Conference Realignment: Would MLB-Style Alignment Work for College Football?
The college football landscape is on the verge of a massive shift, and no one is quite sure how it will all shake out. At this point, just about any sort of alignment seems like a possibility. One of the many formats that could be considered would be one similar to how Major League Baseball is set up.
Most people would argue that professional sports have a much more effective system for determining their champions than college sports do (with the possible exception of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament).
Since it is October and we are in the thick of the MLB playoffs, let's use that as our model for conference realignment.
How Would It Work?
So what exactly would this MLB-style format look like in college football? It is pretty simple really. There would be two mega-conferences or "leagues" that would each run their own playoff to determine a champion. In baseball terms, each league would be playing to win its respective pennant.
The leagues would be 21 members each and would encompass every significant college football program (whether or not a program is significant would, of course, be decided by me).
The playoffs to determine a league winner would be battled out between the league's top four teams. The top four in each league would be selected by overall record first, followed by the obligatory laundry list of tiebreakers (head-to-head results, record against common opponents, etc...).
After both league winners were crowned, they would face off in college football's version of the World Series. Everyone else would be eligible to play in bowl games if the powers that be insisted that some form of the bowl system remain intact. Like I said, it's really very simple.
League 1: The Bowden Conference
Named after coaching great Bobby Bowden, the first league would contain the following teams: Florida State, Florida, Miami, Texas, USC, Michigan, Ohio State, UCLA, Stanford, Washington, Oregon, West Virginia, Tennessee, Clemson, Virginia Tech, TCU, Arkansas, Arizona, Arizona State, BYU and Utah.
Due to the advancements in air travel and hotel accommodations, geography was largely ignored in forming these conferences. The idea was to achieve competitive balance through a mix of traditional powers, rising powers and programs who could reasonably rise to power.
Rivalries were considered in developing the conferences but could not be held to strictly. Provisions could be made within the scheduling rules (which I haven't made up yet) to allow historic rivalries to continue.
League 2: The Rockne Conference
Since college football and Knute Rockne are essentially synonymous, our second league is named after the former Notre Dame coach. The Rockne Conference would include Notre Dame, Nebraska, Alabama, Oklahoma, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, LSU, Missouri, Colorado, Penn State, Michigan State, Boise State, and Illinois.
Like the Bowden Conference, the Rockne Conference contains 21 teams. Again, this conference was designed to be a mix of traditional powers, rising powers, and programs who could reasonably rise to power.
Would It Work?
This all leaves us with the million-dollar question of would this type of alignment work for college football? My answer is yes.
Are a lot of college football teams left out in the cold? Yes, unfortunately they are. However, the teams that were left out have had about 75 years to prove they belonged and failed to do so. Every team that has won a national championship since 1936 (according to AP and Coaches' Polls) was included in these two leagues with the exceptions of Minnesota, Army, Maryland and Syracuse. Of those four teams, their most recent championship came in 1960.
As far as the actual execution of the system is concerned, it would be fairly easy to carry out. Teams within the two leagues would play 10-game conference schedules and would be allowed to play an 11th game essentially against a non-included team at the beginning of the season. The maximum number of games a team could potentially play is 14 (11 regular season, two conference playoffs, one national championship), which is the same number of games many teams already play.
Like I mentioned before, the bowl system would still be viable under this system which makes this scenario a win for everyone involved. Only the two teams playing for the national title would be ineligible for traditional bowls (just like they are now), meaning bowls could still invite whomever they pleased to play in their games.
College football would produce a much more entertaining and satisfactory postseason if it adopted an MLB-style format to determine its national champion. At the end of the day, fans would love this set-up, and isn't that what matters?