Well, it took a little time, a little horse-trading, and a little hand wringing. But I figured out how to whittle down 120 schools in eleven conferences (not to mention those four pesky independents) to 100 in ten. So let's start with the easiest conferences to rejigger, or as I called them.....
Pacific Athletic Conference
Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, California, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State
This was the easiest of all. Ten schools, five natural pairings. The way it has been for 30 years-plus now. The PAC-10 has become the PAC-12 now, adding Utah and Colorado to the fold, which makes no sense to me whatsoever. Looking at what they already had, if they were going to add two more schools, why not pick schools in the same state that already have a natural rivalry? The most logical candidates in my opinion would've been Nevada and UNLV. The SI issue I talked about in the last post described the PAC-10 as 'trapped in amber.' Who says that's such a bad thing?
Big Ten Conference
Wisconsin, Ohio State, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa
Once again, tradition reigns. A conference calling itself the Big Ten should only have ten teams in it, right? Not eleven, not twelve. No 'Legends' and 'Leaders' divisions, either. Isn't that the dumbest thing you've ever heard? So adios to Penn State and Nebraska, we'll see them again later, when things get a little complicated.
South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana State, Auburn, Mississippi State, Mississippi
More tradition here, with only minimal pruning. Arkansas has never really fit into the SEC in my opinion, and jettisoning Vanderbilt means only a loss of an easy win and combined conference-wide GPA scores.
After that, things get a little..... complicated. In fact, some of this is all new. Here come the conferences that were....
West Virginia, Pittsburgh, South Florida, Syracuse, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Boston College, Penn State
I told you that you'd see Penn State again. In my opinion the Big East is one of the prime offenders in all of college athletics. 'Super-conference' doesn't even begin to describe them. In 2012, Texas Christian enters the Big East - in all sports. How wrong is that? One the one hand, while the Big East is trying to expand its football presence (the conference is trying to persuade Villanova to move its football program up to D1A as well), the addition of TCU to the conference makes seventeen member schools. Seventeen! That's just too damn many, folks. And besides - how is Fort Worth, Texas 'east?' No sense whatsoever. Dropping Cincinnati and adding Penn State and Notre Dame is just so much easier.
And what do mean, 'Notre Dame should always be independent?' Fine with me, if they want to play in D2, or maybe the CFL. Besides, Notre Dame competes in all other major sports as a member of - wait for it - the Big East.
Texas Athletic Conference
Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor, Houston, Southern Methodist, Texas Christian, Rice, Texas-El Paso, Oklahoma
This conference makes geographical sense. And should that retard Rick Perry take his ball and go home and Texas secedes from the Union, they could all go pro. Yeah, Oklahoma isn't in Texas, I know. But I don't want to break up the classic rivalries if I don't absolutely have to.
Mountain West Conference
Boise State, San Diego State, Utah State, San Jose State, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, UNLV, Fresno State, Brigham Young
The funny thing is, I think this is what the Mountain West wanted all along. This is pretty much the MWC as it will stand in 2012, albeit with Colorado State and the Air Force Academy out and BYU back from the wayward path of independence. While it was surprising to hear that BYU decided to take its football team independent, they do have something of a precedent for doing the unexpected: BYU's men's soccer team doesn't even play in the NCAA - instead, they play in the United Soccer Leagues' Premier Developmental League, the lowest tier of the US professional soccer pyramid.
Atlantic Coast Conference
Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Maryland, Wake Forest, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Duke
The only reasons the ACC is relevant in D1A football are FSU and Virginia Tech. This is a basketball conference plain-and-simple, and nobody is going to miss Boston College (back where they belong in the Big East) or Miami-FL (who knows where they could wind up - if they even survive past this year, with all that's being said about them) all that much.
Now things get really weird. Forty schools , thirty spots left: Who? Will? Survive?
