Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Conference Realignment: A Modest Proposal

It’s hard to believe that the arch-rival of my alma mater, Duke, is now Syracuse. Or is it Notre Dame? Or was that Texas A&M? Weber State? I’m so confused.

The ACC used to be so predictable, year in and year out. Maryland, Virginia, Wake, NC State, UNC, Duke, Clemson, Georgia Tech ... Heck, I remember when Florida State came into the conference (and I wasn’t too happy about it either). But where the heck is Boston College coming from? Or Pitt? Why is Maryland leaving? And what in the heck does Notre Dame have to do with the coast of the Atlantic Ocean?

It’s a problem that fans are having to deal with all over the country. You’re aware, aren’t you, that the Big 10 now has twelve schools (and will have even more when football season starts again this fall)? Or that the Big 12 now has ten schools (and that one of those schools, West Virginia, is about 900 miles away from its nearest conference rival)?

I know it all has to do with money somehow. It’s not something that makes any sense to me, though, and I have to admit I just simply don’t like it all.

So, here’s my modest proposal for some conferences that really make sense, and that – more importantly – do a great deal to soothe my tortured soul. It’s kind of a unique combination of tradition and geography. Whatever it is, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a lot better than what we’ve got now.

The Big Boys

The top level of Div I athletics has a fair amount of stability. These schools have been around awhile, and their conferences are a little more set. So, most of these conferences will look very familiar to you – the ACC, the Big 10, the PAC 10. The Big East and the SEC should look pretty familiar, with a few little changes.

There’s another conference that should look pretty familiar, but which I’m giving a new name. The Plains Conference is basically the Big 12, with a few additions and subtractions. I mean, hey, why name your conference after a number, when that number changes every year?

Now, there is one conference that really is a bit “out there.” I just so happened to notice that Texas has a ton of great schools, but they seem to spread them over a dozen different conferences. So, why don’t we put them all together right? Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Lone Star Conference.

ACC Big 10 Pac 10 Big East SEC Plains Lone Star **
MD Ohio St Wash Boston Coll Miami * Iowa Texas
VA Indiana Wash St Syracuse Florida Iowa St Texas Tech
VA Tech Purdue Oregon Rutgers Florida St * Missou TCU
Wake Notre Dame Oregon St Army * Georgia Nebraska Texas A&M
UNC Michigan Stanford Penn St * Vanderbilt Kansas St SMU
NC State Mich St Cal Pitt Tennessee Kansas Baylor
SC Illinois USC WV Kentucky Oklahoma Houston
Clemson Northwestern UCLA Navy Auburn Okla St Rice
Ga Tech Wisconsin Arizona Alabama Colorado
Minnesota Arizona St Ole Miss
Miss St

* Never in the conference (all the rest were, at one time or other)
** Brand new conference

By the way, the SEC is big enough that it needs two divisions. I’m seeing a good division between the eastern schools (the top seven) and the western ones (the bottom six).

  • Lt. blue – Pac 10
  • Black – Plains
  • Red – Lone Star
  • Royal blue – Big 10
  • Yellow, left of the line – SEC West
  • Yellow, right of the line – SEC East
  • Orange – ACC
  • Green – Big East

The Second Tier

The next group of schools shows a lot more fluidity. A lot of them are newer, so they lack the tradition that that first group has. They’re also smaller, so they might have to move around a little bit to find their place in the sun.

Now, there are definitely some conferences that will look familiar to you – the Ivy League, the Mid-American, the Western Athletic ... There are also some that shouldn’t be too far of a stretch – Conference USA, the Sun Belt, and the Mountain West. I am, though, adding a brand new one, the South Atlantic, which is basically just a grab-bag for all the leftovers.

This is also where we start to get into some of the non-football schools. I’ve shown those in italics in the table and as triangles on the map. Rest assured, though, there’s plenty of football schools at this level that nobody should have any problems with their fall sports schedules.

Ivy Mid-American Western Athletic Conference USA
Dartmouth N Illinois Hawaii Memphis
Harvard Ball St San Jose W Kentucky *
Brown West Mich Fresno DePaul
Yale Central Mich San Diego St Marquette
Columbia East Mich Nevada Butler *
Cornell Toledo UNLV Cincinnati
Princeton Bowling Green Utah Xavier *
Penn Miami OH Utah St Louisville
Ohio BYU Marshall
Mountain West Sunbelt South Atlantic **
Idaho * UTEP * Middle Tenn
Boise St N Texas So Alabama
Wyoming Texas St Troy
Colo St Tulsa * UAB
Air Force Arkansas-LR E Carolina
New Mexico Ark St Fla Intl
NM St LA Tech Fla Atl
Texas-Arl LA-Lafayette UCF
Southern Miss

* Never in the conference (all the rest were, at one time or other)
** Brand new conference

The second tier’s got two conferences that need to be divided up, the Mid-American and the Sun Belt. For both, I’m making a break between the top five and the bottom six.

  • Lt. blue – Western Athletic
  • Black – Mountain West
  • Red – Sun Belt 
  • Royal blue – Conference USA
  • Orange – Mid-American
  • Yellow – South Atlantic
  • Green – Ivy

The Basketball Schools

Now we are getting into a little different territory. These schools tend to have great basketball teams and no football teams. 

There are a few who do have football though. They’re all in one conference – what I’m calling the Little East – so I guess they can play each other then find some other teams outside their conference. Once again, italics and triangles means no football.

Atlantic West Coast Little East Miss Valley
VCU Gonzaga Providence N Iowa
Geo Wash Seattle UMass Drake
Richmond Portland UConn Creighton
St Joseph San Fran St John Missou St
LaSalle Santa Clara Seton Hall St Louis *
Duquesne Pepperdine Villanova Wichita St
St Bonny Loyola Marymount Temple * S Illinois
Fordham San Diego Georgetown Illinois St
Rhode Isl Buffalo * Bradley
Indiana St
Dayton *

* Never in the conference (all the rest were, at one time or other)

There's one conference that needs to be divided up, the Mississippi Valley. It, though, involves an even split between the top six (west of the squiggly line) and the bottom six (east of the squiggly line - roughly, the Mississippi River). 

  • Lt. blue – West Coast
  • Royal blue – Mississippi Valley
  • Yellow – Atlantic
  • Green – Little East

So, there you go, NCAA! Have at it!