Apparently the Big 12 Commissioner doesn’t know how to count, because there are only 10 teams in the Big 12 Conference. But the Commish may get a crash course on basic arithmetic. The University Presidents of Oklahoma and West Virginia, members of the Big 12’s expansion committee, are in favor of adding teams to the Conference.
Oklahoma’s President said, “The Big 12 is disadvantaged when compared to the other conferences in three ways. We do not have at least twelve members, we do not have a conference network, and we do not have a championship game. I think that all three of these disadvantages need to be addressed at the same time.” Furthermore, West Virginia’s President publically plugged, “I’m in favor of expansion.”
Given the new NCAA rule change, Bowl Subdivision Conferences only need 10 teams to hold a Championship game. Could Oklahoma and West Virginia be crying sour grapes in hopes to get out of their strict grant of media rights agreement with the Big 12? Possibly! But, assuming they are serious about expansion - What schools would be the best expansion targets?
The big boys in the Big Ten (another conference that can’t count), SEC, ACC, and Pac-12 (a conference that can count) wouldn’t leave their secure and lucrative paychecks to join the volatile Big 12. However, outside of the Power Conferences, sits the low-lying blossoming fruits of the American Athletic and Mountain West Conferences just waiting to be plucked. While there is no slam-dunk candidate, below are the most realistic expansion options:
Cincinnati Bearcats – Cincy would create a bridge between West Virginia and the rest of the Big 12 members located on the windy Plains of America’s Heartland. Cincinnati is a major city with a large media market. The downside of Cincinnati is the Bearcats’ fan base and stadium is relatively small compared to Texas and Oklahoma standards.
Central Florida Golden Knights / South Florida Bulls – Adding a team from Florida would tap into the Sunshine State’s massive pipeline of talented football recruits. Central and South Florida have large student enrollments and are located in prosperous metropolitan areas. The only question is - which team has more potential? Central Florida beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl a few years ago, and has a nice on-campus stadium. South Florida plays in a professional stadium. The only downside is Florida is located far away from the Midwestern Plains.
Brigham Young Cougars – BYU is a storied program with a proud tradition of excellent, a large stadium, and a huge Mormon following. The Cougars even won the college football National Championship in 1984. But, the Cougars aren’t allowed to play sports on Sundays, which may be an issue for Olympic sports scheduling (basketball, baseball, soccer, etc.). Additionally, West Virginia to Provo, Utah is a long cross-country hike.
Houston Cougars – An up-and-coming program, which just beat Florida State in the Peach Bowl. If you’re going to play in Texas, you got to have a fiddle in the band. Houston, we have a problem! The Big 12 already has four fiddles in the band (Baylor, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech). Typically, conferences expand into new media markets to increase exposure and television revenue. Like Houston, other Texas teams hoping to bump up (SMU, Rice, UTEP, UTSA, and Texas State) will likely be snubbed as well.
Connecticut Huskies – UConn could open some eyes in the nearby New York market. Plus, Connecticut has a dynamic basketball program. But, the Huskies forgot how to mush on the gridiron.
Boise State Broncos – The beefy, blue Broncos of Boise boast three feisty Fiesta Bowl victories. Pretty impressive for a parvenu potato program, but the spud stops there. Boise isn’t a major media market and is fairly remote. Plus, the stands surrounding the blue tater turf are half-baked (not a large stadium). Boise is a hot potato still waiting to be buttered up.
Memphis Tigers – Like Cincinnati, Memphis would link West Virginia to the rest of the Big 12. And, the Tennessee locale would open up some fertile recruiting ground in the Southeast. But, Memphis football doesn’t have a strong tradition of winning. Therefore, fans may be singing the blues in Graceland if passed up.
Navy Midshipmen – The doughboys need a tugboat to navigate into the expansion harbor. The Naval Academy has a strict admission process, high academic standards, and a weight restriction on students. Given the stern rules, the Middies are still very combative on the gridiron. Similar criterion applies for the Air Force Falcons and Army Cadets, which may keep these prestigious programs out of this classified operation.
San Diego State Aztecs – The Big 12 could stay classy, and expand into San Diego. The Aztec Village is located in the rich and fertile recruiting grounds of California, far away from the dusty Plains of America’s heartland. Fresno State would also open up a new frontier in the West, but it may be best to stick with teams closer to the home nest in the Midwest.
Temple Owls – This could be a longshot, given Temple’s relatively short stint of success. But, Philadelphia is the 4th largest US television market, and the Owls play at a large professional stadium. Their future may grow exponentially if given another opportunity at the big time.
Colorado State Rams - Whenever in doubt, ram it. The Colorado Buffalos used to graze in the Big 12, and Colorado State could take the Buff’s position on the snowcapped mountaintop. Colorado State is building a brand new on-campus stadium. However, the Rams lack the tradition possessed by their intrastate rival.
Nevada-Las Vegas Running Rebels / Nevada Wolfpack – Nevada would be a new market. But, it’s unlikely the Silver State would get a bigtime offer, given sports gambling is legal there.
Tulane Green Wave - Located in the Cajun party town of New Orleans, Tulane would be a nice tourist destination for Big 12 fans. And the Big Easy would be an easy place for visiting Big 12 football teams to pick up an stress-free victory over the Wave. Tulane once played in the SEC, but has since regressed to mediocrity and their viewership is dwarfed by neighboring LSU.
Marshall Thundering Herd - A great Conference-USA program with a strong history of winning, but the Herd is located in a small media market.
UPDATE - June 7 - The Big 12 will have a Conference Championship game starting in 2017
The prosperous Power Five Conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC) are flexing their money-making muscles and manufacturing a multi-million mint. For example, the Big Ten Conference netted an astounding $449 million in total revenue during this past sports year, which equates to around 32 million bucks per school. That’s a lot of guacamole. Compare that major league salary with the paltry payout of the deprived Group of Five (American, Conference-USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt). Conversely, Conference-USA just inked a television deal worth a measly $2.8 million, which needs to be dividing up 14 ways among Conference-USA members. Talk about hungry children fighting over the last chicken wing at the dinner table. But as the rich get richer and the drastic difference in revenue between the haves and have-nots grows greater, the underpaid underdogs keep sticking it to the fancy fat cats.
