola Marymount, Pacific, Pepperdine, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Seattle, St. Mary's
The Atlantic Ten would be decimated by defections to the proposed Big East and Great Midwest conferences. The good news is the defections leave them with exactly ten members. If Dayton and St. Louis leave the Atlantic Ten for the real new Big East, my proposed Atlantic Ten could be the real Atlantic Ten (assuming it does not try to add new members).
The Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) would also lose members (Creighton to the Great Midwest and Wichita State to the Big Eight). Replacing them is Northern Illinois (giving the MVC a team close to Chicago) and Western Kentucky (bringing the MVC to Kentucky). The Hilltoppers made the last two NCAA tournaments.
The West Coast Conference (WCC) would lose BYU to the MWC. It gains Pacific from the Big West (this is an actual move) and Seattle University, giving the WCC a school in Seattle as well as another Catholic school.
Many other conferences would have to cut members to fit into the 10-member cap and were rearranged. If your school was not listed, please comment, and I will tell you which conference I assigned it to and who else is in its conference.
I think many of these proposed new conferences would reduce travel and increase rivalries (especially in-state). Also, since they have fewer members, conference rivals would play more often in all sports, including men's basketball. I think these conferences are miles better than the ones we have now.