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How the Conferences Should Look Like If Geography Mattered

Updated: Aug 6, 2023

With conference realignment once again coming into the forefront of college football fan’s minds, it led me to lament on how the concept of geography and rivalries are dying in favor of money. The favoritism towards money has led to making weird amalgamations of regions with no real rhyme or reason other than markets.


So, I went back and looked at the conferences I made in the NCAA Football 14 video game. My basis for this concept was that all of the Power 5 conferences would increase to sixteen teams each while also keeping it true to geography and rivalries. Along with each conference will be an explanation of the reasons for each school and the conference as a whole.


ACC


Cincinnati, Connecticut, Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Memphis, NC State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Temple, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia


In this model, the ACC understands that they can’t compete with the big boys in football due to the loss of their big football schools to the SEC. Thus, the conference goes all-in on basketball, much like the Big East. New additions include Cincinnati, UConn, Kentucky, Memphis, Temple, and West Virginia, while persuading Maryland to return to its roots. All of these schools, while having varied success in football, are primarily known as basketball schools.


Many may argue that Kansas should have been considered for the conference due to their historic success as a basketball school. However, Kansas is too far from the east coast and is more ingrained with the Big XII.


American


UCF, ECU, Rutgers, Marshall, Old Dominion


The American Conference was created basically as a reject conference anyway. So, why not embrace that concept? These five schools don’t really fit as independents, but also don’t really fit in any of the other conferences, so the American it is. If any schools wanted to come up from FCS the American would be one of the first conferences to take them. The American Conference could just as easily be renamed the Misfit Conference.


Big 12


Arkansas, Baylor, Houston, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, North Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Rice, SMU, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Tulsa


The Big XII basically brings together the original Big Eight and the Southwest Conference, with a few additions and subtractions.


In terms of schools that people argue should be included, Colorado fits more in the Pac-12 due to geography (ironic that they are moving back to the Big XII now in reality). Iowa State fits more in the Big Ten, as does Nebraska.


Added in place of Colorado, Iowa State, and Nebraska, is Tulsa along with North Texas to round out the sixteen members.


Big Ten


Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Toledo, Western Michigan, Wisconsin


The Big Ten is the conference that stays most true to their original members. The conference just simply adds more Midwest schools to round out the conference’s sixteen members. While the Big Ten receives the least in terms of schools added, the conference at least stays true to its original footprint.


For those screaming about Notre Dame, I will get to them. I think you know where I’m going with this.


Conference USA


FAU, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State, Southern Miss, UAB, UTEP, UTSA


Like the American Conference, Conference USA is another that just kind of gets the rejects. You’ll notice this theme when it comes to the Group of Five.


Independents


Army, Boston College, Navy, Notre Dame


These four schools just feel like the most independent schools out there.

Traditionally Army and Notre Dame have always seemed to go it alone. Navy seems like the exception in recent years, but they just feel better as an independent.


Boston College feels like one of those outlier schools that don’t really belong to any conference. Their connection with Notre Dame probably helps with this perception.


MAC


Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (OH), Northern Illinois, UMass


This Group of Five conference is the mix of lower-tier schools located in the Midwest & Northeast.


MWC


Air Force, Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, New Mexico State, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State, Wyoming


Like the MAC, the Mountain West is just a mix of the lower tier schools in their region out west.


Pac-12


Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State, BYU, Cal, Colorado, Colorado State, Hawaii, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State


Additions to the Pac-12 include Boise State, BYU, Colorado State, and Hawaii. Boise State due to their success in football. BYU also because of their success on the gridiron. Colorado State to add a rivalry with Colorado. Hawaii to add that state, plus they feel more fitting for the Pac-12 than the Mountain West. The Pac-12, like the Big Ten, doesn’t change a ton other than adding some smaller regional schools.


SEC


Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Miami, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Tulane, USF, Vanderbilt


The theme of the SEC happens to be the exact opposite of the ACC. The SEC goes all-in on football, adding Clemson, Florida State, and Miami due to the teams’ prowess and prestige on the gridiron.


To replace the SEC’s two losses in Kentucky and Arkansas, the conference adds an original member in Tulane along with USF. While some may say that UCF deserves the spot more than USF now, the Bulls have a larger stadium and just feel more like an SEC type team than UCF does.


Sun Belt


Arkansas State, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, South Alabama, Texas State, Troy, UL Lafayette, UL Monroe, Western Kentucky


The Sun Belt, up until recently, was the primary conference for schools moving up from the FCS. This stays basically the same in this realignment scenario, with these schools being the lower end schools in the south.


Final Thoughts


With realignment being so focused on money and markets over rivalries and geography, it’s time to get back to tradition and basics when it comes to conferences. These conferences would enhance the strength and tradition of college football and lead to a much better product in terms of conference games and rivalries.

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