Look at the five major American National Championships: Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, and Women’s Basketball. Four out of the five major championships were won by programs sitting outside of the Power Five. As a matter of fact, three of the five championship schools don’t even sponsor a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team. Villanova of the football-less Big East rose to prominence, and cut down the basketball nets in dramatic fashion. North Dakota’s hockey team rode the winning Zamboni and skated away with an improbable, icy victory. The UConn Lady Huskies slam dunked everyone in their path. And, Coastal Carolina went postal in the College World Series.
The lone champion from the Power Five was Alabama of the SEC. The Tide rolled to a dry and predictable victory on the gridiron. Although an asterisk could be placed next to Bama’s win, given the College Football Playoff is a rigged system, only rewarding a select few from the Power Five! Since the vast majority of college programs aren’t members of the plush P5 fraternity; it’s going to be difficult to see a true upset in the FBS championship. Which is a shame, because allowing the entire FBS to compete for a spot in the coveted 4-team playoff would: fire up new fan bases, muster more excitement, create diversity, and certainly increase national interest and television ratings.
Maybe one day, an outsider will crash the football playoff party and miraculously take home the brass; while the regal fat cats sit at home and count their huge roll of cash. But until that day, the underappreciated underdog dynasty will continue to thrive and win over more fans in other sports like: basketball, baseball, and hockey!
It's a tradition to watch college football on Saturdays in the Autumn. My goal is to eventually see every Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team play in person. I've seen 110 FBS teams play in 72 different stadiums across the country. Currently, there are 128 FBS teams.
Thanks for visiting the website.
See you at the Big Game!
It appears the Southland loves college football
|Top 25 TV Markets||Market most likely|
|(Average Saturday ratings)||watching these schools|
|Birmingham: 9.2 rating||Alabama, Auburn, SEC|
|New Orleans: 4.2 rating||LSU, SEC, Tulane|
|Knoxville: 4.1 rating||Tennessee, SEC|
|Greenville, SC: 4.1 rating||Clemson, South Carolina|
|Memphis: 3.8 rating||SEC, Memphis, Tennessee|
|Atlanta: 3.8 rating||Georgia, Georgia Tech, SEC|
|Jacksonville: 3.5 rating||Florida, FSU, SEC, ACC|
|Oklahoma City: 3.4 rating||Oklahoma, OSU, Big12|
|Tulsa: 3.1 rating||Oklahoma, OSU, Big 12|
|Nashville: 2.9 rating||Tennessee, Vanderbilt, SEC|
|Columbus: 2.9 rating||Ohio State, Big Ten|
|Louisville: 2.7 rating||Louisville, Kentucky|
|Richmond: 2.6 rating||Virginia Tech, Virginia|
|Salt Lake City: 2.6 rating||Utah, BYU, PAC-12, Mt. West|
|Charlotte: 2.5 rating||Various Carolina Teams, ACC|
|Austin: 2.5 rating||Texas, Texas Teams, Big 12|
|Portland: 2.4 rating||Oregon, Oregon State, PAC-12|
|Orlando: 2.4 rating||Various Florida Teams, Misc.|
|Las Vegas: 2.4 rating||PAC-12, UNLV, Nevada. Misc.|
|West Palm Beach: 2.4 rating||Miami, Florida, FSU, Misc.|
|Norfolk: 2.3 rating||ODU, VA Tech, UVA, Misc.|
|Dayton: 2.3 rating||Ohio State, Big Ten|
|Greensboro: 2.3 rating||Various Carolina Teams, ACC|
|Raleigh-Durham: 2.2 rating||Various Carolina Teams, ACC|
|Tampa-St. Petersburg: 2.1 rating||South Florida, Florida, FSU|
|Phoenix: 2.1 rating||Arizona State, Arizona, PAC-12|
|Referencing the 2015 Nielson Ratings|
|Surprisingly missing from this list:|
|Michigan Cities, Los Angeles, Chicago, Pennsylvania Cities, Madison, Dallas & Houston|
The Big East Conference is a basketball-oriented league comprised of ten similar-minded private colleges: Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova, and Xavier. Some of the schools are small (Providence and Butler have around 4,000 students) while others stand tall (St. John’s and DePaul have enrollments of over 20,000 students). Irrespective to their draw, they all know how to play ball, with the exception of maybe DePaul.
A ten-team conference is relatively little for today’s supersized standards. But the Conference wasn’t always petite, as a matter of fact, the Big East used to be morbidly obese. At its peak in 2011, the league was bursting at the seams with 16 teams. But in 2012, the affluent Atlantic Cost Conference (ACC) burned through the beleaguered Big East’s backyard and poached four premier programs. Syracuse, Notre Dame, Louisville, and Pittsburgh sold their sinful souls to the devil in return for a larger paycheck and submissively surrendered to ACC control.
After the ACC’s ransacking raid, the Big East was down… but not out. The seven remaining Big East basketball institutions decided to break free from a football-dominated landscape and trail-blazed a sleek and slender basketball persona. The seven schools (all Catholic) united and invited Creighton, Xavier and Butler to rejoice in a holy haven of hoops. The new ten-team Big East Conference was revamped and ready for primetime in 2013.
Prayers were answered when an upstart Fox Sports network filled the Big East’s collection plate with monetary offerings and provided daily vigil services to a national audience. The clergymen pulled off another miracle by retaining the sole right to play their championship tournament at the most prestigious alter in all of basketball - The World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden in New York City! Nationally broadcasting ever regular season game and annually hosting a championship in the Country’s media capital is extremely beneficial for national exposure and recruiting.
On April 4th, 2016, the cold war between the Big East and ACC heated up on the hardwood once again. In the most splendid spectacle of all-time, the National Championship game, the Villanova Wildcats of the Big East clashed with the North Carolina Tar Heels of the ACC. For true Northeast fans, nothing would be finer than watching Villanova beat Carolina. And when the righteous Wildcats drained an improbable three-point bucket at the buzzer to sink the unholy Heels, it was sweet justice with a twist of irony. For the born-again Big East dismissed the naysayers and got the last laugh. Villanova took home the National Championship trophy by taking down their foul foe from Tobacco Row.
