We all love college sports, but many recognize that they are inherently flawed by both design and execution. There are a million things that could be changed to make each sport better. Rule changes to get rid of flopping, NIL/player compensation adjustments, CFP expansion, etc…etc… I’m sure you’ve discussed each of these things ad nauseum.
What I’ve written about today is a fantasy world. I listed out (what I consider to be) the ideal alignment for power/high-major and mid-major (not to be confused with low major) conferences.
Obviously, this will never happen… I just wanted to see it out on written out on paper and I figured I would share with anyone who cares to take a look. In doing this, I tried to keep to the principle that conferences should be aligned to maximize games that matter.
And what makes games matter you may ask? IMHO is it is: competitiveness (during a game itself, across the conference, and across the sport), games with stakes (championships, playoff implications, etc.), and rivalries. As you will see, a lot of this is a throw back to the way things were in the 90s and 00s, with a few major tweaks.
Big 8 > The Plains Conference
North Dakota State
South Dakota State
The original Big 8 plus we’re adding in a little firepower from the best teams in the FCS to get the numbers up (and then redubbing the conference to the Plains). Kansas and Missouri get reunited. Oklahoma, Colorado, and Nebraska together again as well! NDSU and SDSU will fit right in culturally and NDSU has built a dynasty in the FCS. They would routinely be a top 50 FBS team (beating out many power teams in the process) and some years can even crack the top 25. SDSU has arguably been the second best FCS team over the last few decades and also have been pretty good in hoops, making the tournament 6 times in the last 10 years. All our boxes are checked here: proximity and continuity of the conference leads to rivalries. The teams are relatively competitive with each other and will be competitive on a national scale, which will lead to games with stakes.
Southwest Conference (SWC)
10th spot – callup
That’s right folks, the SWC is back! There was some real, genuine hatred across all the teams in this conference (rivalries galore). Sometimes it bordered on war or at least armed conflict. The only problem, is we only have nine members (One too few to be ideal IMO). To remedy this, I’m going to give the SWC five yrs to call up a team. The twist is that SWC does not get to decide for itself which team. It will have to be the most deserving team in contiguous territories, meaning states in or touching Arkansas or Texas. Preference would be given to schools in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. This will then be be voted on by the players, coaches, administrators, and even fans of the SWC. To me it seems like Louisiana, Tulsa, and Tulane are probably the frontrunners but I could see Memphis being overwhelmingly attractive option. Maybe even Jackson State could make a push here. With Coach Prime at the helm, the tigers are setting FCS attendance records and beating out many P5 teams in that category.
The Big East
Providence (Olympic Sports)
St. John’s (Olympic Sports)
Villanova (Football > FBS)
Georgetown (Football > FBS)
Seton Hall (Olympic Sports)
Temple (Football Only)
The Big East rises from the ashes as a football conference. We leave Miami in the ACC and trade Notre Dame to the B1G for Penn State for geographic and cultural reasons. We force Nova and Georgetown to bring their football up from FCS to FBS (as the conference did with UConn previously). While it hasn’t been going super great with the Huskies as of late, this will decrease the division between the football and non-schools as their will now only be 3 Olympic sports only schools in the conference, rather than 5 (or 7 as there once was). This move will be more palatable for Nova than Georgetown, but they’ll get their act in order sooner or later (and, hey, they get Cuse back in conference for two basketball games a year!).
This will be a weaker football conference than some of the other power leagues, but one or two of the second tier (WVU, Pitt, Cuse, Rutgers, BC, VT) will rise up with the power vacuum that is created to where they were before the dissolution of the Big East the first time. Most of these teams have languished in both revenue sports in their new conferences and this reunion will be just what the doctor ordered.
Big 10 > Great Lakes Conference
The OG Big 10 plus Notre Dame (how it should have been for …. over a century). I know ND has a ton of rivals but with these smaller conferences we can go to an 8 game conference schedule. They can still play USC, Stanford, and Navy every year out of conference, Pitt and BC every other year or throw in Army if they like. Purdue, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Michigan will be conference games for them.
The Big 10 becomes a Midwest conference again. We’ve also got to rebrand conferences to the correct number of teams in conference (another fantasy of mine). So these guys go to the Great Lakes Conference or the Big 11 if they prefer (Alternatively, they could kick one team out. I would vote for Ohio State in this scenario).
The ACC is pretty simple. Maryland back in, Miami stays (geographically and culturally they feel like an ACC team). Everything else is the way it was in 91.
The SEC as well. Ten original schools (who’ve been in conference since 1932) plus SCar.
12th member from MWC
The Pac is pretty good as is, but since they lost Colorado back to the Big 8/Plains Conference I feel like they need a replacement to round things out. And since I gave the MWC 13 football playing members (below), they need to cut one. So, we’re going to do the same as we did for the SWC. 5 year call-up for the most deserving team (and this will definitely be from the MWC).
Mountain West (MWC)
San Diego State
San Jose State
Hawaii (Football Only)
Gonzaga (Olympic Sports)
St Marys (Olympic Sports)
The MWC is pretty perfectly constructed already in its own right but I gave them some more basketball firepower. As mentioned, they will lose their most deserving/best fit to the Pac 12 in five years. BYU would be the presumptive favorite, but the ideology there doesn’t jive so well with the Pacific schools. Would another school rise up to take their place if they knew a ticket to a power league was up for grabs in five years? Boise State has been the best football program and their basketball team has come on as of late as well. UNLV has the basketball history and I’m sure the conference would love a presence in Las Vegas but their revenue sports have been perhaps the worst in conference the last few decades. This move unfortunately kills the WCC as a mid-major or multi-bid league, but I think it is a sacrifice worth making. Those late night (or early morning EDT) basketball games would get a lot spicier if we add in the best of the WCC. A true treat for any of us who happen to be up at that ungodly hour.
Conference USA/Metro > Metro USA
Army (Football Only)
Navy (Football Only)
Things start to get a little wonky here as we don’t have as many programs left. This wouldn’t be a directly contiguous conference (as you can tell I am a big believer in contiguity in my conferences). Though, most of these teams have history together in the Metro, CUSA, or AAC. This would be a really fun and solid conference and wouldn’t be that out of control geographically for Olympic sports. Army and Navy are the big outliers and they are football only which means much fewer games/trips than most other sports.
Atlantic 10 (A10) > A14
Temple back to the A10, where they had their best years and still have some rivals. We rebrand the name here as well. If we really want to get funky we can talk about adding Iona and Vermont to the A10/14. But I don’t think we’re quite ready yet.
American Hoopland Conference
A play on America’s ‘Heartland’, this Hoopland conference pulls teams from several different conferences to unite into one continuous basketball-first mid-American conference. I feel like this is a really solid basketball conference and if you don’t like the name just think of it as a ‘working title.’
A lot of these teams have spent years in the wilderness. They would be happy to finally have a home that suits them. The only teams that would be downgraded in terms of overall conference strength would be the current Big East squads, but I don’t feel like it is too much of a downgrade. These schools are also closer geographically and generally have more in common culturally than they do with the Eastern schools. More of a breeding ground for those rivalries we spoke about.