by John Walters
Six power conferences. Each have 12 schools. 72 is a wonderful number (not quite as beautiful as 64, but close). We’ll leave the divisions up to someone else, but ideally each school plays 8 intra-conference games (5 in division, 3 outside) and 4 non-conference games. The fans win, as these conferences do their best to respect tradional placements while putting a premium on geographic proximity, which is what makes the sport so appealing to its fans (and yes, Notre Dame remains an independent).
Before you say this could never work, consider this: If the below were the existing framework and someone suggested, as an improvement, the construct of conferences that is currently in place in reality, would anyone go for it? No.
Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina, UCF, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Granted, this is more like the South Atlantic Coast Conference, but at least it is comprised entirely of schools whose states are located along the Atlantic Coast. Wild, right? The ACC stretches no farther north than Charlottesville. We hate to lose the Terps, but they’re needed to make the Big East more robust. UCF has the nation’s highest enrollment and is located in Orlando. A sleeping giant that has already been roused.
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Minnesota, Wisconsin
The Hawkeyes’ in-state rival joins the conference, and orphaned Louisville, which never belonged in the ACC, finds a home. Recall, the ‘ville is located just across the Ohio River from Indiana. Louisville, Kentucky and Cincy probably all belong in the same conference, but which one? Until anyone figures that out, we’re parceling them out to foster homes.
Baylor, Colorado, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech
Welcome back to four emigres whose return is sorely needed. This is truly a powerhouse conference now.
Army, Boston College, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Maryland, Navy, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, West Virginia
People say the Northeast lacks enough powerhouse schools after Penn State, but no one has ever accused this region of being lacking in prep talent. Let’s keep some of them home by placing all the best schools from this quadrant, the most densely populated part of the nation, in one conference. Every school is within driving distance from NYC, the media epicenter of the nation. And having Army and Navy gives the conference immediate national prominence.
Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State
The University of Colorado is located EAST of the Rockies. There’s a reason they refer to it as the Continental Divide. Sub out CU, insert BYU, and now you have five states, each with at least two schools and each school with an organic rival.
Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee, USF, Vanderbilt
From an unwieldy 14 schools back to 12. Eliminate the Texas footprint and accentuate the Florida footprint. Tampa is a recruiting hot bed. We’d have no major problem with adding FAU instead, but for now, USF.