The St. Louis Rams bolted for sunny Southern California, vacating the 66,000-seat capacity Edwards Jones Dome. River City is best known for steamboats sailing on the mighty Mississippi waterway, cardinals shagging flies on bright summer days, and Budweiser Clydesdales parading around the grand archway. Football also reigned supreme, when the Rams were known as the “greatest show on turf.” Rather than cry into a half-empty Bud Light bottle over the Ram’s departure, St. Louis stewards should rekindle some past gridiron glory.
Enter St. Louis University (SLU), a fine Catholic college with an enrollment of 13,505 students and an enormous endowment of 1.027 billion dollars. While SLU doesn’t currently field a football team, the Billikens did play football from 1899 to 1949. They even completed three undefeated seasons during their playing days in 1901, 1904, 1906. The bulky Billikens boasted big bragging rights by throwing the first legal pass in college football history on September 5, 1906, against Carroll College.
When several major Midwestern schools expanded their stadiums in the late 40’s and early 50’s, SLU was confined to a cramp campus footprint in the city. Their campus didn’t have enough space for a supersized stadium. In turn, the Billikens were unable to compete with their rivals’ ever growing football facilities. SLU opted to drop football as a result. But the Jesuit’s jammed locale is now a blessing. The University is located within two miles of the vacant Edwards Jones Dome. Considering the Dome isn’t a home to anyone anymore, not even a garden gnome, why let it sit alone? Turn on the lights and fill the stands with enthusiastic college fans. Bump up the Billikens!
The Lou is the largest US media market without a Division 1 football team. Start at the Division 1 - Football Championship Subdivision level. The Missouri Valley Conference would be a perfect fit. If SLU is successful on the field and draws in the community, then surely the Mid-American or Conference-USA would promote the brilliant Billikens to rejoice in the profitable Football Bowl Subdivision. The sky is the limit for St. Louie; given a large media market, existing professional practice facilities and stadium. After decades of success, maybe SLU could secure a lucrative spot with the Big 12 or Big Ten, and the Dome would fill to the brink.
The Rams’ migration back to their native San Gabriel Mountain Range was inevitable. It’s time to morph the greatest show on turf and attract a new team that will never ever leave. It’s time to make a call to the bullpen and bring in the Billiken!
2216 was a great year for college football. The North thrived from yet another climate change. The average daily temperature was a pleasant seventy five degrees Fahrenheit. Recruits flocked to the Northeast for the beautiful weather and revived dormant programs like St. Bonaventure, Buffalo and Providence. Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh begged and pleaded to rejoin the highly successful Big East Conference, but they were denied. As a result, those schools were downgraded to R2-D2, the equivalent of today’s Division 2. After 200 straight losing seasons, Penn State finally became competitive again once Joe Paterno was reappointed as the head coach. Prior to passing away, Joe was frozen in a carbonite block. Joe’s assistants wheeled his Popsicle shell around the sidelines, while he called the plays by using ESP.
Millions of people flocked away from the Sun Belt States, because of the region’s excessive rainfall amounts. Few recruits were willing to play in the daily downpours that plagued the South since 2171. Most of the schools in the Southeast and Texas downgraded their programs to C-3PO, the equivalent of today’s Division 3. The Big-53 (formally known as the Big-12), ACC, SEC and PAC-Man were forced to dissolve.
The only remaining southern powers were Alabama, Clemson, Florida Gulf Coast, and Old Dominion. Each school built a dome over their campus and competed in the Arena Football League. Their strategy worked. The Crimson Cockatoos, Orange Cats, Doves and Pudding Pops were able to lure blue chip recruits and continued to compete at a high level. Auburn tried to build a dome over their campus, unfortunately their roof crumbled down. Nobody was injured, but Auburn’s campus was totally demolished.
View from a Clemson dorm room, 2216
As a side note, a devastating tsunami hit the great Yellowhammer State in 2059, tidal flooding stretched all the way up to Muscle Shoals. The horrific storm prompted the Alabama Crimson Tide to change their team name. This spurred the “make mascots more peaceful” movement of the 2060s, which compelled other schools to rename their team after nonviolent figures.
On the West Coast, the state of California finally broke off from the continental US and floated into the South Pacific Ocean. Teams like UCLA, Southern Cal, Stanford, Cal, San Diego State and Fresno State had a hard time recruiting because of their remote location. Therefore, many of the Californian teams weren’t very competitive. But, Hawaii and San Jose State became bitter rivals, given their campuses were only 10 nautical miles apart.
In North Dakota, college football boomed, much like their local economy. During the Great Palladium Rush of 2149, fossil fuel was discovered in Fargo. North Dakota became the world’s largest oil supplier, and the price of gas dropped to only $178.95 per gallon. Fargo quickly expanded into the country’s largest city, and North Dakota State University built an enormous stadium capable of holding three hundred thousand fans. Business was so good that Notre Dame, Michigan, Nebraska, Tulsa, Arizona State and Oklahoma relocated their campuses to Fargo. And, Notre Dame changed their name from the Fighting Irish to the Jolly Green Drunks.
Fargo's Skyline, 2216
Ivy League schools reemerged to national dominance, ever since they dropped their academic standards. In 2129, several professors from every Ivy League school tried to clone female gorillas. The experiment backfired and produced millions of annoying “Snookies” (an extinct orange creature that once inhabited the Jersey Shore). The horrible mishap disaccredited all the Ivy League schools. Their institutions regressed to Community College status. Harvard took advantage of the situation and recruited corrupt players; their team was similar to the 1980’s Miami Hurricanes.
Several universities in the Midwest, Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest continued to thrive and new rivalries emerged. Boise Province vs. Idaho International was an intense rivalry game. Idaho seceded from America in 2188, but their institutions still competed in the NERD, the equivalent of today’s NCAA. The grandest Midwestern rivalry game was Wisconsin vs. Marquette; followed by Ohio State vs. Eastern Michigan. Seattle Maritime (formally known as the University of Washington) vs. Montana Bear Research College was a fine rivalry, as was the annual game between Colorado Woodwork College and Oregon Beaver Inspection Institute. Since there was world peace, the military schools disbanded and the Army vs. Navy game was no longer existent.
