Geographical Conferences

Television revenue is the root behind the current shift in conference realignment.  It's too bad geographical boundaries don't play a part in conference expansion anymore, because several great rivalries would develop.  Here's a scenario that would reduce team travel costs and allow fans to access more away games:

Yankee Conference Carolina Conference Southern League
Colonial Piedmont  East
Massachusetts North Carolina Auburn
Boston College N.C. State Alabama
Connecticut Duke Georgia Tech
Syracuse Wake Forest Georgia  
Buffalo South Carolina Florida
Army Clemson Florida State
Rutgers Pines  Miami 
Patriot East Carolina West 
Maryland Charlotte Kentucky
Navy Appalachian State Louisville
West Virginia Old Dominion Tennessee
Pittsburgh Virginia Tech Vanderbilt
Penn State Virginia Miss. State
Temple  Charlotte Ole Miss
Villanova   LSU
Philadelphia   Atlanta
     
Big South Conference Big 14 Conference Southwest Conference
Highlands  Heartland Lone Star
Central Florida Texas A&M Texas-San Antonio
South Florida Texas   Texas State
Florida International Texas Christian  Rice 
Florida Atlantic Texas Tech SMU
Alabama-Birmingham Baylor North Texas
Troy Houston Texas-Arlington
South Alabama Arkansas  Cactus
Southern Miss Prairie  Texas-El Paso
Mississippi Delta Oklahoma State New Mexico State
Western Kentucky Oklahoma New Mexico
Middle Tennessee  Tulsa Northern Arizona
Memphis Kansas Arizona State
Arkansas State Kansas State Arizona
Louisiana-Lafayette Missouri San Antonio 
Louisiana-Monroe Nebraska  
Louisiana Tech Dallas  
Tulane    
New Orleans    
     
Midwest Conference Ohio Valley Conference  
Lakes East  
Ohio State Akron  
Michigan Bowling Green  
Michigan State Ohio  
Indiana Miami (Ohio)  
Notre Dame Toledo  
Purdue Kent State   
Plains Marshall  
Minnesota West   
Wisconsin Cincinnati   
Northwestern Ball State  
Illinois Western Michigan  
Iowa State Eastern Michigan  
Iowa  Central Michigan  
Indianapolis  Northern Illinois  
  Southern Illinois  
  Detroit  
     
Frontier Conference West Coast Conference  
Mountain Redwood  
Air Force Southern California  
Colorado  UCLA  
Colorado State Stanford  
Wyoming California  
Montana  San Jose State  
Idaho Fresno State  
Valley  Maritime  
Boise State Washington  
Utah Washington State  
Brigham Young  Oregon  
Utah State  Oregon State  
Nevada San Diego State  
Nevada-Las Vegas Hawaii   
Las Vegas Los Angeles  
     
Conference Name
Division Name
Championship Site
A National Playoff would consist of the best 8 teams regardless of conference affiliation.   

The conference names listed above promote the interests of colleges and institutions to participate together in various sports, but do not limit the amount, configuration, brand, location, and type of colleges, institutions and sports associated with the listed conference names. 

The word Big in the listed conference names can be changed to: Grand, Great, Elite, and Super.  As can the words: Big, Great, Grand, Elite and Super; be a pretext to any of the conference names.  As can numbers reflecting the amount of institutions in the conference be added after any of the conference names.  

All Hail the Underdog (written 7/1/16)

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!   

UPDATE - 1/10/17: #2 Clemson beat #1 Alabama in the Championship Game, which felt like a major upset, but in reality, it really wasn't! It was just one powerhouse beating another powerhouse!    

 

Blazers Flame Out

Birmingham is dubbed, "the football capital of the South."  However, the proud capital is under siege by the Alabama Board of Trustees.  On December 2, 2014, the Board voted to drop football at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).  The UAB Blazers began playing football in 1991.  But the green, medieval dragon often blew smoke instead of fire on the gridiron.  And as a result, the villagers hardly supported their hometown team. 

