Michigan Museday: Expansion Universalis Comment Count

Seth September 21st, 2011 at 12:26 PM


According to like everybody, college presidents and conference executives are at it again, carving up the BCS landscape before they themselves get carved like a particularly bloody game of Europa Universalis. [ed: this has to be the only sports blog in the universe with not one but two references to EU.] So long as the Big Ten doesn't end up in the NHL's slot among four pro leagues, I don't care that much.

isuwrestlingPlaying Devil's advocate, I think I understand why people do care. The going meme is we're headed for 16-team conferences because they get bigger TV deals, and if you don't get your Mizzous now while the gettin' is good, the Big Ten will eventually find itself holding a press conference to extoll the virtues of Iowa State wrestling. I don't see Iowa State's value as an umpteenth member being worth an umpteenth share of BTN. That's hardly stopping ADs and conferences from playing war games.

Even if the ACC, PacX and SEC expand to 16 teams, they only match the star power at the top of the Big Ten. Michigan-Ohio State-Nebraska-Penn State and friends (in football) is still a bigger deal than FSU-Miami-Notre Dame and friends, still a bigger deal than Texas-USC-Oklahoma and friends, and holds up against Bama and the Holy Southern Empire except for that one century when Bama's friends are all like AUSTRRIIAAAAAAA!!!!!

Most recently it's the ACC invading Syracuse and Pitt to shore up defenses in case of an SEC attack, while SEC armies jump around out east trying to balance Texas A&M. West Virginia's doing the thing where the girl tells her friend to tell UConn to tell Dooley that the SEC kinda sorta maybe already asked her out. Missouri's all like hey, I invented that gambit!

That's not 16-team leagues, the mega-conference endpoint doomsday scenario. It's closer to it than we were when the ACC broke the pax conferenca to grab VT, Miami, and BC.

What was way more more nerve-wracking was the Pac 12 looking for a casus belli to annex Texas and Oklahoma (plus respective vassals Okie State and Texas Tech). LonghornNetworkCartoonBut late last night the Pac 12 looked at a world where they've annexed Texas, and decided to remain 12—crisis averted.

Today there are zero 16-team conferences. The SEC and ACC may get to 14 soon, unless the latter is grabbing territories to make up for one it expects to lose. Remnants of the Big East and Big XII may meet to form something out of their remaining members that's not quite a BCS conference, but that will only happen if Texas and Oklahoma leave, and would end up around 10 or 11.

I disagree with those who say it's going to ruin college football; college football is awesome and will continue being such until they don't put wings on helmets anymore. But it can make college football suck significantly more by redefining conferences as massive corporations with stock options. Eight to 10 teams is a group of similar schools that expand their students' networks, share research, and organize sporting events. By Twelve it's more of a leauge than a conference. At fourteen it becomes stupid -- you are now in a "conference" with teams you don't play most years.

I don't even know how to balance a schedule with 6 division opponents, 7 cross-divisional opponents, and 9 conference games. Teams will undoubtedly have six-year intervals without playing each other at all. If they started in 2012, Pitt could see FSU at home six times between now and 2043. This is about how often Michigan plays UCLA.

Now would be a great time for the NCAA to grow a pair and replace its current president with a Caesar-like lifetime commissioner, for other reasons too (get compliance in order), but because that's the only way the not-quite-finished realignment cycle will be finished with other goals than a pressing TV deal in mind.

If you choose to click through past the jump, I've put together a pair of concepts for a workable NCAA league just in case this stuff all blows up like they're saying. Only go if you're into that sort of thing.

META Note: This space was meant to be a study on Mattison's rush tendencies versus GERG last year and their effectiveness. However the EMU game offered next to no data on the pass rush and present info from 3/4 of a Western game and a balls-out ND game are nowhere near enough to talk yet.

Concept One: Four-Conference League


Concept One cuts out the mid-majors (and five former BCS teams) entirely, forming four major conferences that compete for their own N.C. From one perspective this is a horrible thing to do to college kids competing for a national championship. From another, it's long overdue since 120 teams with vast differences in institutional firepower and schedule difficulty competing for one trophy using 12 insular games is no way to run a league. To say it shouldn't be a league but a bunch of regional conferences providing amateur programs for the purpose of educating people I agree; it's not that or ever going to be that again.