Amid all the changes, college football still did not adopt a successful playoff system. And, several bowls were struggling to attract fans. The Crater Bowl on Mars didn’t draw a good crowd, mainly because human-alien relations were strained after the Giant Alien Emperor of Pluto used the Statue of Liberty as a suppository. The All-American Bowl in Toronto (America seized Canada in 2176) wasn’t successful either, even though Alaska Tech and Newfoundland State played a topnotch game. The Toilet Bowl was discontinued, because Notre Dame fans didn’t travel well anymore.
Fans from Temple (front row) & Mars (back row) at the inaugural Crater Bowl, 2216
The Atlantis Fish Bowl was played in the newly discovered underwater city of New Orleans, and attracted a sellout crowd of dolphins. As a side effect of North Korea’s secret offshore nuclear bomb testing in 2025, dolphins evolved into a highly intelligent species that could walk and talk. Students within a school of dolphins had higher SAT scores than the average public school student.
The Championship game was played during the Chinese New Year in February, since China owned every stadium in the free galaxy. The game remained a strong part of American culture. As a matter of fact, the Villanova Tame Kittens’ stunning upset victory against the Rice (Beijing campus) Peaceful Pandas received the second highest 4-D television rating of the millennium, just behind the 2148 World Series of Water Polo.
2216 Final Rankings
1) Villanova 15-0
2) Rice (Beijing) 14-1
3) North Dakota State 12-2
4) Harvard Community College 12-2
5) Nova Scotia School of Dolphins 11-3
6) Saskatchewan State 11-3
7) West Chester (Pennsylvania) 12-2
8) La Salle 12-2
9) Delaware Tech 10-4
10) Oklahoma 11-3
11) Clemson 11-3
12) Alabama 10-4
The Sun Belt Conference opted not to extend their football contract with the Idaho Vandals and New Mexico State Aggies. In 2014, after their diminutive domicile in the Western Athletic Conference dissolved, the agile Aggies and volatile Vandals signed a 4-year agreement to compete as football members in the Sun Belt.
The NCAA recently changed a rule, allowing Conferences with 10 teams to hold a championship game. Given the rule change, mixed with Idaho and New Mexico State’s distant Western locale from the rest of the Sun Belt members, the Conference decided to end their lease with the Aggies and Vandals. Idaho and State received two years notice to gather their belongings and find a new home. In 2018, the Sun Belt will consist of 10 football schools located within the Southeast.
While the Sun Belt’s future looks bright, it appears the sun may be setting on the Aggies and Vandals. They could compete as Independents, or maybe they will opt to relegate down to the Football Championship Subdivision. Currently, Idaho houses their Olympic sports in the Big Sky Conference and New Mexico State’s Olympic sports compete in the WAC. The Massachusetts Minutemen football team is in a similar situation; the Minutemen were just booted out of the Mid-American Conference.
UPDATE - April 28, 2016 - Idaho football will be a member of the Big Sky Conference (FCS) in 2018
The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers were swinging from the chandeliers in celebration upon hearing their football program will be promoted to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The Rowdy Roosters transition into the Sun Belt Conference starting this coming season, and will be eligible to compete for a Conference Championship in the following year. In 2018, the Chanticleers will be fully eligible to compete for a bowl bid and will become the 129th FBS member. Coastal Carolina University is located in Conway, South Carolina and their stadium currently has a seating capacity of 9,214. While nobody knows why the chicken crossed the road, fans know why the chanticleer crossed into the FBS – better exposure, stronger competition, and greater revenue.
Thousands of enthusiastic spectators annually pack the Georgia Dome to witness the proud pageantry of the South Eastern Conference (SEC) championship game. Historic powerhouses collide in a stunning spectacle to determine the finest college football team in the Southeast. With all the comradery associated with this great gridiron tradition, it's almost impossible to fathom the conference championship game originated from a humble beginning.
The Georgia Dome always sells out for the SEC championship
In 1986, the Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference (PSAC) was comprised of 14 Division II institutions. The PSAC was a quintessential geographic association; similar-minded schools located within the friendly confines of the Keystone State. But even though the members were nicely nestled close together, the Western Pennsylvania teams rarely played the Eastern Pennsylvania teams. It was mathematically impossible for all 14 teams to play each other in a 10-week season. Given the schedule limitations, Pennsylvania sportswriters determined the conference champion at the end of the season. But having sportswriters nominate a champion was as subjective as Punxsutawney Phil’s weather prediction on Groundhog Day. A true champion earns its merits on the field.
One morning, the sleepy suburban borough of West Chester awoke to a brilliant idea. The PSAC Commissioner (Todd Eberle) and the Athletic Director of West Chester University (Dick Yoder) proposed the idea of staging a conference championship game. The PSAC would divide into 2 divisions, east and west. And the season would culminate with the divisional winners competing against each other in a conference championship game.
Initially, the PSAC's proposal specified a league must have a minimum of 14 members in order to stage the contest. However the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) found the PSAC's idea quite intriguing. But, the CIAA only had only 12 members. To accommodate the CIAA, the original plan was tweaked to include conferences with 12 members as well. The PSAC sent their proposal to the National Colligate Athletic Association (NCAA) for approval.
Because a Division II conference made the pitch, the request fell under the radar with little fanfare. Back then, the proposal didn't affect any of the major college football teams, none of the Division I-A conferences had more than 10 members. Therefore, the proposal passed without a hitch. The conference championship concept was approved by the NCAA in 1987. The PSAC commissioner dubbed the new bylaw as, "the little rule in the back of the rulebook." But the new rule was about to have an enormous impact on bigtime college football.
In 1990, the 10 members of the SEC invited Arkansas and South Carolina to join their fruitful fraternity. Then, the new 12-team SEC used the "little rule" to their advantage and staged a lucrative season finale. The SEC championship game gained momentum over the years. Massive amounts of profit rolled in from the event. As a result, other conferences decided to jump on the prosperous bandwagon. Currently, every major conference has a championship game, with the exception of the Big 12.