While other college stadiums across the Southland were filled to capacity and buzzing with enthusiasm, the belly of the beastly Blazer sat hollow.  UAB played their home games at Legion Field.  The old grey lady is capable of holding 71,594 fans.  The Alabama Crimson Tide filled those bleachers to the brink when they played their home games there from 1927 to 2003.  In contrast, UAB drew a mere 10,000 fans per game in 2013.  In 2014, UAB saw some improvement in attendance, but it still wasn't enough to save their ailing program.

 

Legion Field is sparsely filled for a UAB football game

Just like it's difficult to startup a small grocery shop when there’s an established Walmart Supercenter located right across the street.  The Blazers never could attract a strong fan base, because they were stuck in the shadow of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers.  Plus, it doesn't help that the Blazers all-time record was 117 wins, 150 loses, and 2 ties.

This is the first time a Football Bowl Subdivision program was shut down since the Pacific Tigers dropped their program in 1995.  In both cases, the schools cited financial losses as the rationale for scrapping their teams.  Given the new era of college football where the rich teams are getting richer and the poor teams are getting poorer, one has to wonder if UAB's decision will jump start a new age of teams folding.  Non-profitable teams may be forced to close their doors and go out of business. 

It's extremely disheartening for players and coaches to see their fate flushed down the toilet by smug university executives.  But the team has to understand that college football is no longer just a sport; rather it’s also a big business.  Thereby concluding the Blazers' barbaric fairytale, the drab dragon's medieval and feeble flame has been extinguished by a modern-day tycoon.

 

UPDATE - As of June 1st, 2015, UAB decided to reinstate its football program

Cloudy Forecast for Idaho and New Mexico State

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  

New Wave of Rivalries (written Fall, 2015)

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, 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

 

The Reborn Big East goes back to its Roots

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)

Eat more Peaches

When it's raining in Georgia, it feels like it's raining all over the world, except when you're watching a football game inside the dry Georgia Dome.  During a heavy downpour of corporate greed, the famous Peach Bowl title was put on hiatus, and the game was simply referred to as the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.  But this season, those spicy chickens made a peachy peace offering to old school fans and brought back the coveted name.  Atlanta's extravagant exhibition will once again feature the sweet nectar of Georgia's famed fruit by being dubbed as the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.

Seeing a sponsor renew a historic namesake is almost as refreshing as eating peach flavored ice cream on a steamy and sultry Southern summer night.  Lately, sponsors are going in the opposite direction, swapping traditional names with drab corporate labels.  The tiny, tart Tangerine Bowl was juiced and let loose; it's currently called the Russell Athletic Bowl.  The glorious Gator Bowl in Jacksonville was slayed and filleted by a greedy taxman, and is presently called the Tax Slayer Bowl.  The good people of Mobile must love watching the scandalous Go Daddy television commercials, because the Mobile Bowl is now known as the Go Daddy Bowl.

Others bowls still have remnants of their original name, but their title is greatly overshadowed by their business partners.  For instance, the Duck Commander Independence Bowl, Daffy Duck will probably be the grand marshal of that lame duck pregame parade.  And there's the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.  Refinance with that company, and get two free tickets to their second tier exhibition. Detroit's Little Caesars Bowl apparently folded, because it didn't make enough dough; now the Motor City is home to the infamous Quick Lane Bowl.        

Not all bowls dumped tradition, just look at the "Granddaddy of them all."  The Rose Bowl still smells rosy, because their sponsor is listed secondary.  The official title is the Rose Bowl presented by Liberty Mutual. 

There are forty bowl games this season, including the playoffs.  Some bowl games honor their past by maintaining the integrity of their original names, while other bowls chose to ditch tradition in favor of promoting their advertisers. 

Chick-Fil-A didn't invent the chicken sandwich; they just invented the incompetent cows that can’t spell chicken.  Regardless of their cattle's poor penmanship, those deliciously dumb cows will attempt to spell Peach on New Year's Eve in Atlanta, and that's a great way to distinguish their bowl from the rest of the bowl games that sold their soul to the corporate devil.    