Likewise, if the other conferences get huge, there is no reason that the Big Ten need add four more teams (it works as well with 56 teams as 60) but I'm going to pretend they do just to show how this works.

Basics: Four mega-conferences of 16 teams, each broken up into 8-team leagues and 4-team divisions within that.

Season Structure (11 games):

  • Two nonconference games scheduled at discretion of the teams.
  • Three conference games versus divisional opponents.
  • One conference game versus dedicated rival within league (opposite division)*
  • One conference game versus rotating team within league (opposite division)*
  • Four conference games against teams in a division from opposite league

* These are optional. Conferences could play 7-game conference seasons and rotate between the other three divisions every year, or 8-game conferences with everyone getting a dedicated rival.

Postseason Structure:

  • Conference Playoffs, Round 1: The best division winner plays the worst division winner they haven't played. Other two division winners play each other.
  • Conference Playoffs, Round 2: Round 1 winners play each other to determine conference champ
  • Playoff, Round 1: Best conference winner plays worst conference winner. Other two play each other.
  • National Championship: Round 1 winners play each other to determine National Champ.
  • Bowl Games for non-playoff teams and those eliminated in the Conf. Playoffs.


I am not at all married to this. It's just for show:


Atlantic Carolina Northwest Southeast
Maryland North Carolina State Boston College Clemson
Virginia Wake Forest Pittsburgh Florida State
Virginia Tech Duke Syracuse Georgia Tech
Connecticut North Carolina Notre Dame Miami FL

Type One Rotation: Nine conference games, three division rivals plus rotate schedule every two years between other six conference foes. Example: ND spends 2 years playing BC, Pitt & Cuse, plus Clemson, FSU, and the Carolina Division. Then they rotate to BC, Pitt & Cuse, plus GT, Miami, and the Atlantic division for 2 years:


Green=every year; Yellow=2012-'13, 2016-'17, 2020-'21, etc.; Blue=2014-'15, 2018-'19, 2022-'23, etc.


  Harmon Horvath Rodgers Kinnick
Pod 1 Michigan Ohio State Northwestern Minnesota
Pod 2 Michigan State Penn State Missouri Iowa State
Pod 3 Indiana Rutgers Kansas Wisconsin
Pod 4 Purdue Illinois Nebraska Iowa

Type Two Rotation: Three dedicated rivals, each from a different division. Play your division, plus rotating division in other league, plus the other two dedicated rivals every year. Michigan plays MSU, Indiana, Purdue, OSU, NW, and Minnesota every year, and rotates every other year between PSU/Rutgers/Illinois, Mizzou/Kansas/Neb, or Iowa St/Iowa/Wisconsin.


Green=every year; Blue=2012-'13, Yellow=2014-'15, Red=2016-'17, then back to blue, etc.


Calif. PacNW Rockies Cowboy
California Oregon Texas Arizona
Stanford Oregon State Boise State Arizona State
UCLA Washington Colorado Oklahoma
USC Washington State Utah Oklahoma State

Type Three Rotation: Three divisional opponents plus four league opponents, plus one team from each of the divisions in the other league. Example: Cal plays all of its old Pac 8 opponents every year. For two years they also play Texas and Zona. Then they play Boise St and Ariz St for two years. Then Colorado and Okla for two years, etc. Note that this way Texas plays Oklahoma every year (and travels to Boise St every other, like that would ever happen) but only sees USC 1/4 years.


Green=every year; Blue=2012-'13; Yellow=2014-'15; Red=2016-'17; Taupe=2018-'19, repeat.


