Solving College Football’s Conference Problem

Photo Credit- Matthew O'Haren -USA TODAY Sports

Ten days ago I watched my alma mater commit two penalties while trying to stop a three-man rush on the final play of a one-score game.

The Virginia Tech turkeys won 31-24.

Instead of anger, there was a sort of melancholy after the game, not because West Virginia lost to a historic rival, but because we don’t play our rivals anymore.

This was the first game between the teams, a pair of schools separated by four hours and 250 miles, since 2005. Tech bolted for the ACC more than a decade ago, fleeing with Miami and Boston College and leaving the Big East a lot worse for wear. We won three BCS bowl games in the following seven years, but conflict with the basketball schools ultimately sunk that ship for good, resulting in our misfit jump to the Big 12.

We don’t play Tech, we don’t play Pitt, and we stopped getting our ass kicked by Penn State back in 1992.

Some of those games are coming back around in non-conference scheduling, which creates great interest for me while also refreshing the original distaste I had for this most recent cycle of realignment.

Let’s be honest; college football is a lot better when regional and historic rivals are squaring off each and every year.

This is what I’d rather see:

 

“Eastern Football Conference” (or an equally generic and shitty name)

Pittsburgh, Penn State, Maryland, West Virginia, Rutgers, Boston College, Connecticut, Temple, Syracuse, Virginia Tech

I think there’s a cross-section of Penn State fans who view their school as “above” eastern football based on size and academics. I don’t know how large that number is, but I’ve spoken to a lot of alumni who feel like they should be playing Ohio State and Michigan instead of Pitt and Rutgers.

That’s understandable, and PSU is once again a top-tier program, but if you look back at the golden years of Nittany Lion football, you find schedules that were filled with games against eastern teams.

Joe Paterno was a proponent of an eastern football league and tried to make it a reality a few decades ago. The story is watered down these days, but it didn’t work out for several reasons and Penn State ended up in the Big 10 while the other schools went elsewhere.

Of course, none of this solves the issue that destroyed the Big East in the first place.

What happens to Villanova, Seton Hall, and the other schools that don’t play D1 football?

I don’t know what the answer is right now, but I don’t see why eastern basketball and eastern football have to be linked. Basketball realignment doesn’t matter nearly as much because there are more games and more opportunities to play meaningful rivals even after inexplicably putting programs like Georgetown and Syracuse in different conferences.

This is what it would look like to travel from Penn State, to Pitt, to West Virginia, to Tech, to blah blah blah you get it.

Would you rather do these road trips, or hop a plane to Nebraska?

Atlantic Coast Conference

Louisville, Clemson, NC State, North Carolina, Duke, Virginia, Navy, Wake Forest, Miami, Florida State, South Florida, Georgia Tech

It looks like a weaker ACC, but Clemson and FSU are perennial top-five types, then you’ve got the likes of Louisville, Miami, GT, and North Carolina hanging around the top 25.

You’re also improving the conference by cutting out the Boston College traitors and Orange underachievers, then bringing in USF for another Florida team and promoting Navy from the AAC.

Reminder:

Big 12 (expanded to 14 teams)

Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Baylor, TCU, Texas A&M, Houston, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Colorado

The lack of a title game screwed the Big 12 more than once since the playoff system was established a few years back.

I like the idea of a north/south split, but it’s unbalanced in quality if you group the Texas and Oklahoma teams. A solid Nebraska and Missouri would have to keep the north afloat, because Kansas and Iowa State sure ain’t doing it.

It’s been fun to see teams like the Longhorns and Sooners in Morgantown, but we just don’t belong in the Big 12. This is where we’re located compared to our conference foes:

Big 10 (with 12 teams)

Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Indiana, Western Michigan, Notre Dame

Don’t laugh at the Western Michigan inclusion. That program is solid and would immediately compete with teams like Purdue and Minnesota.

Any conference with Ohio State, the Michigans, and Wisconsin is already elite, so reshuffling geographically and forcing the coddled Irish into a conference would make for a lot of intriguing games.

The issue with Notre Dame, at least for me, has always been their penchant for stealing bowl bids from more deserving teams. I clearly remember a year where a 7-5 Notre Dame jumped a 9-3 West Virginia when it came time for selection.

