With Maryland’s announcement today that it’s planning on moving to the Big Ten, college sports are getting closer and closer to something that many traditionalists have long dreaded: the creation of several “Super Conferences.”
For many years, the Big Ten and the Pac-10 (the official names of these conferences varied greatly) were the only two conferences that mattered. Over time, the SEC, ACC, and Big Eight (which would become the Big 12) joined the college sporting landscape. In 1979, the Big East was created, paving the way for what we have today.
[For a fantastic summary of the various realignments throughout history, click here.]
When the BCS was created, the idea was that all conferences were not created equal. The Big Ten, Pac-10, SEC, ACC, Big East, and Big 12 were all given special treatment in the new system. Theoretically, these were the six best conferences and they were all pretty comparable to each other.
However, with the passing of time, a few of these conferences have begun to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack.
As you know, the SEC has long ruled in football, and its dominance looks to continue into the near future.
Basketball has remained somewhat balanced if you look at overall champions, but most would agree that year in and year out, the ACC and Big Ten have offered the best basketball from top to bottom. (Fans of the Little Bitty East can feel free to argue for the conference. I will continue to maintain that when you have 132 teams in your conference, you are bound to have a lot of tourney teams. And oh by the way…most of them lose early every year.)
Because of this, teams have begun to “hop ship” so to speak.
First, the ACC “raided” the Big East and convinced Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College to join the Atlantic Coastal Conference. Then, Texas angered everyone else in the Big 12, leading to Nebraska and Colorado jolting the conference in favor of greener pastures.
Various other schools have followed suit, looking for the right situation for their student athletes.
To me, there is one outcome that seems inevitable: the creation of four “Super Conferences.”
What might these new leagues look like? Here are my predictions for each team and conference.
Keep in mind, if we really are going to shake up college sports, we need to try to preserve a few key elements:
- Without rivalries, college sports lose much of their luster. When at all possible, we must preserve the classic rivalries. If we must lose a rivalry game, we should do our best to replace it with a new game that could possibly take its place due to geographical closeness or other similarities.
- Tradition isn’t always the best criteria, but without it, college sports once again loses something. So we will first and foremost try to preserve the conferences with the most tradition.
The New Pac-16
The new Pac-16 will be divided into two divisions, the East and West:
- Oregon State
- Washington State
- Oklahoma State
- Arizona State
- Texas Tech
I love the new Pac-16.
Basically, the prototypical Pac-16 teams stay in the Pac-16 West, able to play each other every year in football.
The Pac-16 East becomes a neat little hybrid of the Arizona teams and the old Big 12. The states of Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Colorado are all very similar geographically, and the newly created rivalries between schools like Utah and Arizona would be quite fun.
Most importantly, we have preserved every significant rivalry for each school with the exception of Texas. Where are the Longhorns? Keep reading to find out.
The New Big Ten
I still can’t get past the ridiculousness of naming our divisions “Legends” and “Leaders”…and I didn’t care to figure out who was in each. Let’s just split these into East and West as well.
Big Ten West
- Iowa State
- Kansas State
- Marquette (Basketball)
Big Ten East
- Ohio State
- Michigan State
- Penn State
You will notice we did a few things here.
First of all, we put Ohio State and Michigan in THE SAME DIVISION…the way it should have been done all along. Nobody wants to see Ohio State and Michigan play each other back-to-back in football if they make the championship game. The SEC has it right. Either Florida OR Georgia goes to the SEC Championship…you don’t want them both going.
Awesome rivalries are in each division:
- Marquette basketball joins the fold and plays against Wisconsin twice a year.
- Kansas and Kansas State join the Big Ten, making the West side very good at basketball.
- Iowa State joins the same conference as Iowa – its largest rival.
- IU, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Maryland are all on the other side – making it one of the premier places to watch college basketball in the country.
The East has one less team than the West, but that’s alright because Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue would all supplement their schedules with the Notre Dame game every year. This also might be just enough of a carrot to convince Notre Dame to leave their independent ways in the past and join the conference that they should have been in all along.
The New SEC
You thought the SEC was good at football before? Just look at it now. Yikes.
- South Carolina
- Florida State
- Texas A&M
- Mississippi State
- Ole Miss
I somehow think that eventually, in football, winning the SEC Championship would be a bigger deal than winning the National Championship.
Basically, you introduce the states of Texas and Florida to the old SEC. The rivalries that would be created week in and week out would be unbelievable:
- On one side, you could theoretically have Miami vs. Florida St., Florida vs. Georgia, Clemson vs. South Carolina, and Kentucky vs. Tennessee ON THE SAME WEEKEND.
- Clemson would join its biggest rival, South Carolina in the SEC. It would also regain its old time rivalry with Georgia, a school it is geographically close to and has fought over players with ever since Herschel Walker.
The other side would be no slouch either, with Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and Texas fighting for superiority from year to year.
As I said before, the winner of the SEC would be respected the world over…and if someone actually got through the year undefeated? It would be the labeled the greatest team of all time.
The Big ACC
The Big East and ACC basically merge to create our fourth and final super conference.
While it would definitely struggle a little on the football front, there would be no greater collection of basketball in the country – which for most of these schools, is alright for them.
Big ACC North
- West Virginia
- Boston College
- Notre Dame (Basketball)
- Villanova (Basketball)
Big ACC South
- Georgia Tech
- North Carolina
- Georgetown (Basketball)
- NC State
- Wake Forest
- Virginia Tech
- South Florida
For starters, West Virginia moves back East where it belongs…it never felt right watching them play in the Big 12. This also renews one of the best rivalries in college sports, the Backyard Brawl, that it shares with Pittsburgh.
Of course, this conference is weaker when it comes to football, but when it comes to basketball, no other league comes close.
UConn, Pitt, Syracuse, and Louisville join powerhouses North Carolina, Duke, and Wake Forest to create one of the most frightening top sixes that could be imagined. Georgia Tech, Cincinnati, NC State, and West Virginia would be fighting for SEVENTH PLACE in the league many years.
You might be reading this thinking, “If every team has to play 8 divisional games, how would it have enough time to play teams from the other side and still play an intriguing out-of-conference schedule?”
Take a team like Georgia.
The oldest rivalry in America is Georgia vs. Auburn. Losing that game would be a catastrophe. Let’s say it also wants to keep Georgia Tech on its schedule. Now, UGA only has two more slots on its schedule…would it just never play teams from the other side of its conference?
The answer is simple: Stop playing FCS schools.
Georgia could play against its entire division, ALWAYS play Auburn and Georgia Tech, and STILL have two remaining games on its schedule every year – so long as it stopped scheduling cream puffs. Of course Georgia would lose a little revenue from the loss of a home game, but it would gain that revenue back from the SEC with the additional conference games each season.
The brilliance of this entire system is that it sets up perfectly for a playoff system. Each league could automatically send its champion to the playoffs, and then we could elect four “at-large” teams to go as well.
The “Big ACC” schools no longer care about getting crushed in football, because their dominance in basketball would more appropriately fit those schools anyway.
Geographically, the Super Conferences make sense.
Financially, each school would surely benefit from the new setup.
As fans, we would win as well because the matchups would be unbelievable every single week.
Bring on the Super Conferences…it’s just a matter of time anyway.