Hey! It's apparently RELEGATION WEEK here in the SBNation blogosphere. And we here at WRNL had decided to see what would happen if, say, the Big12 were to relegate one team to C-USA over the years. And then Bill C. totally and completely beat us to the punch. Just absolutely went nuts on it. Still, seems like a waste not to run this.
So in the not so distant past, there was a post over on the BHGP that discussed what would happen is Relegation were a part of college football. And to be honest while I enjoyed laughing at the misfortunes of Indiana, I wondered what the idea would look like when applied to the Big XII, knowing of ISU's less than stellar track record during that time.
In doing research for this post, I learned much to my dismay that, Relegators do not, in fact, Relegate the stealing of Warren G's property. They are also not damn good, too. But the idea of Relegation comes to us from that most foreign of familiar places: England, America's weirdo half-brother, and soccer, Football's weirdo half-brother.
(I actually have absolutely nothing against England, and will admit to getting excited about 'Futbol' every four years in conjunction with the World Cup, but I remain woefully ignorant in my knowledge of the EPL. If any of this info is wrong, blame wikipedia.)
In English Football, the best 20 teams make up the Premier League. At the end of each season, the three worst teams are "Relegated," or demoted to the "Football League Championship." (England's version of the AAA minor League teams in MLB.) The two top teams in this league at the end of the season get promoted to the Premier League, and the next four teams have a playoff to determine the third team to be promoted. The core principle is not unlike what we've seen in the BCS: Even if you are a small to mid-level team, a year (or two) worth of continued dominance will give you a shot at one of the Big Boys as a BCS at-large bid. However, with the threat of humiliation and demotion on the line, even the end-of-the-season pillow fights between cellar-dwelling teams take on huge meaning.
In the BGHP example, the last place team in the conference was relegated to the MAC for a year, while the MAC champion was promoted. Looking at a map of current conferences, The WAC is a good fit as a second tier for the PAC-12, and the Sun Belt occupies almost the exact same footprint as the SEC. As a result, the Big 12 gets Conference USA as their second tier. It's not a perfect fit, but both have a considerable presence in Oklahoma and Texas, both were founded in the mid-90's, and both are headquartered in Irving, Texas.
Ground Rules are as follows: One team up, one team down. Ties broken by head-to-head competition if possible, Common Opponents, then overall record. If multiple teams from a conference are up for a spot, the best candidate from each conference are put head to head.
So, without any further ado, lets hop into the Wayback Machine and see where it takes us:
1996: THE FALL FROM GRACE (1-7, 2-9).
Yeah. Not a great start to our new lives in the Big 12. We notched early season wins against Northern Iowa and Missouri to salvage a 2-2 start, and then the wheels came off. A 24-21 loss to A&M at home. A one point loss on the road at Oklahoma State. A three point loss to Kansas. Ultimately, the Cyclones would lose four games by a combined total of 14 points. By the time Nebraska came to town in late November, it was all but over for the Cyclones.
The lone bright spot on the team was RB Troy Davis, who racked up an ungodly amount of yards (2,185), won the Big XII Player of the Year award, and finished a close second in Heisman voting to Florida's Danny Wuerffel. Davis actually won three of the four Heisman regions, but lost badly in the South. This, combined with the fact that he played on a team that finished 2-9, is widely believed to be the reason that Davis did not win the Heisman that year. Davis did not wait around to see his stock drop, forgoing his final year of eligibility to jump into the NFL Draft.
Despite all of that, Iowa State went 1-7 in conference play, and lost to the only other 1-7 team. (Baylor.) So yeah, the Cyclones would have gotten relegated to C-USA in the first year of the Big XII. Not a fabulous start.
And who would rise up to usurp our position of power? Using Conference Record (and using their Head-to-Head matchup as a tie-breaker), 4-1 Houston gets the nod ahead of 4-1 Southern Miss, and claims the spot in the conference that was denied them previously.
RELEGATED: Iowa State
1997: SURFIN C-USA (1-7, 1-10)
Another less-than-stellar year for the Cyclones, but with two of the Top 10 teams in the nation residing in the Big XII North, it was probably going to be a rough year regardless. That said, the lone win came over a similarly 1-7 Baylor team, which would have saved us the indignity of relegation - provided we weren't already slumming it in C-USA. The choice for relegation in this season is down to Baylor, who won two games by two points apiece over two incredibly different opponents (Fresno State and Texas), and Houston, who got pasted by almost everyone in C-USA that year. In the end, Houston going 3-8 against an easier schedule is just a little worse than Baylor going 2-9, and a two point win over Texas looks more impressive than a three point win over Minnesota. (Plus, there will be many more chances to send Baylor down to the minor leagues. Just wait.)
