A quick look in the archives will show that awhile back I put forth a 10 point plan to save college football. Because of recent developments involving radical changes in conference membership now seems like the perfect time to dive back into the issue with a follow-up or two or three.
One of the things I proposed was indeed conference realignment. But what I had in mind was NOT what is happening now. What is occurring at the moment is complete chaos fueled simply by greed. I continue to be amazed that these conferences seem to be independent entities over which the NCAA has absolutely no control. I am just a fan and I will not pretend to have command of the ins & outs of the business of big time collegiate athletics. But it seems to me that it shouldn’t be all that complicated.
At any rate, what has dawned on me over the course of the past few weeks is that conference realignment is not enough. What I would do is abolish the conferences altogether. College football should be about tradition and rivalries, and an important driving force has always been geography. As a general rule your favorite team’s biggest rivals are likely somewhat close in proximity. Oklahoma-Texas, Pitt-West Virginia, Alabama-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan, Florida-Florida State-Miami, Oregon-Oregon State…all geographical rivals. USC-Notre Dame is a notable exception, but I defy anyone to come with a half dozen more. You can’t. There is a reason Washington St.-Maryland or Arkansas-UCLA aren’t rivalries…they are thousands of miles apart. Therefore, what I am proposing is that all current Division 1-A…or FBS or whatever they are calling them now…teams be placed into regions instead of conferences.
There would be ten regions, each with 10-13 teams. The ten regional winners would go into a 16 team playoff with and additional six at large teams, but more on that later. Since there is a lot of overlap in some areas of the country, most prominently the southeastern and western United States, there is an opportunity to take into consideration competitive balance in placing teams. For example, Ohio State and Akron may both be in the same state, but no one would argue that they are evenly matched programs. But since there are more than enough teams in the midwest for two overlapping regions this issue can be resolved pretty easily. Each team would play 11 games…7 within their region and 4 against whomever they wish. This accomplishes two things. First, it allows strength of scheduled to become an important factor and gives every team plenty of flexibility to take that into consideration when putting together schedules. Secondly, it allows traditional rivals an opportunity to keep playing. USC and Notre Dame may not be in the same region, but they can still play if the powers-that-be at those two schools deem it proper and feasible. The teams that did not play each other one year within any region would be required to play one another the next season. This would mix things up from year to year, which would certainly keep the game fresh for players, coaches, and fans.
As mentioned in the previous post on this topic, three teams…Army, Navy, and Air Force…would remain independent. In an effort to promote those programs every other school would be required to play atleast one of the independents every so many years. I will leave it to people far smarter than me to work out exact details, but you get the drift. So without further adieu, here are the ten regions:
North Carolina St.
Middle Tennessee St.
San Jose St.
New Mexico St.
San Diego St.
Independent = Army, Navy, Air Force
I am not foolish enough to think that there is a perfect solution, but I think the NCAA can do much better that the current fiasco that we see playing out in the sports pages and on ESPN. When the mood strikes me to next tackle this subject we will go into more detail about how the playoffs and the revised bowl system will work.