The grass is greener in Atlanta. The SEC championship game garners $16 million per year. It’s the Super Bowl of the South! Ironically, the humble origin of the conference championship concept sits hidden in the hills of Pennsylvania. The PSAC championship game fetches a mere $3,000 per year. That’s not even enough money to rent a luxury box suite at the Georgia Dome.
Slippery Rock beat West Chester in the 2015 PSAC championship game
Some spectators were sad to see the secession of several successful rivalries. Closely-knit geographical rivals were separated as a result of a money-making conference realignment scheme. Realignment occurs when collegiate athletic programs seek higher profitability by switching their conference affiliation.
Conference realignment has been around since the dawn of college sports. Some programs and conferences flourish amidst the continual changes, while other programs and conferences are put out to pasture. The Southern Conference lost its luster when it gave birth to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in 1932 and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 1953. The University of Chicago was a founding member of the Big Ten Conference in 1896. The Sewanee Tigers were co-founders of the dominate SEC. Now, Chicago and Sewanee compete at a lower Division III level. There was a Rocky Mountain Faculty Athletic Conference from 1910 to 1967, which would be an awkward association by today’s standards with the likes of: Colorado, Brigham Young, Utah, Denver, Western State, and the Colorado School of Mines.
The original members of the ACC
While change is inevitable in sports, the most recent round of realignment greatly hampered the heart and soul of many proud traditions. Numerous longstanding annual match-ups came to an inequitable end: Texas vs. Texas A&M, Oklahoma vs. Nebraska, Colorado vs. Nebraska, West Virginia vs. Pitt, Michigan vs. Notre Dame, Boise State vs. Idaho, just to name a few. Exciting basketball rivalries were deflated as well: Missouri vs. Kansas, Georgetown vs. Syracuse, Louisville vs. Cincinnati, Dayton vs. Xavier, Creighton vs. Wichita State, and Duke vs. Maryland.
Thankfully, the SEC and ACC are trying to make amends for their infamous role in the recent realignment fiasco. The final weekend of the 2015 football regular season will appease old school fans by pairing regional rivals, some new (LSU vs. A&M), some old (the Iron Bowl), and some bold (Kentucky vs. the ‘Ville). Fine southern-fried, conference showdowns are plentiful: Alabama vs. Auburn, Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State, Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee, N.C. State vs. North Carolina, and Wake Forest vs. Duke. Not to mention, there’s a spicy slate of non-conference match-ups between the SEC and ACC: Florida vs. Florida State, South Carolina vs. Clemson, and Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Kentucky and Louisville. Plus, there’s a sprinkling of some tasty, new scraps between nearby neighboring States: LSU vs. Texas A&M, and Arkansas vs. Missouri. And, there’s even a retro reunion between old Big East foes: Syracuse vs. Boston College, and Miami vs. Pitt.
LSU and Texas A&M may eventually match the glitz and glamour of the defunct Texas vs. Texas A&M game. The proximity between the fan bases of Louisiana and Eastern Texas mixed in with some bad blood between neighboring oil well drillers could fuel some memorable quarrels on the field. Missouri and Arkansas could boom into a fantastic rivalry, given the two States boarder each other.
Rivalries make college football great. The SEC and ACC got it right by culminating their regular season with rivalry games. Other conferences should follow suit. The Big Ten did a pretty good job of orchestrating a festive finale in the final week, pairing several in-State and neighboring State matchups between traditional rivals. Notably, Nebraska and Iowa could bud into a respectable neighboring State face-off. And, Michigan vs. Ohio State always sparks national interest.
On the flipside, the PAC-12 staggered their rivalry games by having California play Stanford, and Arizona play Arizona State on November 21st. While UCLA vs. USC, Oregon vs. Oregon State, and Washington vs. Washington State culminate the season on the following weekend. Utah and Colorado could eventually become a regional showdown, although the two campuses are located 525 miles apart. That’s a nine-hour car drive, or a thirty-hour hot air balloon ride.
The Big 12 is the only major conference without a championship game. But, the cattle herders of the windy Plains did schedule a meaty lineup of regional rivalries on Thanksgiving weekend. Although, many fans are still wondering if the Baylor vs. TCU game will produce "one true champion."
While several traditional rivalries were sacked by the ugly realignment monster, there is a healthy wave of fresh rivalries brewing. In the ever changing climate of college sports, stability will be a welcome sight to usher in this grand new era of competition.
Members of the new super sized SEC
|Army vs. Navy|
|Alabama vs. Auburn|
|Michigan vs. Ohio State|
|Oklahoma vs. Texas|
|Florida vs. Florida State|
|Notre Dame vs. Southern Cal|
|Clemson vs. South Carolina|
|Harvard vs. Yale|
|California vs. Stanford|
|Lafayette vs. Lehigh (oldest college rivalry)|
|Minnesota vs. Wisconsin (oldest FBS rivalry)|
|Southern Cal vs. UCLA|
|Florida vs. Georgia|
|Florida State vs. Miami|
|Alabama vs. Tennessee|
|Florida vs. Tennessee|
|Oregon vs. Oregon State|
|Baylor vs. TCU|
|Arizona vs. Arizona State|
|Washington vs. Washington State|
|Virginia vs. Virginia Tech|
|Indiana vs. Purdue|
|Michigan vs. Michigan State|
|Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State|
|BYU vs. Utah|
|Georgia vs. Georgia Tech|
|Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State|
|Louisville vs. Kentucky|
|Auburn vs. Georgia|
|Illinois vs. Northwestern|
|Duke vs. North Carolina|
|Kansas vs. Kansas State|
|Iowa vs. Iowa State|
|Colorado vs. Colorado State|
|North Carolina vs. NC State|
|Cincinnati vs. Miami (OH)|
|Central Florida vs. South Florida|
|New Mexico vs. New Mexico State|
|Bowling Green vs. Toledo|
|Akron vs. Kent State|
|Montana vs. Montana State|
|Grambling vs. Southern|
|Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Louisiana-Monroe|
|Florida Atlantic vs. Florida International|
|Randolph-Macon vs. Hampden-Sydney|
|Amherst vs. Williams|
|DePauw vs. Wabash|
The Big East Conference evolved in 1979. The league initially consisted of: Georgetown, Connecticut, Providence, Syracuse, Boston College, St. John’s, and Seton Hall. Villanova joined in 1980, and Pittsburgh followed in 1982. Shortly thereafter in 1985, the Big East stood at the epicenter of hardwood holiness by sending three teams to the NCAA final four, and two teams to the title game. Villanova victoriously cut down the nets as their teary-eyed conference rival, Georgetown, looked on in disbelief. A benchmark was set for basketball brilliants, which has yet to be matched by any other college conference. But March madness memories often are forgotten when the crisp autumn air arrives and the pigskin is kicked off. The Big East didn’t sponsor football back then. Essentially, the conference was a one-trick pony.