On the C-USA side of things, Southern Miss crushed everyone in the league that year, finishing 9-3 overall (6-0 conference) with the three losses coming against SEC teams. (Florida, Alabama, Tennessee.) They finished the season ranked #22 and demolished Pittsburgh in the Liberty Bowl. So yeah, they get the promotion for 1997.
PROMOTED: Southern Miss
1998: STILL IN LIMBO (1-7, 3-8)
Three teams finished with just one conference win in 1998. Kansas (1-7, 4-7), Iowa State (1-7, 3-8), and Baylor (1-7, 2-9). Despite the overall records, Both Baylor and Iowa State's one conference win came at the hands of the JayHawks, who padded out their overall record with wins against perrenial powerhouses such as Illinois State, Alabama-Birmingham, and North Texas. Kansas becomes a candidate.
But what of Southern Miss? They had an uninspired 7-4 follow-up season topped off with a loss to Idaho in the Humanitarian Bowl. The only opponent they had in common with Kansas was Texas A&M - a team that beat Southern Miss by 18, but only defeated Kansas by 3. For this reason, and this reason alone, Kansas gets to stay.
1998, for all intents and purposes, was the first year of the BCS. It also became the first year that a mid-major team got screwed by the BCS computers, as lowly Tulane ran the table to go 11-0 and climb to a #7 ranking... and was awarded with a trip to the Liberty Bowl while 9-2 Florida (#8 overall) claimed the last at-large BCS slot instead.
So yeah, no debate here. Tulane gets promoted. Go Green Wave.
RELEGATED: Southern Miss
1999: BYE BYE BAYLOR (1-7, 4-7)
No contest on this one. No tie-breakers, either. As the lone team to go 0-8 against the conference, Baylor becomes the Big XII candidate for Relegation. Standing in their way? A 3-8 Tulane team who completely failed to live up to the expectations set by the previous season. With no common opponents, this becomes a question of whether it is better to go 1-10 against good competition or 3-8 against bad competition. In the end, a single win against North Texas isn't going to cut it. Baylor gets Relegated.
Southern Mississippi takes advantage of the Bears' misfortune by posting a 9 win season and another Liberty Bowl win over Colorado State, going undefeated in conference play. One year after being edged out by Kansas, the Golden Eagles finish at #14 in the nation and get another shot at the Big XII.
PROMOTED: SOUTHERN MISS
2000: REDEMPTION SONG (9-3, 5-3)
Baylor went 0-8 against the Big XII in 2000, it stands to reason that they probably wouldn't have made much noise in C-USA. But, if we are in fact assuming they were in C-USA under this scenario, our candidates for Relegation are down to Oklahoma State (1-7, 3-8), Tulane (6-5), and Southern Miss (8-4). Southern Mississippi notched wins over both teams that season (28-6 vs. OSU and 56-24 over Tulane). Losing by 32 points is not much better than losing by 22 points, but it's really the only common measure between these two teams. Blaze Orange can stay, but with a sad (green) wave we say farewell to Tulane, and we feel even worse when they get wiped out by Katrina in a few years.
As for promotion? Louisville went 9-3 that year and won the conference title before losing to Colorado State in the Liberty Bowl. Iowa State also went 9-3 that year (with two of those losses coming against top 10 teams) and won the Insight.com bowl over Pittsburgh to finish the season in the Top 25. Without any common opponents to use as a comparison, Iowa State gets the nod due to their harder schedule and bowl win. Fans in Ames rejoice as the Cyclones re-claim their status as a Big XII school.
PROMOTED: IOWA STATE
2001: A Jayhawk Oddessey
Once again, Baylor would have been relegated to C-USA with an 0-8 conference mark... if they weren't still there from the previous season. Instead, Kansas (1-7, 3-8) is on the chopping block. But what of Southern Mississippi? Surely, they can't remain in the Big XII forever, right? Both teams had one win against Big XII competition. (SMU toppled Okie State early in the year, while Kansas scraped out a win over Texas A&M.) Still, without cupcakes Missouri State and Wyoming on their non-conference schedule, Kansas was facing down the very real possibility of a 1-11 season. With their Orange Bowl season only a couple years away, they won't stay in C-USA for long, but for now Kansas gets relegated.
