Each BCS Conference Commissioner's Goals for Realignment
Realignment is the name of the game in college football right now. With one final BCS season coming in 2013, every conference needs to position itself for the playoffs coming in 2014.
Conference commissioners need to take that to heart. Some are safe, as their conferences are already strong enough not to care about the fact that AQ status will be a thing of the past when the playoff comes to town.
Others, like the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East), need to be aggressive in forming a football conference that can actually contend with the best in the country.
AQ status saved the Big East more than once, and 2012 was a fine example of that. Without AQ status, Louisville wouldn't have played (and commandingly defeated) Florida in the Sugar Bowl this past January.
Now that there is true equal opportunity coming in 2014, some of the conference commissioners need to figure out how to cope with it. (Hint: The solution is not to get the selection committee to automatically let your conference champion into the playoff.)
Here are each BCS conference commissioner's goals for the realignment rampage between now and the kickoff of the 2014 season.
American Athletic Conference: Mike Aresco
Mike Aresco has a big climbing wall ahead of him. When the playoff comes around, he won't have the bargaining chip of AQ status.
Assuming the selection committee does the right thing and selects teams all near the Top Four for the playoff, Aresco simply needs to make sure that his American Athletic Conference is capable of getting there.
Aresco needs to poach high-quality teams from whatever conference they are currently in. He needs to move the AAC up from being grouped with Conference USA and the like.
If he can move the conference's perceived strength from the bottom to the top tier, then the AAC will be just fine come 2014.
Other than that, he needs to recognize that his conference has just become football-centric. With the loss of the basketball schools, he has an opportunity.
He now has the chance to make something great out of the football-first schools or waste a ton of time trying to get basketball back where it used to be.
The basketball teams he has left are still contenders, as evidenced by Louisville's presence in the NCAA title game and Syracuse's trip to the Final Four.
The biggest thing he can do for his conference, other than place emphasis on football in general, is to give Syracuse an ironclad reason to stay. It may be too late for that, but it's more than worth a shot.
Atlantic Coast Conference: John Swofford
John Swofford needs to approach college football the same way he does basketball. He's got some major teams coming into the basketball aspect of the game, but they're a little short on football. (Syracuse isn't exactly a national contender in football.)
He has accepted Notre Dame as a basketball-only member of the conference in 2013, but that may create more problems than it solves. Every other school in the conference was subject to the ACC's all-or-nothing approach to membership.
Besides that, the ACC is in excellent position to handle the realignment situation. With Florida State and Clemson regularly being mentioned in national-championship conversations, the ACC already has theoretical access to the playoffs with an undefeated conference champion.
With Notre Dame, Miami, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech just a few recruiting classes away from championship contention, the ACC has the power to remain in the conversation for years to come.
What Swofford really needs to do is poach a rising team from a greater conference. The one that springs to mind first is Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt could slide in near the top of the ACC in both academics and football.
Swofford is approaching 2014 with the ability to gain access to the playoffs. However, he needs to make forward-thinking moves to prevent himself from becoming the next example of the Big East.
While basketball schools likely wouldn't leave the ACC, the conference could become the next one to move to the lower tier if he doesn't make some bold moves to stay ahead of the game.
Big 12 Conference: Bob Bowlsby
Bob Bowlsby needs to implement some serious damage control. Not only has he lost teams over the past few seasons, Texas A&M is making departure from the Big 12 look like a great option.
The Longhorn Network is a bone of contention for the Big 12. While it's great for Texas, it's choking the conference from the inside. Texas doesn't have to share network revenue, and that includes the teams that take the field against the Longhorns.
If the Longhorn Network's money was bringing national championships to Texas, it wouldn't be that big a deal. Conference exposure would bring revenue to all schools via the postseason splits. That would give Texas a bargaining chip in the boardroom.
Bowlsby's job, of course, will include petitioning the NCAA to change the 12-team rule for conference championships (which he has already done), and nobody can blame him for trying. However, every other conference was willing to make the move to 12 teams, so his argument may fall on deaf ears.
The Big 12 has a reputation for not following conference rules. The Longhorn Network has made the Big 12 an entire conference of teams who all know they are second to the power that Texas holds.
Bowlsby needs to focus on making the Big 12 an actual conference. By all definitions, the word conference implies equality across the board. If the Big 12 is going to survive the realignment that appears to be four conferences of 16 teams each, the current teams are going to have to be treated equally.
The Longhorn Network itself isn't a huge problem, but the lack of equality is a horrible foundation to try to build a superconference. Plus, Mack Brown seems to be willing to give up the Longhorn Network, and that would be a great good-faith gesture.
If the Longhorn Network is absolutely going to stay, then Bowlsby needs to figure out how to coax other teams to the conference in spite of it. While that would be more difficult, it would still be an assignment well within his pay grade.
