With all this talk of the Big Ten courting the likes of Notre Dame and Nebraska, and other BCS conferences looking to increase their size of the pie, it seems inevitable that we will someday be looking at a handful of "super conferences" and not just the 11 (plus independents) that we have now.
Rather than waiting for that all to unfold over many years to come, the NCAA and newly elected President Mark Emmert need to act now.
They should expand four of the current conferences and do away with the other seven, leaving NCAA Division I football with the Big 20, Pac-20, ACC, and SEC. (Trust me, not many of us will miss the likes of the Sun Belt or Mid-American Conferences)
The four "super conferences" would all have 20 teams each and would be broken into four five-team regional divisions (north, south, east, and west), with each of the four division winners meeting in a playoff to decide the conference winner. Those winners would form a Final Four, with the winners ultimately meeting for the national championship (a real national championship).
And it would all look something like this:
Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Boise State
Arizona, Arizona State, Texas, Texas A&M, TCU
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Utah, BYU, Colorado
California, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Nevada
What you see is that the Big 12 has been disbanded, with Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., and Colorado all joining the former Pac-10, along with former Mountain West teams Utah, BYU, and TCU, and Boise State, and Nevada out of the WAC.
A case could be made for some other schools—UNLV and Fresno State among others, rather than Nevada. However, the Wolf Pack provides the most consistent success in both of the revenue-producing sports—football and basketball.
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Central Michigan
Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Indiana, Notre Dame
Ohio State, Cincinnati, Miami (OH), Penn State, Pittsburgh
Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri
The newly formed Big 20 boasts the biggest expansion prize (Notre Dame), as well as four from the former Big 12—Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, and Missouri.
They also add two from the Mid-American in Central Michigan and Miami of Ohio, as well as Cincinnati and Pittsburgh from the former Big East conference.
Boston College, Syracuse, Rutgers, Connecticut, Army
Miami (FL), Florida State, South Florida, Central Florida, Georgia Tech
North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson
Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Maryland, Navy
The new and improved ACC adds five from the former Big East with West Virginia, Rutgers, Connecticut, South Florida, and Syracuse. They also add the two independent service schools (Army and Navy), and Central Florida out of former Conference USA.
Kentucky, Louisville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Arkansas
Florida, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi, Tulane
Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, East Carolina
Louisiana State, Tulsa, Texas Tech, Houston, Rice
The SEC expands from 12 to 20 by absorbing six Conference USA schools in East Carolina, Southern Miss, Houston, Tulsa, Rice, and Tulane—as well as Texas Tech out of the Big 12 and Louisville from the former Big East.
What we're left with are four 20-team conferences (80 schools) comprising Division I football.
The excluded 40 teams will drop to Division II. Some will have a beef (Iowa State, Baylor, Air Force), some will protest (Fresno State, Hawaii, New Mexico), yet most were barely Division I material to begin with (Eastern Michigan, Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech).
The schedules will consist of four games against your division, four games against other conference foes and four non-conference games. Some rivalries may be relegated to every few years, some may be renewed, and others will be newly formed.
It will still give teams like Notre Dame and USC the opportunity to play every year. And special consideration can be made to continue other rivalries as well: Texas-Oklahoma and Ohio State-Michigan.
What about the BCS Standings?
Well, they won't be completely meaningless. They'll be used to provide the seeding as the four division winners will meet in the conference semifinals (or a national Sweet 16). The higher seed gets home field that first weekend in December.
And the winners (the national Elite Eight) will then meet in pre-determined locations (Georgia Dome, Cowboy Stadium, etc.) for the conference title games the second weekend in December to give us our national Final Four.
The Final Four will be played New Year's Day (at rotating BCS venues) with the national championship the following week.
What about the Other Bowls?
The excluded BCS bowl for the year will be given the right to choose the top two teams not in the Final Four to play in their game. The remaining bowl games will continue as they already do, selecting from the available bowl-eligible teams.
And we'll all get what we've all wanted: an actual playoff for an actual national champion in football.
What about Basketball?
The four "super conferences" will remain as they are, and basketball as a whole will go from the 33 current Division I conferences down to 31 (dropping the Big 12 and either the Mountain West or WAC).
Twenty-two conferences will go untouched. The WAC and Mountain West will merge, the Big East becomes a basketball-only conference of seven schools (however, still loaded with the likes of Georgetown, Villanova and Seton Hall), Conference USA picks up Baylor, Iowa State, and Louisiana Tech, the MAC drops to 10 teams, and the Patriot Conference either disbands or goes with just six schools.
Can this all happen?
Most likely doubtful, but we'll have to just wait and see...