First of all, this is about the college football landscape five to ten years from now. It’s a series since there is way too much to put in one post that even I would have trouble reading it all and I am writing the damn post.
Before I begin, I will talk a tiny bit about the Baylor situation. This is about the best way to show the environment that college football lives in. The fact that this type of thing happens at all in 2016 shows that many programs have become too strong for their own good. Like a strong union that will back workers who are complete pieces of shit because hey, we’re a union and we protect everyone. College football is kind of like that. They try to circle the wagons a lot. We need to have some powerful figures inside college football that have actual dignity to call out others on their bullshit. Not easy to do since it seems like half the head coaches cover up something or other on a regular basis. Most of it is minor. This certainly was not.
My opinion is that not only should Art Briles have been fired, but most of the other coaches as well. There is no way a few other coaches didn’t know what was going on. Phil Bennett is going to be the interim? Why? He probably is almost as guilty as Art is. (Update: They hired Jim Grobe instead to be the interim head coach. Very good choice.) They have this excuse that firing multiple coaches this close to the season would be detrimental to the team. Well, this cover up is hurting college football in general. I will get to this in later posts but this will all but guarantee that Baylor will not be invited to sit with the big boys when big changes come to the structure of college football. Not that they were rock solid before but this is the proverbial nail in the coffin. Anyway…
On to the work at hand. College realignment. We know something big will happen in the next decade. It’s just a matter of when. My guess is the dominoes will start to fall sometime between 2021 and 2026. I know this is a big range but a lot has to do with Grants of Rights and TV contracts. Some conferences don’t have much in terms of future GOR or TV contracts past 2020 whereas the ACC seems to have “locked down” everyone through the 2026-2027 academic year. What this means is that whatever happens will be pretty much complete by 2026.
There are various ways this has been looked at. I will look at four relatively different scenarios and the implications of all of them.
For scenario number one, I will begin with a model brought forth by Stewart Mandel of FOX Sports. What he did was winnow the current Power 5 conference teams down to 24. The best of the best. This way, as he mentioned, almost every game would matter. It would also mean that these 24 teams (and ONLY these 24 teams) would have an opportunity to play for the national championship. The idea is intriguing and it would return college football to what it was like in the 60s through the 90s basically when only about that many teams had any legitimate shot at the championship (BYU in 1984 would be the odd team out when it comes to that).
I will take this and take it a bit further. I think 24 teams would be too elitist. I believe 32 teams would work in this scenario. Using Sagarin ratings from 1998 until now (so about 20 years’ worth of data), I would start with the top 24 Power 5 teams overall:
|Oklahoma||Ohio State||Florida State||Alabama|
|Notre Dame||Arkansas||Penn State||Texas A&M|
So these 24 teams would be automatically in. The other 8 added in wouldn’t be solely based on Sagarin ratings but also fan base, market, and what they have brought historically to college football. All these are subjective but I have a feeling it would be difficult to argue that one of the teams not in would be a shoo-in over one of the teams I have in here. Those eight would be: Michigan State, Stanford, Georgia Tech, UCLA, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Arizona State, and Iowa. Sorry Boise State, Utah, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, South Carolina, Missouri and a few others. We have to stop at some point.
So now we put these teams into four quadrants or divisions or conferences or whatever you want to call them:
|USC||Oklahoma||Virginia Tech||Florida State|
|UCLA||Kansas State||Penn State||LSU|
|Arizona State||Notre Dame||West Virginia||Georgia|
|TCU||Oklahoma State||Michigan State||Auburn|
|Texas A&M||Iowa||Ohio State||Georgia Tech|
There really isn’t a conference there that is weak at all. Every program’s schedule would look like this:
- Each team plays the seven other teams in their conference
- They play a game against one team in each of the three other conferences
- Two non-top division games against the next tier down (i.e. the Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State)
Basically almost every game would be very important. The winner of each conference automatically goes to the playoffs. Since we are heading for an 8-team playoff (don’t deny it, we know it is bound to happen), the next four teams would be the highest ranked four remaining teams. This way we won’t get a 7-5 team in a conference getting in as an 8-seed. Certain bowls would have to be kept for some of the other good teams that didn’t make the playoffs as showcase games (kind of like what they do now). So this is what we would have seen using last year’s results:
Orange Bowl: #1 Clemson vs. #8 Notre Dame
Sugar Bowl: #2 Alabama vs. #7 Ohio State
Rose Bowl: #3 Michigan State vs. #6 Stanford
Cotton Bowl: #4 Oklahoma vs. #5 Iowa
As for who broadcasts what, here is what I envision:
- CBS would get the top game from the Southeast conference. My guess is they would add another game of the week, also involving a Southeast team.