Big Ten Conference: Jim Delany
Jim Delany is in a fairly nice position. While he recently felt the need to campaign for conference champions to be automatically included in the upcoming playoff system, the rise of Ohio State seems to have rendered that stance moot.
Urban Meyer is returning Ohio State to glory, and Brady Hoke is doing the same thing at Michigan. Wisconsin has been to three Rose Bowls in a row, and Nebraska is near the top of the conference as well.
With four teams that are close to competing on a national level, Delany needs to put the conference champion junk to rest. It's really quite simple: Delany's Big Ten is poised to overtake the Big 12 as the No. 3 conference in the country.
He needs to focus his energy on delivering the death blow to the Big 12. That could be through TV contract negotiations or poaching teams. He may not be able to grab Oklahoma or Kansas State, but he could snag Texas Tech or Oklahoma State.
If he goes the ACC route, North Carolina should be his big target. That wouldn't help his football cause very much, but UNC is a traditional basketball powerhouse that would also give his conference access to the Southeast recruiting area in all sports.
The other thing he needs to do to further his cause is to get people to take the Big Ten seriously. He needs to throw the "Legends" and "Leaders" division titles in the trash and start over.
It's not necessary that he go with geographical nomenclature, but Leaders and Legends wasn't even a base hit. He already has one of the largest television footprints with the new addition of Rutgers and Maryland, so his conference will likely remain atop the sport in terms of revenue.
All he needs to do is take that money and turn it into success on the field. Maybe some conference-wide renovations to schools' athletic complexes or simply some advertising.
Indiana was a few football bounces from playing in a major bowl last season, and Delany could definitely gain by making that known throughout his television base. If the bottom of the Big Ten is already close to competing, then any member can get near the top with just a couple of recruiting classes.
Pac-12 Conference: Larry Scott
Larry Scott needs to take a new approach to conference expansion. While Utah was a decent choice after taking down Alabama in the 2008 season's Sugar Bowl, Colorado was not as sensible a choice. (The Buffaloes won one game in 2012, while the Utes won five.)
Scott is sitting on a conference that shares a border with Idaho. The instant Boise State backed out of the move to the American Athletic Conference, Scott should have been on the horn with the Broncos.
Boise State decided not to leave the Mountain West because the then-Big East was going to be lumped in with the MWC and three other conferences during the realignment period. The Pac-12 is one of the premier conferences in the nation, and Boise would jump at the chance to go.
Not only that, but the Broncos would definitely be in the top half of the conference immediately upon arrival. As soon as the Broncos got another star quarterback, they'd contend for the Pac-12's Rose Bowl berth.
The Pac-12 is an elite conference due to its top-tier teams, and the middle of the conference is improving at an alarming rate. If Scott can concentrate on taking teams like Boise and maybe even Nevada, San Jose State or San Diego State, then the Pac-12 could contend with the SEC for postseason winning percentage.
Any of those four teams would have been a better option than Colorado in every aspect except television market. Now that the American Athletic move didn't work out, Scott has an excellent opportunity to poach the Broncos.
The Big 12 already took TCU from the Mountain West, if Scott doesn't make this move, then someone else will. The bottom line is quality, not quantity.
Scott needs to focus on expansion through quality acquisitions. If any conference is going to take the SEC down from its pedestal, quality is the key.
Southeastern Conference: Mike Slive
Mike Slive needs to stay ahead of the game. He had the vision to expand and create what we all know as championship weekend, and that SEC Championship Game has been the source of six of the last seven national champions.
The SEC is at the top of the food chain right now, and this realignment situation poses a unique opportunity for the conference. The SEC holds the lone position of arguing for two teams from one conference to be allowed into the playoffs beginning in 2014.
Not only that, but the SEC holds the argument for how that should occur. For instance, even if two teams were allowed to enter from one conference, pitting them against each other in the first round would cancel out the opportunity.
Slive can petition for the two teams from the same conference to be given the chance to meet in the national championship. While this would appear selfish right now, it's best for college football in the long run.
What if the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12, ACC or AAC is the top dog? It would be best for college football if the top four teams were allowed in, regardless of conference affiliation. No. 1 should face No. 4 and No. 2 should face No. 3.
If any given conference occupies the No. 1 and No. 3 slots, the rules should not be altered to force one team to eliminate the other. The same is true for the No. 1 and No. 4 slots; if they are from the same conference, then one must be forced to eliminate the other.
Slive has been at the forefront of collegiate progress, and the realignment period allows him a unique opportunity to make the biggest impact to the game since the 1992 SEC Championship Game between Florida and Alabama.
As the most powerful man in college sports today, his goals should still be to further the sport as a whole in any way possible. (With great power comes great responsibility, right?)
It just so happens that he can do that by furthering his conference at this particular juncture.