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An Unrealistic Way to Bring Sanity to Conference Realignment

Conference realignment has clearly lost any sanity, so I came up with a way to restore it. Of course, this plan has no chance of happening.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

There obviously aren't any games to write about, unless we start getting some demand for CFL or arena football recaps.  Former Oregon/Mississippi QB Jeremiah Masoli did have an impressive comeback yesterday for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats yesterday.  Anyway, I decided to write an article about conference realignment, since that is an offseason topic that people write about.  Andy Staples has Oklahoma and Oklahoma State coming to the SEC West, and Stewart Mandel is predicting a one 24 team conference.

At some point, maybe in the 1990s, but no later than when West Virginia started competing in the Big 12, conference realignment lost any geographic convenience.  Even Idaho and New Mexico State were involved, until the Sun Belt kicked them out.  This trend of geographically inconvenient conference realignment is probably going to continue, as you can see from the Big 12's list of expansion candidates that includes Cincinnati, UConn, Memphis, BYU (I think they get in), and South Florida.  Houston is also rumored as a possibility, but that is partially due to Houston letting the University of Texas have a satellite campus in Houston in exchange for help getting in the Big 12, and the state governor possibly throwing his weight around.

While conference realignment has increased revenue, it has ended some rivalries such as Texas and Texas A&M, Pittsburgh and West Virginia (coming back in 2022), Missouri and Kansas, and a few others.  I have created a format that is based on geographic convenience, and does not involve West Virginia's tennis and soccer teams traveling to the other side of the country every other weekend.  This design isn't nearly as profitable as the current setup, so it will never happen, but here it is anyway.  Details are below.

1 2 3 4 5 6
Georgia North Carolina Texas A&M Michigan Wyoming UCLA
Tennessee NC State Oklahoma Michigan State Air Force BYU
Miami Wake Forest Oklahoma State Northwestern Colorado State USC
Florida State Duke Houston Northern Illinois Nevada Colorado
Georgia Tech East Carolina Texas Tech Cincinnati UNLV Utah State
UCF South Carolina TCU Ohio State New Mexico Utah
Vanderbilt Clemson Baylor Louisville San Diego State Arizona State
Florida USF Texas Kentucky Nevada Arizona
7 8 9 10 11 12
LSU Virginia Kansas Wisconsin Rutgers Washington State
Arkansas Virginia Tech Kansas State Minnesota UConn Washington
Mississippi State West Virginia Missouri North Dakota State West Virginia Oregon
Mississippi Maryland Nebraska Ohio Boston College Oregon State
Memphis Navy Iowa Notre Dame Temple California
Tulane Marshall Iowa State Purdue Pittsburgh Stanford
Alabama Army Arkansas State Indiana Penn State Boise State
Auburn Appalachian State Tulsa Illinois Syracuse Fresno State

I basically let in the Power Five conferences, any well known independent, a couple of FCS powerhouses, and the vast majority of the American and Mountain West conferences.  There are a couple of others I let in just to fill out the empty spots.  Some of the teams I left out would be justifiably angry.  However, I didn't really want to spend much time debating on whether Tulane or Southern Miss should be allowed to join this hypothetical world I created.

I made 12 conferences with 8 teams each, totaling to 96 teams.  I wanted to have 6 conferences with 16 teams, but that didn't really work geographically.  The easiest solution would be to have 16 teams in 4 conferences, but that still doesn't solve problems such as Texas and Texas A&M not playing annually.  For the most part, I organized them geographically, with a few exceptions.  Teams would play 12 games, with 7 being against the teams in their division.  They would have five out of conference games to play whoever they wanted.  The purpose for such as large amount of out of conference games would be for teams like Penn State that I've separated from their Big 10 opponents.  I assume at some point there will be an 8 team playoff, so a committee would just hand pick the best teams for playoffs like they do now.

You can see fairly quickly why this isn't every going to happen, besides that this doesn't maximize the value of TV deals.  North Carolina won't be inviting South Florida to join their conference.  Some teams, like Kentucky, Iowa, and Penn State, would be separated from most of their current conference members, but they have 5 out of conference games to play them.  Several of these conferences would be incredibly unbalanced, so it would be unreasonable for a conference championship to guarantee any playoff spot.

I probably wouldn't want something like this to actually be implemented, because not being in the same conference with some of the other SEC East schools would feel too weird.  But they could still be scheduled on occasion.  Also, you would get rid of some of the ridiculous situations such as West Virginia being a member of the Big 12 for all sports.  Most importantly, all the teams that are located right next to each other would actually play one another regularly.