One conference. Sixty-one teams. All the football.
Is realignment done? The Big XII is bouncing around the idea of making their conference even more mid-major than it stands now. Meanwhile the Big Ten's TV deals are all up very soon, so there's a chance to lock in oodles and oodles of money that won't come again. Why not go on one last expansion binge now to really set the market and ensure our conference's survival and fan interest in an uncertain future?
Here's my suggestion:
1. Rename. We're not 10 schools anymore, and this is confusing. I suggest the Big Ten rebrand as THE BIG SIX. The six shall refer to the six divisions, many of which have "Big" in their titles. Also since anything more than 11 teams is really a league not a conference, we'll call this the BIG SIX LEAGUE and the divisions can be called "conferences."
2. Expand. Here are the teams I'd add to the
conference league, and how I'd break them up into divisions conferences of 10 or 11 teams based on shared geography, program culture, and history:
Midwest Conference ("The Big Ten"): Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota
Northeast Conference ("The Big East"): Penn State, Syracuse, Boston College, Pitt, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Maryland
Atlantic Coast Conference ("The ACC"): Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, NC State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, South Carolina, Miami (YTM), Louisville
Southeast Conference ("The SEC")*: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, Arkansas, Kentucky
The Plains Conference ("The Big XII"): Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas, Nebraska, Mizzou, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Colorado
- Pacific Conference ("The Pac Ten"): Washington, Washington State, Oregon State, Oregon, Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State
*The SEC is the only 11-team conference to start
These divisions can have nicknames like "Big Ten" or "Big East." To ensure no more crazy realignment, every team must affirm a six-year commitment at the beginning of every season (i.e. there's a six-year waiting period if you want to leave). No conference can expand past 11; any joining school must get a 2/3rds majority of votes from the league, and unanimous support from its conference.
3. The Schedule. Every school plays all of its division opponents plus three from the other five conferences (scheduled as two-year home and homes), for 12 games total (since the SEC has 11 teams they play just two non-conference opponents). Six must be at home and six away, and no more than five conference games can be home. Cross-conference schools may contract with each other to schedule these in advance, with any holes filled in by the league two years prior.
Every team is allowed to schedule one pre-season exhibition (the Rich Rod plan), but it will not count toward that team's record for determining final postseason ranking. Every league game (not just division record) however will count toward winning your division. League play begins the week after Labor Day, and must conclude by the last Saturday of November.
4. Conference Championship Playoff. I would replace the conference championship game with a six-team conference playoff between the division winners.
The first round is played at the home of the higher-ranked (determined by committee) school in early December, with the two top teams getting a bye.
The second round is played Christmas Day at the Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl, with the two winners of the first round versus two teams that earned byes (highest overall seed selects its venue).
The championship is played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on January 1. The third place game is played at the Fiesta Bowl. Any school eliminated from the Final Four is free to play in any bowl game against any opponent (in or out of the league), regardless of final record.
5. Make Appropriate Hand Gestures Toward NCAA. The league shall declare its own rules superior to any made by the NCAA, and choose to ignore any NCAA rule. The league will make its own rules, specifically regarding appropriate compensation for its athletes (for example lifetime medical benefits, performance bonuses, league-approved player agents, and pay), and recruiting rules. Member schools will no longer be directly responsible to NCAA enforcement. The commissioner of this league shall be selected by the athletes, and will hold veto power.
6. What I did there. You see it. Good.