The Big East in 1985- Villanova, St. John's and Georgetown advanced to the NCAA Final Four
In 1991, the Big East diversified and sponsored football. However, there was a catch. Only three of the current basketball members (Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Boston College) laced up their cleats to compete on the gridiron, while the other private Catholic schools took a fall sabbatical. The football league consisted of: Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Rutgers, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Temple and Miami. In 1995, Notre Dame joined the basketball conference. Notably missing from the Northeast lineup was Penn State. The inquisitive Lion wearing a warm knit scarf was given the cold shoulder by the league’s basketball powers.
As the 90s chugged along, the Big East acquired an unfair reputation of being a weak football conference. Coupled with the unusual configuration of non-football teams branded into the same name, instability must have been on the back page of the scorecard.
In July of 2003, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) attacked the Big East’s fragile football frontline. Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College were seized from Union control. Several said this raid would break the Big East. But in hindsight, Tobacco Row’s initial blow wasn’t too bad. Eventually, the chowder heads in Boston were creamed, Miami earned a criminal record instead of a winning record, and Tech’s “Beamer Ball” slightly deflated.
As a result of the ransacking, the Big East rebounded bigger and better than ever. Connecticut upgraded its football program. The timid Temple Owls were ousted. Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida were added for all sports. Plus, DePaul and Marquette became basketball staples. It was the perfect combination of eight fulltime football members, and eight additional basketball powers. A sweet sixteen teams scuffed the hardwood.
The future appeared bright. Football remained competitive, and basketball ruled the world once again. Connecticut won three championships and Syracuse notched another one. Surely the blue suits in Carolina were envious and patiently waiting to poach some more prized programs.
In September of 2011, after the Big East was unable to secure a suitable television deal, the ACC struck again. And this time, it was a devastating hit. Pittsburgh and Syracuse packed their bags for greener pastures in the sunny South. The league’s future became unstable. Soon after, a mass exodus occurred. West Virginia went to the Big Twelve. Rutgers jumped to the Big Ten. Notre Dame and Louisville flocked to the ACC. To maintain a respectable football persona, upstart programs like Texas Christian, Boise State and San Diego State were invited to join the conference, but all opted not to enlist. Therefore, less established programs were chosen to plug the holes on a sinking ship.
In December of 2012, the final domino fell when seven basketball members (Villanova, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Providence, Seton Hall and St. John’s) decided to split apart from the Big East’s faltering football fiasco. With that, the beleaguered Big East’s brittle backbone brutally broke into two bits. The basketball-crazed Catholic colleges, known as the Catholic-7, retained the Big East name and the right to play their conference tournament at Madison Square Garden, while Big East football morphed into mid-major melting pot and was renamed the American Athletic Conference.
The Catholic-7 invited Creighton, Xavier and the born-again Butler Bulldogs to rejoice in a holy haven of hoops, making a perfect ten-team partnership. The new Big East Conference rose up from the ashes of realignment and reinvented itself as a strong basketball alliance.
The moral of the story - It’s okay to be a one-trick pony, especially if the pony performs the same trick as it did in 1985.
The new Big East Tournament lives on in Gotham (aka NYC)
There's nothing better than watching
college football on a crisp autumn afternoon
Yale once dominated college football
Putting the foot back into football
Goal Line Stand
January 1st, 1979 Sugar Bowl
Alabama 14, Penn State 7
Some teams traveled by train in the old days
On November 7th, 1896, Auburn students greased the train tracks around their local
station. When Georgia Tech's train arrived for the game, it was unable to stop on the slick tracks and skidded five miles past the train station. The Yellow Jackets had to walk back to town for the game and fell to Auburn by a score of 45-0
One of the Best Teams Ever
In 1899, the Sewanee Tigers football team won all 12 of their games. Five of those wins, all shutouts, came in a six-day period while on a 2,500-mile train trip against: Texas, Tulane, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss.
November 20th, 1982, California ran back a kick in the final seconds of the game for the win, as Stanford's band prematurely took the field in celebration.
College football reigns supreme in Texas...
and that's no bull!
Ralphie the Buffalo of Colorado
Welcome to Aggie Land
Home of the 12th Man
USC cheerleaders are the pride of LA
Irish Eyes are smiling in South Bend
Clemson and Florida State are
the cream of the ACC crop
Sailing on Lake Washington
before an exciting Huskies game
Script Ohio dotting the 'i'
The Iowa State Cyclone is always smiling
On the road to another great game
|Washington & Jefferson||715||387||40||0.64|
|North Dakota State||684||368||34||0.65|
The dust has settled on the conference realignment carousel for the time being. As a result, the WAC got bushwhacked, Big East football morphed into mid-major melting pot and was renamed the American Athletic Conference, numerous longtime rivalries vanished, and stadium attendance plunged faster than Facebook stock. On the flipside, sport networks like ESPN and the Big Ten channel greatly benefited from the conference shuffle. In turn, those sport networks rewarded several lucky schools with new television contracts worth millions of dollars.
But all is not lost for the lame ducks stuck amuck in a mid-major glut. The Mountain West and American Athletic should take advantage of their mediocre status by having their conference champions meet in a postseason bowl.
Having the Mountain West and American Athletic champions play each other would settle bragging rights as to which conference is the best of the rest, masters of the middle class. Plus, there must be bad blood between the urban city slickers and the rustic mountain folks, given both leagues were in a fierce tug-of-war battle over the beefy blue Broncos of Boise. The best way to settle that animosity is on the gridiron.