Expansion Drama

Just when you came to grips with the geographical illogic of Houston and SMU in the same league as Connecticut and Temple, Missouri in the Eastern Division of the Southeast Conference, Massachusetts in the Midwestern MAC, landlocked Notre Dame migrating to the Atlantic Coast, West Virginia in the 10-team Big 12, Texas-El Paso and Old Dominion playing in the same league, and the Pac-12 expanding their Pacific Ocean logo over a 1,000 miles to the Rocky Mountains.  Just when you thought teams would honor tradition over television money and bring this maddening realignment to a hollow end, Maryland relights the ever-growing eternal expansion flame. 

Money talks and rivalries walk.  Terrapins are known for their deceptive speed, just ask the hopping Hare that lost to the turtle in the track race.  But even that turtle must be shocked at how quickly his fellow Terrapins spirited towards the Big Green, aka the Big Ten.  Surely, the expansion dominos will fall again as a result of Maryland’s move.  Expect the unexpected with future expansion, except when the Terrapins host distant Midwestern teams at Byrd Stadium, than expect plenty of empty seats. 

Teams are running around like chickens with their heads cutoff in a feeble attempt to find more money.  Wise scholars at these Universities claim realignment is based upon creating an association of institutions with similar academic values.  Come on, man!  If those suits really cared about academics, they wouldn’t be sending their student-athletes halfway across the country to play a ball game; rather they’d try to keep their kids closer to the classroom. 

Who will pay for the excessive conference buyout fees and ludicrous travel costs?  School administrations assume the fans will defray some of those costs by packing the stadium like mindless drones.  They presume people won’t know the difference between watching West Virginia play Iowa State instead of Pitt, and fans will embrace a Maryland hoops game against Minnesota just as much as a game against Duke.  So much so, Athletic Departments will undoubtedly raise the ticket prices to watch amateurs throw around an oblong ball against unfamiliar teams from a faraway region. 

If you’re disappointed by teams and conferences trading in tradition for the all mighty dollar, reframe from attending some of their games.  You could easily watch the game on television, because network executives would be hard pressed to blackout a marquee game, considering they paid millions of dollars for the television rights.  This would send a message that fans believe tradition is more important than money.  And maybe the snooty scholars at these prestigious universities would get the message and stifle this silly snafu. 

Unlucky Irish fans missed the pot ‘o’ gold

Notre Dame’s sweetheart deal with the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) will be very profitable, but will it reward their loyal fans?  The greedy suits on Tobacco Row sold their soul to the blue devil when they granted a partial membership to the Indiana clergymen.  South Bend’s distant waterfront view of the Atlantic Ocean isn’t the only peculiar part of the Irish’s ACC alliance.  Notre Dame is an associate member of the ACC for Olympic sports, while proudly retaining their Independent status in football.  Which begs the question, did the Irish pick the right conference? 

The Big Ten is by far the best geographical fit for the Irish, but the tradition-rich Big Ten would be hard pressed to accept Notre Dame as an associate member.  In order to join the ranks of their native Midwestern rivals, the Golden Domers would be required to drop their Independent status in football, which would never fly with South Bend traditionalists.  The Big-12 may have flirted with Notre Dame as an associate member, but Big-12 teams are primarily located in the lower plains of America’s heartland, far away from the echoes of Indiana.  South Bend’s location would not gel well with the SEC or Pac-12 either.  

The Irish’s only other legitimate option for housing their Olympic sports was the Big East.  Notre Dame evacuated the Big East’s battered boat when the ship faced a wicked nor'easter storm off the chilly Atlantic Coast.  But had the Irish worn a lifejacket for a little longer, their caring Catholic counterparts would have gently guided the weary Celtic fishermen to calmer waters.  Villanova, Georgetown, St. John’s, Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul were collectively known as the “Catholic-7” during the restructuring of the new Big East.  The Catholic-7 brokered a blockbuster television deal with FOX, which graciously awards $3 million per year to each institution (an annual figure very comparable to Notre Dame’s portioned media payout from the ACC). The Catholic-7 also retained the right to play their annual basketball championship at the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden, in New York City.  Creighton, Xavier, and Butler joined the Catholic-7 to form the new 10-team Big East.

