Let’s just say I hypothetically found a lot of dirt on a lot of important U.S. figures and the government said that I can have $20 million to keep my mouth shut or I can be solely in charge of college football. I chose to fix college football.
Obviously none of this will happen, but someone decided to give me a day off of work, so I had to do this or else I would’ve gone insane.
Take the top 128 teams in the sport (sorry Akron, Arkansas State, FIU, New Mexico State, UCONN and UMASS) and make two new 64-team leagues. Break-up from there into four 16-team conferences (Southeast, Northeast, Central, Wild West,) broken into eight-team divisions based off of perfect geography.
Unless you went to Iowa, basic math shows eight divisions within each league. Now this is where the fun begins: in League I, the last-place team in every division gets relegated into League II and the winner of each division in League II gets promoted to League I.
For example, if Memphis wins the Southeast Conference North and Texas gets last in the SEC West, they will switch places and Texas will spend the next year playing road games in Conway, SC and Murfreesboro, TN. There is a division numbered one-through-eight in both leagues, and they are paired up as sister divisions.
Ideally, this would go into effect in all of college football, all the way down to what is now Division III, but that would be an insane amount of work. However, just picture Kansas playing a Saturday afternoon game against Simpson College after last place finishes five years in a row.
Each team plays two non-conference games, a seven-game round robin within their division and three cross-division games for a 12 game regular season. One of the cross-division games would be set up similar to the NFL, where each team plays the team identical in the standings in the other Division (1v1, 2v2, 3v3...) The other two games will be picked by the almighty Supreme Chancellor of College Football (me) based on whatever I want.
For example, Iowa State’s opponents would include Iowa, Kansas, Kansas State, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin every single year along with two cross-division games and the winner of the Old Big Ten + Catholics Division.
In this version of college football, division championships mean more than conference championships, so there is no conference championship game.
The top-16 teams in the sport will be the top-two finishers in each division based entirely off of conference record, seeded by the BCS computer (this incentivizes teams to schedule marquee non-conference matchups so they can get a higher seed. I.e. a five-point loss to Alabama outweighs a 40-point win over Bowling Green) The playoff is obviously seeded with 1v16, 2v15, 3v14 and the first round and quarterfinals are played on the higher seed’s field. Semifinals and finals are played in different spots each year.
Now let’s see how the geography lined up the divisions.
The Bible Belt (1)
Alabama, Arkansas, Houston, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas, Texas A&M
The Waffle House Division (2)
Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami (FL), Tennessee, UCF
The toughest decision I had in this entire article came with Alabama. I had two choices; 1.) respect the geographic integrity or 2.) break up the Iron Bowl. I decided to go with option one, because in order to make the sport great, I have to do what the NCAA would never do, have integrity. If Alabama and Auburn want to play that bad, they are more than welcome to schedule the Iron Bowl as one of their non-conference games. Plus, this keeps Alabama and Georgia out of the same division, which prevents complaining down the road.
The conference is fun because you combine tradition that’s past it’s prime in Texas and Tennessee with tradition that’s in it’s prime with Alabama and Georgia. On top of that, you have sleeping giants in UCF and Houston playing against teams in their geographic footprint.
13 original colonies minus Ohio (3)
Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Penn State, Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia
Blue Grass and Tobacco Road (4)
Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Outside of separating Penn State from normal conference foes, this conference was pretty straight forward. Keeping all of the Carolina schools with the Virginia schools was a no-brainer and then pairing former rivals Pitt and West Virginia is great for the sport. This conference adds some potential awesome rivalries in the northern division between Cincinnati, Penn State, Pitt and West Virginia.
Old Big Ten + Catholics (5)
Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue
The Louisiana Purchase (6)
Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin
This conference is just beautiful. There wasn’t a single tough decision in making these divisions. The Louisiana Purchase division would represent everything that makes college football great: beer, natural rivalries and cold weather.
Selfishly, this would be great for Iowa State, as it would reunite the Cyclones with the mouth-breathing Cornhuskers out west. The longest trip for Iowa State to make in-division would be Kansas State, which is currently Iowa State’s second-shortest trip in the Big 12.
In the east, you add Notre Dame to what is effectively the current Big 10 east which would pair them with Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State which is must-see TV.
The Wild West
The Dessert (7)
Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech
The Wild West After Dark (8)
BYU, Cal, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington
Unfortunately I had to break up Oklahoma and Texas which was tough to do because of all they’ve done for the sport, but if they would like to continue the Red River Rivalry, they will have to schedule it themselves.
There’s nothing too crazy about this conference, it gets the Arizona schools away from the liberal current Pac 12 schools, which is exactly what they want and then adds Colorado back with two of their Big 8 foes. BYU joins old rival Utah and the remaining Pac 12 teams.
Coastal Carolina, Charlotte, East Carolina, Georgia State, Jacksonville State, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, UAB
Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern, Louisiana, South Alabama, South Florida, Southern Miss, Troy, Tulane
Army, Boston College, Buffalo, James Madison, Navy, Old Dominion, Rutgers, Temple
Appalachian State, Bowling Green, Kent State, Liberty, Marshall, Miami, Ohio, Toledo
Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, North Dakota State, Northern Illinois, Western Kentucky, Western Michigan, Vanderbilt
Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Rice, Sam Houston State, SMU, Texas State, UTSA
The Wild West
Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Tulsa, New Mexico, Utah State, UTEP, Wyoming
Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon State, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV, Washington State
Obviously this will never happen, but it SHOULD. Tradition and rivalries are the backbone of college athletics. Fan bases should hate the other fan bases in their conference. Fans should be able to make a day trip to any road game in their division. There should be border wars and in-state rivalries. There should be full stadiums and trophy games, they are priceless.
Money has made the sport unrecognizable, and it will never return. But if for some reason, someone important wants to make college football great again, they should use this layout.