For Non-BCS Conferences, Geography Could Be the Answer

Jason DuniganCorrespondent IAugust 20, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 21: Jorrick Calvin #14 of the Troy Trojans is tackled by Britt Barefoot #3 of the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on December 21, 2008 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Eagles defeated the Trojans 30-27. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

I miss the old Southwest Conference.

I really do.

There is something about Texas football that just gets your blood pumping. Back in the days of the old SWC, the state of Texas was the destination of choice for football fans on any particular Saturday in the fall. Back then, fans knew who their enemies were.

It is a shame there aren't more geographically influenced conferences nowadays. In today's college football world, teams commonly face a conference schedule where their opponents are more than 500 miles away.

I mean, who doesn't get excited for the "next door" rivalries between Hawaii and Louisiana Tech or South Florida and Syracuse? Really, their fanbases have so much in common. I know fans just love making the trek from El Paso, Texas all the way to Greenville, North Carolina.

Now, it is not my intention to knock any school or conference, but with the economy the way it is today, and with money-printing conferences like the SEC looking for ways to save cash in the face of multi-billion-dollar television deals, cutting back on travel expenses seems like the best way for a given college athletic department to save a few bucks.

Seriously, it has gotten so bad for Conference USA that they have taken to holding their annual media gathering on Skype. Word from those tuning in was that it was less than a rousing success.

The problem, though, is not with the schools in the conferences; rather, it's with the conferences housing the schools.

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Because I am such a giving person, I have decided to reconfigure the current landscape of non-automatic BCS-qualifying conferences to a more geographically friendly set up.

Now before I get comments and emails telling me how School "A" would never align itself with School "B," or how I am stupid to think their favorite school (otherwise known as the most prestigious football school in the history of the world) would ever reduce itself to playing in such a lower-tiered conference, let me reiterate that this hypothetical reconfiguring is based mainly on geography when and/or where possible.

So, without further delay, here is how the world of non-BCS college football should look like...geographically speaking.

* The new eight-team Western Athletic Conference lineup: Hawaii, San Jose State, Fresno State, San Diego State, Nevada, UNLV, Idaho, Boise State.

* The new nine-team Mountain West Conference: Utah, Utah State, BYU, Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force, New Mexico, New Mexico State, UTEP.

* The new 12-team Conference USA: WEST—Tulsa, North Texas, SMU, TCU, Houston, Rice. EAST—Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech, UL Monroe, UL Lafayette, Tulane, UTSA*.

(* = UTSA is currently planning to become an FBS participating school within the near future and would join CUSA when they become eligible.)

* The new 12-team Sun Belt Conference: SOUTH—Southern Miss, UAB, Troy, UCF, FIU, FAU. NORTH—Middle Tenn. State, Western Kentucky, Marshall, East Carolina, Memphis, Miami (OH).

Currently, the Mid-American Conference has 13 members with the recent addition of Temple. With the defection of Miami (OH) to the new Sun Belt, the MAC would once again become a 12-member all-sports conference.

Now is the geographic reconfiguration perfect? No, of course not, but it is certainly no worse than the current lineups conferences are sporting. With the changes I have proposed, fan travel between schools would largely become more realistic, improving attendance at all games and thus generating more money for the member institutions. 

Closer regional rivalries would most likely develop, and higher levels of interest would be generated as a result.

Finally, one last plea to those that would kick sand in my face over these proposals: Just as you believe your school would become the next college football juggernaut if only some BCS conference would give your team a chance, the schools you don't want to be associated with feel the same way about their schools.

Remember that as you sit back in horror reading my suggested associations for your favorite team, and try to go easy on each other—and especially me.

Good luck to you all this upcoming season.

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