According to the Common Census poll in 2010, Notre Dame’s largest fan bases outside of South Bend are: New York City (304,535 fans), Chicago (244,684 fans), Boston (127,026 fans), Philadelphia (108,288), Los Angeles (75,389), Washington (57,482), and Indianapolis (53,934).  The new Big East has conference members in 6 of Notre Dame’s top 7 fan bases, while Boston is the only ACC market listed above.  Had Notre Dame stayed with their fellow Catholic co-ops, not only would they have linked themselves with similar-minded private institutions, their fans would have easier access to away games.  Five Big East teams are located in Notre Dame's native Midwestern backyard, plus the five other Big East teams are located in the Irish's home away from home (the urban Northeast).  Conversely, eleven ACC teams are located in the distant South. 

Since the new Big East doesn’t sponsor football, the Independent Irish would have freewill to schedule whomever they wanted on the gridiron. On the contrary, as a partial ACC member, Notre Dame is required to play five conference football games per season.  An advantage to Notre Dame’s ACC affiliation are bowl tie-ins, the new football-less Big East can’t offer postseason bowl bids.  But surely, even without ACC assistance, several blockbuster bowls would have a heighten incentive to invite the lavishly lucrative leprechaun over for a holiday visit. 

Maybe the Atlantic Coast Conference will be a decent domicile for the Golden Domers, and maybe annual basketball games against the likes of Duke and Carolina are too enticing to pass up.  But the vast majority of Notre Dame’s away games will be located far, far away from the Irish’s elusive pot of gold under the rainbow.                                 

The UMass Experiment, Winter 2014

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

The Conference shuffle put the Ram in a ruffle  


The WAC was hacked, 
sacked, and bushwhacked when
the Mountain West vandalized the league.  
The WAC's final football season was 2012

Clemson flirted with the Big 12

West Virginia’s closest Big 12 conference
opponent  is 875 miles away in Ames, Iowa

The Wildcats are in the new Big East

Texas A&M and Missouri couldn't
turn down the SEC cash cow

Where's a can of bug spray when you need it!

Alabama-Birmingham's Blaze could be related to Puff the Magic Dragon 

Big 12 Expansion (written August 2012)

Florida State’s public flirtation with the Big 12, coupled with a new bowl alliance between the SEC and Big12 champs has sparked speculation that conference realignment is far from over.

If Florida State jumps to greener pastures in America’s Heartland, the Seminoles would desire a Southeastern traveling partner.  Possible candidates are: Clemson, Miami, Georgia Tech, Louisville or Virginia Tech.  Judging by public comments issued by each University, Clemson would likely accompany Florida State.  Acquiring a few teams from the Southeast would open up a new television market and recruiting base for the Big12. 

Armageddon could occur if Florida State and Clemson joined the Big12.  Most likely, the ACC would replace their defected members by poaching a few more Big East schools (Louisville, Connecticut or Cincinnati), causing the Big East to flop like a fish out of water.  In turn, the Big East’s basketball counterparts (Villanova, Georgetown, St. John’s, Marquette, etc) may get frustrated and breakaway to form a basketball-first league, instead of lingering in a faltering football-fixated front.  Boise State and San Diego State probably would return to their native Mountain West.  Lower on the food chain, Conference USA may become victim of another Big East raid.  Sequentially, the Sun Belt and MAC could feel the ripple effects of a mid-major mess.  Notre Dame probably will be satisfied competing as a football Independent for the foreseeable future.  And in an elaborate attempt to expand their media markets, the Big Ten and SEC may swoop in like a hungry vulture and pick apart the remaining ACC carcass.

This fallout could result in the formation of four super conferences: SEC, Big12, Big Ten, and PAC12.  But, the fantastic four should not own a monopoly on the National Championship, because frankly it would be un-American.  The best way to determine a real national champion is to take the best teams from the entire FBS system, instead of awarding the already prosperous piglets of the big leagues.  A superior team should have a chance to compete for a national championship, regardless if they compete in an inferior conference.   