- ABC would get the best game available not involving a Southeast team for their 8:00 broadcast. The Noon and 3:30 games would still exist but would be picked from the remaining games available.
- FOX would get the top game involving a West or Midwest team for their primetime game. They would also receive another game for a late afternoon broadcast.
- ESPN would get the top game from the Atlantic for their 3:30 broadcast. They would also get the best pick of the remaining games for the Noon and 7:00 broadcasts. They would also get the best game involving a West team after FOX makes their selections for their late night game.
- ESPN2, ESPNU and FOX Sports One would each get up to three games a week.
That would satisfy all the major broadcasters. Unless NBC does something crazy, I think they may lose the Notre Dame broadcast. Either that or they keep it and add something else (Atlantic teams perhaps).
For us here in Canada, no real change although getting FOX Sports One might become more of an issue. Saying that, we would all get most of the games since BTN and the SEC Network would not exist in their current form and wouldn’t be needed nearly as much as they are now.
All this means that football would have to be treated differently than basketball and other sports when it came to conferences. The reason for this is that the teams that did not “make it” into the top 32 would be relegated (for lack of a better word) to the lower division. The structure could look something like this:
|SEC||Big Ten||Pac-12||ACC||Big XII|
|South Carolina||Purdue||Oregon State||Boston College||Iowa State|
|Ole Miss||Northwestern||Washington||NC State||Baylor|
|Vanderbilt||Indiana||Colorado||Pittsburgh||North Dakota State|
|Southern Miss||Toledo||Boise State||Syracuse||Louisiana Tech|
|USF||Northern Illinois||San Diego State||Wake Forest||Tulsa|
|UCF||Bowling Green||Air Force||Duke|
|Colorado State||East Carolina|
|Mountain West||American||MAC||Conference USA|
|Hawaii||Georgia Southern||Western Michigan||UAB|
|Montana||Appalachian State||Miami-Ohio||Western Kentucky|
|New Mexico||Rice||Central Michigan||UL-Lafayette|
|Utah State||Temple||Ball State||North Texas|
|San Jose State||Villanova||Akron||South Alabama|
|South Dakota State||SMU||Kent State||ULM|
|UTEP||Massachusetts||Eastern Michigan||Old Dominion|
|New Mexico State||Army||FIU|
|UTSA||Middle Tennessee||Texas State|
As you can see, a few FCS teams will have moved up that belong there like North Dakota State. Most of the rest have been kept in their current conferences and filled up with from teams with lower conferences, pretty much how realignment has worked. And also, no more Sun Belt (sorry guys).
I truly believe that we will see this group of teams have a playoff for some sort of championship. Call if FBS, new FCS, whatever. It will truly be a consolation prize now since none of these programs will have a hope of moving up into the top tier if it is this exclusive. I say that now and watch ten years later that exact thing happens and 40 years from now we are back where we started. The top five conferences would get automatic berths into the new 16-team playoff and the other 11 teams would be selected at-large.
Alright, so that’s that. Three more scenarios to go all probably as realistic as the others. College football is “only” 87 days away…well it is for Americans who get FOX Sports One. For people here who get the specialty pack it’s 88 days since you will get the FCS Opening Day game. For the rest of you, it’s 93 days until opening Thursday.