Special preference?

Maybe, but I do understand that their massive traveling fan base is much more ideal for a mid-tier game like the Sun or Gator Bowl. I’d probably make the same decision if I was a corporate money grubber, merit be damned.

That said, I think the Irish belong in the Big 10, and you can still play those historic games against Southern Cal and Stanford in the non-conference schedule.

Pac 12 (expanded to 14)

North – Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, California, Boise State

South – Arizona, Arizona State, USC, UCLA, Utah, San Diego State, BYU

Things are more clear out west because there are fewer D1 programs clustered in smaller regions. The distance is what it is.

I’m removing Colorado and sending them back to the Big 12. I like adding Boise State and BYU to the conference, then smoothing out the south with San Diego State, a program that has had a couple of good seasons while also giving us this guy:

 

SEC (now with 12 teams)

East – Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Florida

West – Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State

No huge changes here; I’m just booting Aggy and Missouri back to the Big 12 where they belong.

A 12-team SEC (instead of 14) gives us more of those interesting cross-division matchups, like Georgia/Auburn and Florida/LSU.

The thing with the SEC is that a lot of regional programs are far away from making the leap into one of the country’s best conferences. Even with a couple of underrated Sunbelt and Conference USA programs vying for “BCS” status, I don’t see any that are ready for the SEC.

I used to live in Georgia and loved every minute of SEC insanity, like these folks who call up Paul Finebaum’s radio show.

Independent / Leftovers

Army (indy), UMass (indy), Western Kentucky, Tulsa, UCF, Air Force, Appalachian State, Cincinnati, ECU

You could make an argument for those seven leftover programs to be in “BCS” conferences. Is App State good enough to play in the ACC? I dunno, but they’re a good program. East Carolina had a bit of a surge before trailing off in the past few seasons. UCF is another large school in a good location. Cincinnati had some great years in the new Big East before Brian Kelly bolted for South Bend.

You just can’t fit everybody in.

And I get it; it’s all about money at the end of the day, but college football is better when geographic and historic rivals are playing each other.

What do you think?

Create a clever nickname, something like “Paul Jolovitz fan club president,” then leave a message in the comments section.

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30 Comments

  • Guy September 15, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    1. I appreciate you having a reasoned opinion on Notre Dame. As a fan, I know a lot of people hate them, but I appreciate the real reasons outside of COWARDS TOO AFRAID TO JOIN A CONFERENCE!

    2. Geographically this makes relative sense. The Eastern Football conference, would be unwatchable garbage. We would have a schedule where Rutgers plays UCONN, BC, Pitt, Maryland, Syracuse and Temple. Barf. So much ass.
    3. B1G I wouldn’t promote Western Michigan, would trade Nebraska back to the Big 12 in exchange for Iowa State to bolster the importance of El Assico.
    4. ACC having two option teams in Navy and GT.
    Finally, Pac-12. I would keep BYU independent because the idea of a rouge mormon institute who can schedule whoever they want just to show up and punch you in the dick is hilarious. Instead, put New Mexico State in the Pac 12. Something about adding a little Bob Davies Triple Option to PAC 12 After Dark makes it move a little bit.

    Reply
    • Kevin Kinkead September 15, 2017 at 3:23 pm

      1. College football is better when Notre Dame is relevant. Tons of history and some great rivalries.

      2. Unfortunately I agree. You would need Penn State, Tech, and WVU to consistently be good, with Pitt going back to the Larry Fitzgerald years and Syracuse and someone else stepping up.

      3. That’s fine. You can have Iowa State.

      4. If Navy plays Georgia Tech, is it the sextuple option?

      5. hah

      Reply
      • Crazy Joe Davola September 15, 2017 at 4:37 pm

        Then you go and reveal that you are a fellow WVU grad and TOTALLY REDEEM YOURSELF in my eyes. Not that you or anyone cares. Anyway, bring back the real Big East and make conferences regional again. Easier said than done, I know

        Reply
    • Reggie Noble September 15, 2017 at 8:16 pm

      Have to ask, did you or anyone in your family actually go to Notre Dame?