However, the fat cats of the big leagues could easily avoid sharing their rich cheddar by simply breaking apart from the NCAA and creating an additional bowl that pairs the winners of the two premier bowls (Rose Bowl and the new SEC/Big12 champions bowl).  In other words, the super conferences would create a de facto eight-team playoff.  Each conference would have a league championship game (4 different games, 8 total teams), than each league champion (4 total teams) would advance to their designated premier bowl.  Finally, the winners of the premier bowls would play in the de facto national championship bowl. 

The fat cats’ stranglehold on the national title would surely steam the little guys (the excluded FBS & FCS teams).  So much so, the little guys may ban together and refuse to play non-conference games against the regal fat cats.  This would create scheduling chaos for the football giants.  The pampered fat cats make their living by beating the weak.  It builds their confidence and presents more opportunities for younger players to gain experience.  Most importantly, it attracts a herd of cash cows in the form of more home games.  A hypothetical example, Texas would undoubtedly want to take the easy non-conference route and play teams like: Florida International, Arkansas State or Alabama-Birmingham, instead of playing fellow fat cats: Florida, Arkansas or Alabama.  In the short run, the little guys would definitely lose money from the ban.  But, eventually the greedy piglets of the super conferences would budge and release their stronghold on the playoff field, in exchange for hosting regular season games against the cupcakes. 

Will the Big12 expand, and if so, by how many teams? Will super conferences evolve? Will the FBS adopt a legitimate playoff system?  Will some teams be inadvertently snubbed from a shot at the national crown?  Surely conference commissioners and athletic directors have a vision, but they are unable to elaborate on their forethoughts at this time because of legal ramifications.  So, the fans must wait and wonder if their favorite team will prosper in the new wave of conference realignment.     

The End of an Era

It’s easy to notice several intense rivalries have gone by the wayside, such as: Texas vs. Texas A&M, West Virginia vs. Pitt, Missouri vs. Kansas, Nebraska vs. Oklahoma, and Boise State vs. Idaho.  But, way under the radar of big time college football, two unique rivalries will quietly culminate on Labor Day weekend of 2012. 

The Villanova Wildcats play the Temple Owls in the final chapter of the Mayor’s Cup on August 31st.  The winner gains eternal bragging rights for cheese steak supremacy.  The Wildcats lead the all-time series against the Owls with 16 wins, 14 loses and 2 ties.  Just south of Philly, the Golden Rams of West Chester make a farewell voyage to nearby Blue Hen Country on August 30th.  The gritty Golden Rams, a pesky Division II team, flew victoriously over the chicken coop a few times.  However Delaware, a perennial FCS powerhouse, leads the series. West Chester is Delaware’s most common opponent, having played 54 times 

These soon-to-be defunct games are highly competitive and always present a fan friendly, laid-back atmosphere.  Tickets are affordable.  There are no traffic jams getting into or out of the stadium parking lots.  There’s not much of a wait at the concession stands, and most importantly the line to the restroom doesn’t wrap halfway around the concourse.

The majority of Philly fans prefer to watch the professional sports, and understand that college football is an amateur sport.  They support their favorite college team, but recognize that losing a game at this level isn’t the end of the world.  These matchups bring out the best in sportsmanship, because the kids playing on the field are doing it for the love of the game.      

While the extinction of these rivalries won’t even make a tiny blurb on any sports page outside of the Philadelphia area and numerous sports aficionadas within the Cradle of Liberty won’t even watch the games, a few hardcore fans will savor two spectacular sendoffs before the pureness of these natural rivalries come to a hollow end.

Hooter the Owl is sadden by the end of an era

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: Temple and Villanova will play in football again in 2017 and 2018

Big 12 Boloney

Big 12 Commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, is full of boloney.  He wants the teams in the major conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC) to have an even greater advantage over the teams from the smaller conferences (American, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt).  Essentially, the greedy grump wants to smoke out the little guys from ever having a chance to compete for a FBS championship.  Talk about being a big bully. 