There are several prime locations to play the game. The Liberty Bowl once hosted a similar matchup between the Mountain West and Conference USA champions. The historic Cotton Bowl Stadium (not to be confused with Jerry World’s billion dollar palace) is located smack dab in the middle of enemy territory. Or, the game could be rotated between the East Coast (Tampa, Jacksonville or Orlando) and the Western Frontier (Albuquerque, Las Vegas or San Diego).
Winners of Conference USA and the MAC or Sun Belt could form a similar bowl alliance. Currently, the highest rated team from the Group of Five (American, C-USA, Mountain West and Sun Belt) will earn a berth in a major bowl under the new post season model. For example, if Boise State finished the season as the highest ranked non-automatic qualifier team, the Broncos would be bound for a major bowl (Fiesta, Cotton, etc). Therefore, this proposed bowl could feature the second ranked Mountain West team against the best American team. Or the conference champion from C-USA, MAC or Sun Belt could be substituted in for the Mountain West if deemed a better match-up.
There may be some down years for the smaller leagues, which may translate into a poor matchup here or there. But surely, there will be several great years when this mid-major masterpiece trumps many major bowls.
New York is well known for greasy gyros in buns, witty Jerry Seinfeld reruns, inappropriate Anthony Weiner tweets, and tasty Nathan’s hotdog meats. The smoggy City that suffers from insomnia (aka the City that Never Sleeps) also stakes claim to the Statue of Liberty and Giants football, even though Lady Liberty and her giant entourage reside in North Jersey. But one thing native New Yorkers rarely boast about is college football. NYC doesn’t have a FBS team, and for good reason, the majority of sports fans in the Big Apple prefer watching professional games. So, why are the ACC and Big Ten feebly force feeding gridiron greed on Gotham?
The prestigious fraternity of plush ACC mascots feverishly welcomed Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to the conference by opening the NASDAQ stock exchange on July 1, 2013.
Who put the mascots in charge of my 401k?
In a corny publicity stunt, those same mascots ran wild around the five boroughs. The ACC wants to cash in on America’s media capital, and hopes the citrusy Orange of Upstate New York will deliver a loyal contingent among the Empire State’s Lower East Side. The average Joes of Tobacco Row aren’t the only ones trying to get a piece of the Big Apple pie. The Big Ten wants to amass an elite empire following as well. So much so, the Big Ten decided to share their rich cheddar with Rutgers in anticipation of the Scarlet Knights producing a buzz on the flipside of the Hudson.
The Hudson skyline looks a lot different than the Clemson Tiger's native Lake Hartwell
What ACC and Big Ten management fail to realize is college football has been dormant in Hymie Town ever since Army football sunk into oblivion in the 1950’s. Yankee Stadium hosts the Pinstripe Bowl, which will coincidently invite teams from the ACC and Big Ten, but this second-tier exhibition will be played in a reduced capacity baseball stadium on a cold winter day. Baseball, cold weather and reduced capacity isn’t a good combination to win over a fickle football fan-base.
Even on an autumn afternoon, when a game is played in a state of the art football facility with a top ranked team present, New Yorkers barely showed support. The second ranked Sothern Cal Trojans played Syracuse at the new Meadowlands Stadium in a game dubbed as “New York’s College Classic” on September 7th, 2012. Not a single spectator was found in the stadium’s massive upper deck. The scoreboard proudly displayed Syracuse’s self proclaimed title of being, “New York’s college team” as USC made orange juice out of the scurvy-ridden ‘Cuse.
So, where were the metropolitan fans? Either they were swimming with the fishes off the banks of Staten Island or that game demonstrates New York’s invisible love affair with collegiate football. And if Syracuse isn’t NYC’s adopted stepson, the State University of New Jersey surely isn’t either. Despite a recent splash of success, Rutgers athletics has long been a laughing stock. Big Ten management are meatheads for thinking the shady Sicilian Scarlet Knights will dish up an extra large audience in Zoo York. Forget about it! Jersey is the birthplace of college football and Frank Sinatra, so maybe the Big Ten decided to “send in the clowns” when they invited the Scarface Scarlets.
The Northeast has an extremely large population, but density alone doesn’t translate into strong viewership, which is why the old Big East teams couldn’t muster up nearly as much media money as some schools located in the sparsely populated Southeast. This brings up another point; shouldn’t the ACC and Big Ten reward their loyal fans within their preexisting regional footprints rather than cater towards a distant frontier? The mighty SEC doesn’t prance around the crowded streets of Manhattan to attract new groupies. The SEC gained a massive national audience by winning numerous National Championships.
Speaking of expanding regional footprints, does the Big Ten brass really think fans from the wholesome cornfields of Nebraska will embrace a trip to polluted Piscataway? Does the ACC care about the warm weather fans from sunny South Beach who have to purchase puffy parkas for a vacation to blustery Pittsburgh? Big Ten and ACC are banking on an optimistic prognostication that the Northeast will acquire a stronger taste for college football. But, it’s difficult to predict future sporting trends. Past add-wizards forecasted a huge spike in fútbo viewership, yet very few Americans currently watch Monday Night Soccer.
Breakfast at Tiffany's, don't mess with the ACC or you'll find a horse's head in your bed… just ask the American Athletic Conference
The ACC didn’t learn from their experimental acquisition of Boston College in 2005. Rather than tapping a robust northern market, the ACC found out the hard way that college ball doesn’t mix well with clam chowder and creamed filled donuts in Bean Town. It sits fifth fiddle behind the Sox, Pats, Celtics and Bruins. Similar to their Massachusetts neighbors, New Yorkers will not wholeheartedly warm up to amateur pigskin games.
On the bright side, New York City has a healthy addiction to college hoops, and ACC basketball will be bigger and better than ever. Maybe the ACC commissioner wants to march his brilliant dog and pony show into the World's most famous arena. There's only one problem, the new Big East conference retains the sole right to play their conference tournament at Madison Square Garden. The Big East has squatter rights to the Big Apple's main stage. Therefore fans of Carolina, Duke and Syracuse will be staring down blinking neon no-vacancy signs all across Time Square for the foreseeable future.