      Reply
  • Boom September 15, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Kevin, with my subscription I expect weekly WVU articles. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Boom September 15, 2017 at 3:14 pm

      Also, if Marcus Simms plays then we beat the Turkeys. Or if we played them the 2nd game instead of the first. Grier definitely had some rust in the first half and once he knocked it off he was unstoppable.

      Can’t wait for the conferences to realign again. It was cool playing Texas and Oklahoma at first but not nearly as fun playing rivals.

      Reply
      • Kevin Kinkead September 15, 2017 at 3:24 pm

        Virginia Polytechnical just made more plays than we did. Our special teams sucked as well.

        I didn’t think we played poorly but shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times.

        Reply
      • Crazy Joe Davola September 15, 2017 at 4:38 pm

        It really wore off. I hate being in the Big 12

        Reply
  • emcgrogan September 15, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    There’s a lot of meh in that Eastern Conference. I think we are headed towards four 16 team super conferences anyway, I’d prefer to keep PSU in the Big Ten, let Nebraska leave, kick out Rutgers and add Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to the Big Ten.

    Reply
    • Kevin Kinkead September 15, 2017 at 3:30 pm

      I know most WV fans hate the ACC, but I feel like we’re a better fit there than in the Big 10.

      I actually think we’d be a decent fit in the SEC east, but what do I know

      Reply
  • Jeff September 15, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Penn state should be in Big Ten… solution would be to eliminate games vs d2 schools…money games… make every team play power 5 conf plus ND/service academies

    Example… psu vs… Pitt, wv,Syracuse
    Instead of. Vs…. pitt. Akron..georgia st.

    Reply
  • Wow September 15, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Kevin this was a bad article. You are going to break up historic rivalries just because you don’t want your WVU team to travel?

    Also it’s Virginia Polytechnic, not Polytechnical.

    Reply
    • Kevin Kinkead September 15, 2017 at 3:51 pm

      ah ok, well they still blow

      Reply
  • Mark September 15, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    The best thing for college football would be to have the power 5 break off into their own league and abolish conferences all together. You’d be able to keep the historic rivalries while each game mattering. No more games against Akron and Delaware just to fill out your schedule.

    Oh and Go Hokies.

    Reply
    • Philly46 September 15, 2017 at 4:13 pm

      How can there be no conferences? All sports have divisions and conferences. That’s what you’re playing for.

      Reply
  • Genius September 15, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    For this to be successful, the new conference would have to get marquee programs (Football not just basketball) to join the new conference so it doesn’t become another Big East. I lot of this hinges on PSU leaving the Big Ten which they would never do. PSU fans think they’re too good to have a rivalry with a school that is right across the state and that they’ve played 100 times (with the series being very close). Their fan’s egos are way too big (went to PSU so can say this without you maniacs attacking me) to go from playing Michigan and Ohio State each year to Syracuse and UConn. Plus, apparently academics actually matter with conferences and the Big Ten is actually very good academically (Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, PSU).

    Four 16 team conferences with two divisions each are the future. Teams play everyone in their division (7 games), a few in the other division, and a couple non conferences against other big four conference teams each year. Winner of each division plays in conference championship and winner of conference championship goes to playoff – so playoff is really 8 teams now but still have conference championships. No more whining about not making playoff and no more whining about early season cupcakes. Add relegation if you want to give smaller programs incentive and something to play for.

    Boom I just fixed college football – , feel free to use this NCAA.

    Reply
    • Guy September 15, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      The only thing that bums me out about the idea of phasing out the mid-majors, is that’s where you see the most creativity in offenses. They realize from them to compete against P5 schools they have to get creative in ways to get their athletes in space. And it always trickles upwards. Eliminate them from the equation, and I fear it would stem the wave of innovation we see in the mid major conferences. Plus, those games a MAC team plays against Ohio State or Michigan is a huge payday for them, which would mean less schools would be able to afford football programs.

      Reply
  • College football is underrated September 15, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Kind of a weird topic but happy to see some college football talk none the less! Usually all we get on here is Kyle bad mouthing PSU.

    Reply
  • mike September 15, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Great article, love hearing peoples ideas.

