The weather over the weekend here in the DC area was an abomination. Temperatures were in the upper-90s along with the signature humidity levels that make July and August unpleasant months in these parts. Having dealt with these sorts of summers for decades, the formula consists of staying indoors as much as possible, drawing the blinds to keep as much sunlight as possible out of the living space and using ceiling fans to keep the air moving. I and many others around here took a moment over the weekend to pay homage to Willis Carrier…
This is not a time of the year with a plethora of stunning sports attractions on TV and on Saturday the first listing that drew any real interest was a Houston Astros/Seattle Mariners game that started at 4:00PM [Aside: The Astros led 2-1 when I tuned out to help prepare dinner and the Astros eventually won that game 3-1.] That left me with lots of time to let my mind wander and that often leads to flights of fancy and imagination. Saturday was indeed a day that fell into that category.
Imagine if you will a world where college football evolution continues over the next decade or so to the point where more changes are needed. The driving force, of course, will be TV rights fees but what the networks will want are more games pitting two very good teams against each other. The expanded Big-10 and the expanded SEC provide some games of that ilk – – but there are still too many offerings that do not “move the needle” and the folks who are ready to pay out big monies want that needle moved.
I argued last week that one of the reasons that college football was so popular was that its rivalries were for the most part driven by schools that are nearby each other. So, if the financial situation I alluded to above happened, additional expansion of the two most powerful conferences would just increase the footprint even more than exists today. How to square this circle…?
No one in the current structure of college football will want to hear this, but I believe there is lots of money to be made with a radical restructuring. Two key elements of the radical restructuring would be:
- Some teams in conferences other than the current Big-10 and current-SEC would need to ditch their current affiliation and move to a new conference home.
- Some teams currently in the Big-10 and the SEC would need to be removed and take up the sport of college football elsewhere.
Right there you have a huge up-front cost to get to where I want to go, and I acknowledge that such an upfront cost might be prohibitive. But just for giggles, let me assume that the College Football Fairy Godmother shows up and waves her wand and makes all that “athletic department free agency” happen. At that point, college football programs are like tokens that can be moved about, and I have a plan for that.
In my new world there will be Two Mega Conferences – – call them Alpha and Beta for now because the names do not matter. Each Conference will have 20 teams arranged in 4 Divisions of 5 teams each. The Divisions will emphasize proximity and the Conferences will try to join Divisions whose geography is as close as possible to its conference mates. So here is the status so far:
- Alpha and Beta will incorporate 40 schools – – and the idea is to have these be the best 40 programs in the country such that there is lots more high quality/high interest programming for those deep-pocketed TV execs to drool over.
- Regionalism and proximity will be emphasized
- The existence of Alpha and Beta which will ONLY feature in conference games – – no more cupcake scheduling – – will make the College Football Playoff an easy decision.
Here is how the scheduling would work:
- Each team will play its 4 Division opponents home and home every year; that accounts for 8 games.
- Each team will play every team in one other Division in its Conference on a year-by-year rotating basis; that accounts for 5 games.
- The CFP would become a “tournament” involving the 8 Division winners in the two Conferences. The simple system would be to have the four Alpha winners compete to see who the Alpha Champ is and have the Alpha Champ play the Beta Champ for the national title. Or you could get fancy and seed the 8 teams based on records and not on conference residence and go from there. Take your pick…
I warned you above that I had all day Saturday until the late afternoon to ponder this gedanken experiment so here is a very rough cut at what the 8 Divisions might look like. In some cases I have two teams there separated by a slash; that means take your pick…
- Division 1: Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, NC State
- Division 2: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee
- Division 3: Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Texas, Texas A&M. Baylor/TCU
- Division 4: Cal, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah
- Division 5: Clemson, UNC, UVa, South Carolina, Va Tech
- Division 6: Michigan, Michigan St. Notre Dame, Penn St., Ohio St.
- Division 7: Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin
- Division 8: Arkansas, Iowa St., Kansas St., Missouri, Nebraska
I know I have left out some notable schools here; so, before the long knives come out, let me try to explain. I know that there is no Division in the Great Northwest. The reason for that is I could not come up with a geographic cluster of 5 teams in that area. Oregon and Washington would be obvious; after that the pickings get slim if the idea is to keep this to “Top 40 football programs”. Please note that there is no “Northeastern Division” either because the best team in that part of the world – – after Penn State who fit elsewhere in this scheme – – is Boston College and that is not particularly attractive. I thought about Boston College, Pitt, Syracuse, WVU and “somebody else” for a while and then dropped it.
The two Arizona schools are not here either; absent also are Pitt, Syracuse, Cincy, Kentucky, WVU and Louisville. If someone wants to argue that they ought to be included in this fantasy, please do so by suggesting which team should be removed from any of the Divisions. Oh, and please remember to keep up a semblance of “regionality” in any suggestions.
Finally, apropos of nothing other than the fact that I found this humorous, let me close with a commentary by stand-up comedian, Bill Hicks:
“And on the seventh day, God stepped back and said, ‘This is my creation, perfect in every way … oh, dammit I left all this pot all over the place. Now they’ll think I want them to smoke it … Now I have to create Republicans.’”
For the record: I was not smoking pot or any under the influence of any other hallucinogen last Saturday when I took this flight of fancy.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………