Tulsa, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Colorado, Nebraska, Arkansas, Wyoming, Colorado State
This is where the clusterfuck really starts, with teams from four existing conferences merging into one new one. It's not like these are the dregs of the sport, the bottom of the proverbial barrel. But the Pokes up in Stillwater need a new rivalry game after I sacrificed the Bedlam Game for the Red River Rivalry, and the Golden Hurricane should do nicely. Adding Tulsa, Arkansas and Colorado State to the remains of what was once the Big Eight would make an interesting conference, though.
Ohio, Akron, Miami (OH), Kent State, Cincinnati, Bowling Green, Toledo, Northern Illinois, Ball State, Memphis
I probably could've gotten away with calling this the 'Ohio Athletic Conference', with six of the ten teams in the Buckeye State. The Bearcats of Cincinnati would dominate this conference, but at least it would a fairly easy travel schedule for everyone.
Great Atlantic Conference
Miami (FL), Tulane, Vanderbilt, Southern Mississippi, Central Florida, East Carolina, Marshall, Alabama-Birmingham, Temple
Yeah, this is the bottom of the barrel. But it's still not too shabby, though the issue of which team would dominate this conference would only be decided if and when Miami gets through the latest allegations of improper payments to players. Which I don't think it will, so the Hurricanes get to rebuild in the last stop before 1AA. Still, there are a lot of teams here with histories of pulling off the big upsets here, so I wouldn't sleep on this conference come playoff time.
So there's your hundred teams in ten conferences. Here's who got left out, and why:
Army, Navy, Air Force:
Patriotism aside, if you're that busy training the leaders of tomorrow, why bother with major-college athletics? Aside from a few seasons here and there, the service academies haven't been relevant since Army tore up the gridiron back in the 1940's with Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard. You're not going there to play football, you're going there to learn the fine arts of leading men into battle. If you must play football, drop down to D2 or D3, wherever the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine academies play.
Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan:
The only relevance that these schools have is that they've traditionally composed the bulk of Michigan's non-conference schedule. Enough said.
It's all about the money for the Warriors and Wahines. UH has the highest travel budget in all of college sports. Allow me to explain....
Get up at an ungodly hour in your dorm in Honolulu. Take the team bus to the airport. Fly to Los Angeles - five and a half hours. Wait how long for the connecting flight to Dallas? An hour at least? LA to the Metroplex - another two-and-a-half hours. Pile into the charter buses now, flying direct is too damn expensive. Four hours and change later, the buses pull into Ruston, Louisiana. The team got up at 3:00am for the flight, and left Honolulu at five, but after crossing four time zones in thirteen-plus hours of travel, the Warriors finally come to a stop in Louisiana at 10:00pm Central Time......
Now that only happens every other year for the football team. For most UH teams that compete in the Western Athletic Conference, they do it every year. When every road game requires a minimum of five to six hours in flight, that's just too damn much.
Idaho, New Mexico State:
Small, isolated, out of the way. That's about the only things Moscow, Idaho and Las Cruces, New Mexico have in common. Oh, and they also have universities playing in the WAC. NMSU has at least been there a while, but Idaho only got into D1A football a few years ago, and their stadium is still too small to qualify as a sufficient D1A venue under NCAA standards. How do I know this? When Idaho entered the process to prove that they could draw big enough crowds to meet D1A's minimum standards, they didn't play their home games in Moscow. Instead, they packed up the show and drove seven miles west, to play their games at Washington State's Martin Stadium - the smallest stadium by far in the PAC-10/12, but still more than twice the capacity of the ASUI Kibbie Dome back in Moscow. And the most damning thing for the Vandals? Want to know their first stop in D1A football? The Sun Belt. Case closed.
And what does New Mexico State have that should keep them in D1A? Aside from great chiles...... not much. Enjoy playing Texas State and Sam Houston State in 1AA. You might actually win once in a while down there. And last and least......
Sorry folks, but the Bisons are just the last folks to the party, the new hires if you will. Lack of seniority sends them back where they belong.
So there you have it - ten conferences, one hundred teams. And now for my next trick, I'll actually explain how the playoff system works - easily!