NCAA Football 2011: Conference Realignment in an Ideal World
The college football landscape is changing, the need for expansion into new TV markets has become a common theme around the country. Presented here is what I believe would be the single most sensible conference realignment plan that would include all 120 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision teams. Each of the automatic bid conferences will be displayed in alphabetical order and the basis for their organization will be explained.
The ACC (Automatic-Bid)
- Florida State
- Georgia Tech
- Miami (Fl)
- North Carolina
- North Carolina State
- Virginia Tech
- Wake Forest
- East Carolina (Add-in)
The addition of East Carolina would help to completely solidify the ACC’s hold in North Carolina by including every major state university as well as the two most nationally recognized private universities in the state. It would also be a good addition for the ACC due to East Carolina’s recent success in football. Boston College will be removed from the ACC as their inclusion has been suspect from the beginning as they are geographically an outlier in the league and bring only an average football team to the conference and a sub-par basketball program.
The Big East (Automatic-Bid)
- South Florida
- West Virginia
- Boston College (Add-in)
- Central Florida (Add-in)
- Marshall (Add-in)
- Temple (Add-in)
The addition of Boston College would provide a foothold in the Boston market as well as providing another average football team, which although not a title contender, would provide a boost to the conference’s academic reputation. Central Florida would provide an in-state rival for South Florida and help solidify the Big East’s reach into one of the richest talent pools of high school players in the country. Marshall would be a good addition as they are traditional rivals with West Virginia and have a strong football tradition. Temple would help to solidify the Big East’s popularity in the Pennsylvania area by providing the conference with an opportunity for exposure in the two major metropolitan areas of the state. Temple is also a football team on the rise and could become a constant threat to reach a bowl game.
The Big XII (Automatic-Bid)
- Kansas State
- Oklahoma State
- Texas A&M
- Texas Tech
- Houston (Add-in)
- Southern Methodist (Add-in)
- Texas Christian (Add-in)
The additions of Houston and Southern Methodist would provide the Big XII with the opportunity to have conference teams situated directly in the two largest and most profitable population centers in the Big XII region. Both are improving football teams and although not yet on the level of Big XII competition, will become above-average teams capable of competing. Southern Methodist would also help improve the academic reputation of the conference. Texas Christian has proven to be one of the best football teams in the country over the last few years and their rivalry with SMU is well documented. They would provide a third national title contender in the conference and could help to solidify the Big XII’s precarious position.
The Big Ten (Automatic-Bid)
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Pennsylvania State
- Iowa State (add-in)
Simply enough, Iowa State will either join the Big Ten, or the Big Ten will inevitably lose Iowa. The situation here is far too similar to that of Virginia Tech and Virginia in 2003. It would be in the Big Ten’s best interest to take Iowa State instead of Nebraska as they may receive their 12 team league for now, but risk losing a charter member of the league when state legislation decrees that the two schools must become a package deal, and returning to a conference championship-less league.
The Mountain West (Automatic-Bid)
- Air Force
- Brigham Young
- Colorado State
- Boise State (Add-in)
- Fresno State (Add-in)
- Hawaii (Add-in)
- Nevada (Add-in)
- Nevada-Las Vegas (Add-in)
- Southern Mississippi (Add-in)
- Tulsa (Add-in)
- Troy (Add-in)
Boise State would increase the viability of the Mountain West as an Automatic Bid conference by adding a third team capable of reaching a national title game. It would also provide a greater amount of exposure to the Mountain West as Boise State has become a more nationally recognized team due to their recent success. Fresno State would help to increase exposure in California while also adding a solid football team to the conference with definite NFL-level talent. Hawaii is another team that has reached a BCS bowl game and has a strong reputation as a football team. Nevada is a program on the rise and would provide a strong base, along with Nevada-Las Vegas in the Las Vegas market. Tulsa has fielded successful football teams over the years and would provide an in-roads to the rich high school talent in Oklahoma. Southern Mississippi and Troy would also help to expand the Mountatin West conference’s reach into the Deep South providing greater national reach and a pipeline into the talent of Alabama and Mississippi.
The Pacific XII (Automatic-Bid)
- Arizona State
- Oregon State
- Washington State
- Colorado (Add-in)
- Nebraska (Add-in)
Colorado would help to provide a market for the Pac-12 in the Denver region. Nebraska would be a great addition for the Pac-12 due to its rich history and rivalry with Colorado. Nebraska would also help to increase the competitive level of the Pac-12 by adding a third national contender.
The Southeastern Conference (Automatic-Bid)
Remains the same format, same teams. The conference to which others should aspire.
The BCS Title Format- Quarterfinals
These Seven Conferences would make up what would be known as the Power Seven. Each would be guaranteed a spot in one of the Four BCS bowl games: Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. The eighth bid would go to an at large bid, which could come from one of the Power Seven conferences or the other 35 remaining teams, including the three independents: Notre Dame, Army, and Navy. The at-large bid would be determined in much the same way as the at-large bids for the NCAA basketball tournament, using a combination of a computer ranking system similar to the RPI, and a vote by a board consisting of Twelve AP sportswriters. In the event of a tie, a coin toss would be enacted to determine the at-large bid. This format would ensure the survival of the BCS, while giving every team in the Division One Football Bowl Subdivision an opportunity to play in the BCS tournament. The four BCS bowls would make up the quarterfinals and would be organized as such:
Orange Bowl: ACC Champion vs. Big East Champion
Sugar Bowl: SEC Champion vs. At-Large Bid
Fiesta Bowl: Big XII Champion vs. Mountain West Champion
Rose Bowl: PAC-12 Champion vs. Big Ten Champion
The Strength of this format is that the traditions of these four esteemed bowls would remain intact. The competing schools and their respective conferences would economically benefit from the windfalls that these BCS bowls grant and allow schools to claim a traditional bowl game title, much as they already do if not voted into the national title game by the Bowl Championship Series. The chief fear and argument against a BCS tournament is the eradication of bowl games, but this argument is misguided and false. The one hundred and eleven teams that do not qualify for the BCS tournament will still be able to attend and participate in the 29 other bowl games offered to them. This means that of the one hundred and nineteen Division One FBS teams, 66 teams would be able to partake in post season play, 55.5% of all teams. This ensures that the economic, social, recruiting, and other benefits conferred on schools by engaging in postseason play remain intact.
The BCS Title Format- Semifinals/National Title Game
The winners of the four BCS games would go on to play in two national semi-finals games which would be organized as such:
BCS Eastern National Semifinal: Orange Bowl Winner vs. Sugar Bowl Winner
BCS Western National Semifinal: Fiesta Bowl Winner vs. Rose Bowl Winner
The incredible economic benefits that would be offered to the BCS, the teams and their institutions, as well as their conferences would be far greater than anything that can be offered by the current postseason layout or by the current conference configurations. The winners of the Eastern and Western National Semifinals would then play in a true national title game, in which there can only be crowned one true national champion. It will never again arise that two, or even three teams can lay claim to the national title, as the winner of the BCS tournament will be the unarguable champion. The fact remains that the current system is flawed. NCAA Football is the only major sport which does not boast a functioning playoff system, and the economic benefits of finally respecting the wishes of the public majority far outweigh retaining an aged and failed system.
It's high time that the BCS pulled itself out of the past and embraced the future. Every team in college football deserves a shot at the national title. Let's get it done.