    The #1 rule for this is for football conferences to be entirely separate from the rest of the school’s teams. Again, ignore money logistics greed etc. It does work (Notre Dame basketball has a conference), and the system should run like college hockey has (especially before Big Ten invested in hockey). Nothing will eve “make sense” if basketball revenue is included in football talk. This could also bring back some programs at a FCS/D2 level who simply dropped football instead of finding a better fit (ie Hofstra didn’t have the money to keep a team playing top level FCS football). Villanova could of made the jump to FBS if they could slide into the MAC instead of the original Big East football conference they talked about entering.

    I’ve always advocated for regional conferences, but in reality Penn State is the outlier for people who want regional conferences, especially before Rutgers and Maryland were added (which everyone complains about). West Virginia is also an outlier. In most cases everyone plays football teams around them and doesn’t want anything to change, ie SEC, ACC, Big Ten between Ohio-Minnesota, PAC12, Big 12 except for WVU, etc.

    Reply
    • mike September 15, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      should of been clearer, everyone needs to be in a conference but your football conference can be different than Field Hockey, Lacrosse, Soccer, Basketball etc.

      Reply
  • wrongnessmaximus September 15, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    I’ll be honest; I didn’t even look at any of your realignment other than the SEC and ACC. Because really none of the rest matter on a regular basis. And you’re damn right, get rid of Missouri and A&M. They’re just in the way, because nobody in the SEC hates them, we don’t even give a shit about them.

    Reply
  • Chicago Philly Phan September 15, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    NOTRE DAME will never join the Big 10 since they blackballed us so many years ago … seriously. Fuck Michigan.

    Reply
  • Kewaga September 16, 2017 at 8:09 am

    No the B1G would not take Western Michigan University (or Iowa State)… Likely Cincinnati

    Reply
  • Double Speak September 16, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    So you talk about playing your rivals but then separate UCF and USF. Two huge schools in prime locations. I honestly think both would go to an expanded ACC

    Reply
  • edward owen September 16, 2017 at 11:11 pm

    What about Colorado State?

    Reply
  • The grandwizard September 16, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Hey Kevin Kinkead…. does your middle initial begin with a K?

    Reply
  • Not Indy September 18, 2017 at 9:44 am

    “moving Navy out of independent status”…They aren’t independent anymore. They play in the AAC.

    Reply
  • Dave Washabau September 19, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Kevin,
    I went to Pitt for my undergraduate degree back when Pitt, Penn State, and Syracuse held an annual “round robin” for the “honor” of holding the Lambert Trophy…a symbol of East Coast football supremacy. Of course, I guess that only applied to the mid-Atlantic part of the East Coast? Almost all colleges recruited locally and regionally in those days, unlike the national recruiting being done by most of the big football programs today. I remember Pitt hosting UCLA in the late 1960’s and most of the fans couldn’t figure out who they were and why we were playing them. Six years later I finished up my professional degree at Ohio State and got my first real taste of college football in a big-time conference. Is the Big 10 of today any better than the Big 10 of the 1970’s…I don ‘t think so. However, all that being said, I think the real story here is a combination of the money (which several readers have mentioned) and the fact that recruiting has become nationwide. No matter what alignment is used for conferences, most astute college football fans will be able to predict the eventual national champion from a short list of 10-15 teams…whether or not there are any rivalries that bite the dust due to realignment. Borrowing from Charles Darwin, it’s an example of evolution, plain and simple.

    Reply
  • i hate everything dallas September 20, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    Now we need the NFL to properly align. Move the cockroaches to the NFC south and Carolina to the NFC east.

    Reply
  • Adam January 19, 2018 at 9:11 am

    A little late to the game here, but just came across this article. I agree 100% about geographic based conferences. Supports traditional rivalries and makes it easier to students to travel to away games, which promotes traditional rivalries … it’s a virtuous circle. The only thing I would add is limit every conference to ten teams. This would allow for full round robin schedule, which supports the above idea (students hate opponents more if they play them every year), and supports the integrity of scheduling. Easier to declare a conf champs of everybody played the same schedule. Conf Championships are an awful way to determine a champ. And you could also consider Louisville and Cincinnati in your eastern Conference.

    Reply
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