Don’t the regal fat cats of the major leagues already have a stranglehold on the national championship?  Even if a team like Boise State finished undefeated in their smaller conference, the Broncos would be heavy underdogs to qualify for the college football playoffs given their strength of schedule.  But, Bowlsdy and his gluttonous goons don’t want to take any chances of allowing a team like Boise into the playoffs.  The crummy Commissioner wants to ensure an unworthy ten-win Big 12 team steals a playoff spot from an admirable undefeated underdog of a lower revenue league. 

Improbable upsets are what makes sports great.  That’s why March Madness has a massive cult following.  That’s why regular season spoils shock the world.  Aside from Ann Arbor aficionados, who didn’t do back flips when Appalachian State beat Michigan in the Big House?  Later that same season, little ole Louisiana-Monroe stunned Nick Saban’s cocky Crimson Tide team at Tuscaloosa in jaw-dropping fashion.  Parody is great.  It casts colorful excitement into the game.  But if Bowlsby got his way, colorful joy would regress to predictable gray boredom.  Gone would be the happy days of watching Cinderella awake to find her glass slipper.  David and Goliath would never, ever, ever get back together again.

Brigham Young, Boise State, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Memphis, Central Florida, and South Florida are currently the best programs not belonging to a major conference.  Those teams along with roughly 60 other FBS schools could potential be blocked from playing for the national crown.    

A beleaguer Bowlsby bellowed, “Northern Iowa and Texas aren't much alike.” As a former Athletic Director at Northern Iowa, Bob should be well aware that his paltry FCS purple Panthers beat a mighty Big 12 team in 2007 and again in 2013.  When given the opportunity, several smaller schools proved they’re not all that different from the larger schools.  Just ask Big 12 kingpin, Oklahoma, after losing to Boise State in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.       

Surely, Bowlsby is just a mindless puppet for Oklahoma and Texas.  The Sooners and Longhorns probably operated the teleprompter and had a six-shooter to his head when he said, “We've made it too easy to get into Division I and too easy to stay there.”  Yet Texas, Oklahoma and the rest of the Big 12 clan have no problem scheduling non-conference games against those less prominent FBS teams.  Texas opted to open the season against the undersized Aggies of New Mexico State instead of scheduling the authentic instate Aggies of A&M.  Oklahoma starts the season by hosting a smaller Sun Belt school.  If the powerhouses really want to distance themselves from the smaller schools, then why do the hypocritical haves continue to schedule home games against the hopeless have-nots? 

Instead of pointing the finger at the less fortunate, Bowlsby should focus on the real issues facing his own conference.  Like explaining why the Big 12 is the only major conference without a championship game, justifying the geographical awkwardness of West Virginia’s affiliation, rationalizing the damming consequences of the Long Horn Network, or simply clarifying why the league only has 10 teams yet is still labeled as the Big 12.  The Big 12 should have changed its name to the “Big Implosion” when the league lost Nebraska, Texas A&M, Missouri and Colorado.    

Balking Bob Bowlsby could have beefed up the bony Big 12 during the expansion era by enticing other powerhouse programs to join his regime.  The conference’s perception would have grown exceptionally by seizing the likes of: Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami.  But bonehead Bob couldn’t seal the deal and now his posse is stuck in a gray, deteriorating little house on the old Prairie. 

How does Bob propose to change the current FBS system to better benefit the caviar conferences?  “I don't know how you go about solving problems other than to get like-minded people together and come up with some solutions,” he incompetently squealed.  In layman’s terms, if you put him in a room with other money-hungry vultures, they’ll find a way to pocket more revenue from the new playoff system by cutting out the smaller conferences. 

College football isn’t supposed to be a high profit business; it’s supposed to be an interscholastic sport.  Conference Commissioners should remember that before they start spouting off about revenue indifferences among FBS schools.  Given the realignment chaos created by the major conference masterminds, maybe those geniuses should just reframe from yet another phony-boloney overhaul or else they will alienate millions of fans and face a multitude of antitrust lawsuits.   

We Aren't Ranked, 10/28/14

"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.