As for promotion? Louisville won the C-USA title that year en route to an 11-2 season. Their only losses came at the hands of Illinois and C-USA newcomer Texas Christian. They didn't beat anyone too spectacular, but solid play against a weak schedule was still good enough for a Liberty Bowl win over BYU and a #17 ranking at season's end. Rick Pitino and Quin Snyder immediately start a rivalry over who's hair contains more styling product.
2002: REVENGE OF THE HORNED FROGS(4-4, 7-7)
If it's all the same, I'd rather not re-live this season any more than necessary. It was my first year as a Cyclone, first year with season football tickets, and the first crushingly painful heartbreak I experienced as a Cyclone fan. Still, 4-4 isn't terrible, despite all the wins coming early in the season.
So who gets the axe? Kansas? (0-8, 2-10) Baylor? (1-7, 3-9) Both are still in C-USA with this system. Missouri would be the next potential Big XII target, but 5-7 isn't exactly a relegation-worthy season. Southern Miss and Louisville both scratched out 7-6 seasons, with Louisville winning their head-to-head matchup by a field goal, which pares the competition down to Mizzou and Southern Miss. Both teams had one common opponent in Illinois. Mizzou won their contest 33-20, while Southern Miss only managed to win 23-20. Mizzou is saved from the axe, and Southern Miss heads back to C-USA after some middling seasons in the Big XII.
As for the C-USA champion is 2002? That would be none other than TCU, who was well on their way to becoming a Big XII inaugural member anyway before Gov. Richards of Texas stepped in and put pressure on the league to add her alma mater Baylor, instead. TCU's 11-2 record included a 6-2 conference mark and a Liberty Bowl victory over Colorado State.
RELEGATED: SOUTHERN MISS
2003: BACK TO THE MINORS (0-8, 2-10)
You can already tell where this one is going. With TCU rattling off another 11-win season, and Louisville holding their own to go 9-4, Iowa State's bitterly disappointing end to 2002 turns into even more disappointment when they are relegated back to C-USA following a 0-8 campaign through the Big XII. There will be no thrilling 2004 OT game against Mizzou to decide the Big XII North, and no Independence Bowl victory agaist Miami (OH).
Still, Someone has to replace us. Candidates include C-USA champion Southern Miss (9-3) and Kansas (6-7), who is only on this list because they lost to Nebraska by 21. (As opposed to SMU, who lost to Big Red by 24.) With no other direct metrics for comparison, the nod goes to Kansas because they didn't lose to Nebraska quite as badly as SMU did. SMU would channel this frustration and beat Nebraska by a touchdown during the first game of 2004.
RELEGATED: IOWA STATE
2004: IN WHICH THINGS GET WEIRD (4-4, 7-5)
Overall at this point in the proceedings, we have seen Iowa State and Baylor relegated to C-USA, and Louisville and TCU promoted into the Big XII. Stay with me, because this one gets a bit confusing.
With 0-8 Baylor once again not available for Relegation, the contest comes down to the two Kansas schools who posted identical records (2-6, 4-7). With Kansas winning the head to head contest by a field goal, Kansas State becomes the most likely future-former-Big-XII member. But while Louisville was off posting another eleven win season, TCU was only able to scrape together a 5-6 year. The one common opponent was Texas Tech, who posted a 12 point victory in Manhattan and crushed TCU 70-35. Once again, a single common opponent is all we have to go on, and Kansas State retains their status as the purplest team in the Big XII. TCU is relegated, and decides that they've had enough Big XII/C-USA shenannigans. They accept an offer to join the Mountain West Conference and go on to dominate that league in 1995.
Promotion from C-USA gets even more confusing. With C-USA champion Louisville having been in the Big XII for a few years under this rule system, the door opens for any number of teams to step up. Alabama-Birmingham, Cincinnati, Memphis, and Southern Miss all posted 5-3 records to tie for 2nd behind Louisville. In games between these four teams, UAB and Memphis both went 2-1, while the other schools went 1-2. On the strength of a head-to-head win against Memphis, UAB is up for potential promotion.
But hey, one of the relegated teams had a pretty good season too! Surely, winning a share of the Big XII north and missing a chance at the Big XII championship game on an OT Field Goal is Promotion worthy, right? Maybe not.
The one common opponent between the two schools was Baylor. And while ISU pulled out a one point thriller in Waco, UAB absolutely CRUSHED the Bears, 56-14. Sadly, ISU spends another year out in the wilderness. UAB gets the Promotion.
Promoted as of 2004: UAB, LOUISVILLE (Rest of B12 is same)
Relegated as of 2004: BAYLOR, IOWA STATE
Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2, when we'll check out from 2004 to today, and see how different our results are from Bill's.