EAST League WEST League
East Central West Delta
West Virginia Auburn Texas Tech Arkansas
Florida Tennessee Texas A&M LSU
Georgia Vanderbilt Kentucky Mississippi
South Carolina Alabama TCU Mississippi State

Type Four Rotation (10 conf games). Each team has two dedicated rivals from the opposite division. Every other year you switch off playing one or the other division in the opposite league and one or the other non-rival from the other division in your league. Example: Tennessee plays Auburn, Vandy, Bama, Georgia and Florida every year. Every two years they switch between WVa. and the Delta division, or S.C. and the West division.


Green=every year; Blue=2012-'13; Yellow=2014-'15, repeat

Concept Two: Tier System

Basics: Five conferences of 24 teams. Within each conference are two tiers. The top tier plays for a national championship, the bottom tier plays to get into the top tier next year.

Season Structure:

  • One exhibition game scheduled at discretion of the teams. May be used to play an FCS opponent. This game may not be counted in rankings or stats. Teams may also skip the exhibition game and have a bye week if they choose.
  • One nonconference game scheduled at discretion of the teams.
  • One game versus opponent from other tier. Teams schedule these themselves so like Iowa and Iowa St can choose to play each other every year; M/MSU can trade off playing Western/Central every other year. Game is always played at UPPER tier's stadium. Last year's Lower Tier conference champion may choose their Upper Tier opponent.
  • Nine conference games versus tier opponents. Conferences are responsible for fairly managing their schedules

Postseason Structure:

  • Conference Showcase: The participants in the Conf. Showcase will vary based on the progression of the season. The point is to generate a clear conference champion. If a clear conference champion of the Upper Tier is already available, that team will play the best (by BCS rating) team in its conference's lower tier. If there's a 3- or 4-way tie atop a conference's top tier, the conference may use its own process to choose two teams to play in its Conf. Championship.
  • Six-Team Playoff Tier One: Five conference champions plus one At-Large. Best two BCS teams get a bye week. See Brian's playoff concept.
  • Six-Team Playoff Tier Two: Five conference champions plus one At-Large. Best two teams get a bye week.
  • Bowl Games for non-playoff teams.

Competitive Tiers:

The Lower Tier Champion will receive an autobid to replace the worst Tier 1 team in its conference for the following season. Conferences may also choose to bid-up a Lower Tier team to replace one of its Upper Tier teams. When a team from the Lower Tier is raised, the conferences decide for themselves which team will be lowered into the Lower Tier.


Managed by: Big Ten

Team State Former Conf Team State Former Conf
Illinois IL Big Ten Akron OH MAC
Indiana IN Big Ten Ball State IN MAC
Iowa IA Big Ten Bowling Green OH MAC
Michigan MI Big Ten Central Michigan MI MAC
Michigan State MI Big Ten Cincinnati OH Big East
Minnesota MN Big Ten Iowa State IA Big XII
Northwestern IL Big Ten Kent State OH MAC
Notre Dame IN Independent Miami OH OH MAC
Ohio State OH Big Ten Northern Illinois IL MAC
Penn State PA Big Ten Ohio OH MAC
Purdue IN Big Ten Toledo OH MAC
Wisconsin WI Big Ten Western Michigan MI MAC

Managed by: ACC

Team State Former Conf Team State Former Conf
Boston College MA ACC Army NY Independent
Clemson SC ACC Buffalo NY MAC
Georgia Tech GA ACC Connecticut CT Big East
Maryland MD ACC Duke NC ACC
North Carolina NC ACC East Carolina NC C-USA
North Carolina State NC ACC Marshall WV C-USA
Pittsburgh PA Big East Massachusetts MA MAC ('12)
South Carolina SC SEC Navy MD Independent
Syracuse NY Big East Rutgers NJ Big East
Virginia VA ACC Temple PA MAC
Virginia Tech VA ACC UCF FL C-USA
West Virginia WV Big East Wake Forest NC ACC

Changes: Massachusetts raised to FBS, Eastern Michigan lowered to FCS. Other FCS schools currently transitioning will have to apply to a Conference and replace a team already there.