Don't eat that fish!
An affluent ACC and a wealthy Big Ten have begun their quest to tame the prosperous media beast of the East. Will those greedy gangs make a big bang, or will they water down their brand in the process? Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure - They must produce a readily available, highly competitive and extremely exciting sports product to attract New York’s attention, or else the City that Never Sleeps will opt to snooze through yet another shoddy off-Broadway amateur act in a New York minute.
"We are Marshall," proudly echoes around the hills and valleys of southern West Virginia. But, the more profound sound of "we aren't ranked," darkens the damp and dismal coalmine countryside.
The first College Football Playoff rankings were released on October 28th, 2014 and it's crystal clear that the committee running the poll isn't inviting any little guys to the big dance. When the rankings were revealed, the Marshall Thundering Herd had a perfect record, eight wins and zero losses. Yet Marshall's respectable resume didn't earn a spot in the Top 25, in turn making the Herd look like a big turd.
The Thundering Herd looks on with disbelief after the release of the 1st playoff poll
Marshall plays in Conference USA (C-USA). And apparently, the playoff committee feels C-USA isn't very competitive, and believes Marshall has a weak strength of schedule. This season, the Thundering Herd has yet to play a ranked team. But, Marshall's soft schedule shouldn't alienate them from being ranked. Their perfect record should be rewarded, not down played. Hypothetically, if this year's Florida State Seminole squad was placed in C-USA, would the Seminoles automatically be eliminated from the playoff picture? No! Just because a team plays in a mediocre conference, it doesn't mean the team is inferior.
At the end of the season, the Top 4 teams in the playoff poll will compete for the National Championship. Marshall doesn't deserve an elite Top 4 ranking at this point, given their questionable strength of schedule. Nevertheless, the Herd does deserve a moderate Top 25 ranking, given their unblemished record.
On October 28th, Marshal was ranked 23rd in the Associated Press poll. Beginning ranked 23rd and 25 cents would garner a cup of cold coffee under the new playoff system. Any ranking outside of the Top 4 is essentially for bragging rights; however a high ranking could secure a lucrative invitation to top-tier New Year’s bowl.
Given the current mindset of the playoff committee, one may wonder if Marshall and C-USA should even compete at a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level. Realistically, Marshall could finish the season undefeated and still get snubbed from competing in the playoff and a major bowl. If C-USA bumped down to the Football Bowl Championship (FCS) division, Marshall along with several other C-USA teams could annually compete for FCS National Championships. The FCS would benefit as well, gaining several new programs with strong fan bases and upgraded sports facilities. However, the monetary benefits in the FCS are far less than the FBS.
Maybe the landscape of the College Football Playoff will evolve to acknowledge all worthy FBS teams. But until then, teams like Marshall are quietly forgotten and stranded at an abandoned bus stop waiting for a surreal lift to the Promised Land.
If Paul Revere were alive today, he'd be riding his horse around the narrow cobblestone streets of Massachusetts and shouting out, "UMass is leaving the MAC, UMass is leaving the MAC!" Starting in 2016, the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Minutemen will no longer be a football member of the Mid-American Conference (MAC).
The MAC has long been viewed as a mid-major Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conference with Midwestern roots. In 1998, the MAC expanded eastward by acquiring the beefy, blue Buffalo Bulls. In 2007, the timid Temple Owls of Philadelphia joined as a football associate member. And in 2012, the UMass Minutemen completed the MAC's Atlantic expansion. However when Temple abruptly departed the MAC, the conference invoked a clause in its contract with UMass, giving the Minutemen a choice of becoming a full member or exiting the conference by 2015. After a few dismal seasons and lack of attendance at their home games (fewer than 11,000 fans on average per game), it took only seconds for the Minutemen to retreat from the MAC.
UMass averages fewer than 11,000 fans per home game
The snooty Amherst scholars, hopped up on Samuel Adams Lager, concocted a “get rich quick” schema by promoting their preppy pigskin program. But what the greedy suits failed to realize is the liberal lobster loggers of frosty New England rarely warm up to college football. The UMass experiment of fostering a FBS program went stale faster than five-day-old clam chowder. A possible reason for the flop could be UMass is located in Amherst, and the Minutemen played their home games at the New England Patriots Stadium near Boston. The distance between their campus and their home field was nearly 100 miles. That's a 2-hour drive or a 5-day journey for Paul Revere on horseback (a horse can only travel about 20 miles per day). Clearly, UMass tried to appeal to the robust Boston media market. However, judging from the sparse home attendance, the baked bean brokers of Boston wanted absolutely nothing to do with the colonial musket-men of Western Mass.
So, what's next for the revolutionary pioneers? The blaring beeping sound of a moving truck reversing will resonate if UMass reverts back to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Wearing a grin on their face and heckling, "we knew you’d be back," the regional rivals of New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island would gladly welcome their fellow Sons of Liberty back into the Colonial Athletic Association. UMass once dominated the FCS, winning the National Title in 1998. If UMass were to become a FCS team again, the Minutemen may lobby for a spot in the new Big East basketball conference. UMass currently shoots hoops in the Atlantic Ten Conference. A jump to the Big East would equate to greater monetary earnings for the Minutemen. Although there may be one small stumbling block, all of the Big East basketball schools are private institutions. UMass is a public institution.
If Massachusetts continues to pursue FBS football, they may relegate to Independent status. But being a mid-major Independent could translate into a lonely life on the road, given the difficulties of filling a home slate of games without a cushiony conference connection. So, the Minutemen would be wise to enlist in a conference like: the American Athletic, Sun Belt or Conference USA. However, given Massachusetts’s terrible track record with the MAC, conferences may be hesitant to invest in a volatile UMass program.
The University of Massachusetts took a calculated risk in attempting to invade and conquer the FBS. But even with its large student body, massive media market, and huge alumni base, the minuscule Minutemen are currently under-armed and outmanned on the frontline of a gridiron battlefield. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the mellowing Minutemen. Will they lay down their arms and surrender, or will they courageously fight to defend their FBS status?
Sam the Minuteman is in quite a jam