I’ve written about this a few times, but as the college football landscape keeps changing, that will change what realignment solutions make sense. Some of the conference additions and subtractions do make a bit of sense, and there is no reason to cause new problems unnecessarily.
One of the more noticeable things about the alignment going into next season is the number of new independents. Before BYU left the Mountain West to become independent, there were only three independent programs: Army, Navy, and Notre Dame.
The independents swell to 7 programs this season. Idaho and New Mexico St. were left without conferences when the WAC folded and no one picked them up, and Old Dominion joined the FBS as a transitional team. (Fewer than half of its games this season will take place against other FBS teams.)
Old Dominion is scheduled to join Conference USA (and I believe this is the move that makes the most sense anyway), but the CUSA will have an uneven number of teams next season as it awaits the development of UNC-Charlotte’s football team.
I mentioned last year that the absence of the WAC left a bit of a vacuum out West, and I believe this is still true despite SMU and Houston joining the former Big East (now AAC) and despite Mountain West expansion.
The only change I would make to the Mountain West is I would replace New Mexico with Idaho. New Mexico is admittedly a more traditional team to be playing Air Force and Colorado St., but I don’t think that’s the natural place for them. Idaho is a better fit with the rest of the Mountain division: Boise St., Utah St., and Wyoming. New Mexico also fits a lot better into my proposed Big West/Sunbelt/WAC conference:
Rice (currently CUSA)
Texas El Paso (currently CUSA)
Texas San Antonio (currently CUSA)
New Mexico St.
Louisiana Tech (currently CUSA)
So that’s 4 Texas schools, 2 New Mexico schools (one of which is about 20 minutes’ drive from Texas), and 3 Louisiana schools. That’s why it’s so much more fitting for New Mexico than it is for Idaho. Also, it would be much more conceivable for New Mexico to finish with a winning record.
This is what Conference USA would look like in 2015:
|Eastern Division||Western Division|
|Florida Atlantic||Alabama Birmingham|
|Florida International||South Alabama*|
|Middle Tennessee||Arkansas St.*|
|Old Dominion||Western Kentucky**|
*currently Sun Belt
**Western Kentucky is playing in its last season in the Sun Belt and will already join CUSA next season.
If you think I missed a few Sun Belt teams, North Texas, Middle Tennessee, Florida Atlantic, and Florida International are all playing their first respective seasons in the CUSA right now. UT-San Antonio and Louisiana Tech are also playing their first respective seasons in the CUSA, but I think the give and take might work out if it’s something like what I presented. I know the conference big wigs aren’t going to read this and change everything tomorrow, but moving toward something like this would be a viable long-term plan for the respective schools and conferences. I’m not sure how all the legalities work, but whatever the new conference is called could conceivably be a successor to the Sun Belt.
The major conferences may be fairly set for right now, as moves have been made to secure programs’ television rights even if they join new conferences in the future, but I think there may be some changes where two conferences can simply work it out and the TV requirements could be waived for the right price. Maybe there will be some trades like what I’m suggesting above for the more minor conferences.
Apart from SEC scheduling, the main thing that doesn’t make sense to me in the major conferences right now is we still have a 10-team Big XII and not too far from Morgantown, West Virginia, (which is not anywhere near other Big XII campuses) there are two schools you may have heard of called Cincinnati and Louisville. Cincinnati may be relatively easy to recruit since it’s in the AAC (the former Big East) rather than in the process of joining the ACC like Louisville is. But it would seem to me that Connecticut (another AAC school) would be a better fit in the ACC anyway. They’re a natural rival with Boston College and Syracuse and at least a historical rival with Pittsburgh (if you’re out of the loop, Syracuse and Pitt are also joining the ACC). I would also hope the ACC would consider a more logical approach to their divisional alignment.
I know Louisville won the national championship in basketball, but I can’t imagine that Connecticut wouldn’t be just as good of a long-term possibility in that sport (with multiple championships in recent years). Connecticut only recently started having a major football team, but that program could be just as good as Louisville’s also. There is also the matter of Connecticut possibly driving TV revenue in the New York area. I can’t imagine that the ACC would require too much money in order to go along with something of this nature.