Managed by: Big XII Conference

Team State Former Conf Team State Former Conf
Baylor TX Big XII Houston TX C-USA
Colorado CO Pac12 Louisiana Tech LA WAC
Kansas KS Big XII Louisiana-Lafayette LA Sun Belt
Kansas State KS Big XII Louisiana-Monroe LA Sun Belt
Missouri MO Big XII New Mexico NM MtnWest
Nebraska NE Big Ten New Mexico State NM WAC
Oklahoma OK Big XII North Texas TX Sun Belt
Oklahoma State OK Big XII Rice TX C-USA
TCU TX MtnWest Southern Methodist TX C-USA
Texas TX Big XII Tulane LA C-USA
Texas A&M TX Big XII Tulsa OK C-USA

Managed by: SEC

Team State Former Conf Team State Former Conf
Alabama AL SEC Arkansas State AR Sun Belt
Arkansas AR SEC Florida Intl FL Sun Belt
Auburn AL SEC Florida Atlantic FL Sun Belt
Florida FL SEC Louisville KY Big East
Florida State FL ACC Memphis TN C-USA
Georgia GA SEC Middle Tennessee TN Sun Belt
Kentucky KY SEC South Florida FL Big East
LSU LA SEC Southern Miss MS C-USA
Miami FL FL ACC Troy AL Sun Belt
Mississippi MS SEC UAB AL C-USA
Mississippi State MS SEC Vanderbilt TN SEC
Tennessee TN SEC Western Kentucky KY Sun Belt

Managed by: Pac12

Team State Former Conf Team State Former Conf
Arizona AZ Pac12 Air Force CO MtnWest
Arizona State AZ Pac12 Brigham Young UT Independent
Boise State ID MtnWest Colorado State CO MtnWest
California CA Pac12 Fresno State CA WAC
Oregon OR Pac12 Hawaii HI WAC
Oregon State OR Pac12 Idaho ID WAC
Stanford CA Pac12 Nevada NV WAC
UCLA CA Pac12 San Diego State CA MtnWest
USC CA Pac12 San Jose State CA WAC
Utah UT Pac12 UNLV NV MtnWest
Washington WA Pac12 Utah State UT WAC
Washington State WA Pac12 Wyoming WY MtnWest

Mid-major teams joining Top Tier: Boise State, TCU

BCS teams in Lower Tier: Iowa State, UConn, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Louisville, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest

Weird things: Penn State, Colorado, Georgia, and South Florida are all in conferences apart from other schools in their states. This was to preserve existing conference rivalries for those schools while keeping the conferences evenly sized and generally competitively balanced. I'm not married to these alignments.

Srsly pissed off u guys people: Everyone who realigned over the last few years. Wake Forest, which used to be competitive in the ACC and is suddenly a mid-major for like no reason WTF is that all about? Big East teams who thought the Big East made them BCS teams.

Srsly happy people: Boise State. The Big XII teams that would have been left homeless (Mizzou, Kansas, K-state, Baylor) – they get everything back mostly the way it was except they traded TCU for Iowa State.

Sample Michigan Schedule:

Week 1: Eastern Michigan (exhibition)
Week 2: Notre Dame (conf1)
Week 3: Western Michigan (Tier2conf)
Week 4: SDSU (non-conference)
Week 5: Minnesota (conf2)
Week 6: @Northwestern (conf3)
Week 7: @Michigan State (conf4)
Week 8: Purdue (conf5)
Week 9: @Iowa (conf6)
Week 10: @Illinois (conf7)
Week 11: Indiana (conf 8)
Week 12: Ohio State (conf 9)
Great Lakes Showcase (Indianapolis): Michigan (10-1) vs. Penn State (10-1)
Playoff Week 1: Nebraska (at Large)
Playoff Week 2: @Oklahoma (Central Champ)
National Championship: Michigan vs. Alabama in Rose Bowl

Something like this will never happen: The way college football really works is more like the lunchroom of a middle school than a competitive athletic league.



September 21st, 2011 at 1:05 PM ^

I actually would not mind a relegation style league similar to European soccer. It also allows the smaller schools in the Tier two to compete for their own championship (like the Coca Cola league when compared to the BPL) and for the right to move up.


However, my question is why just one team relegated/promoted? Why not say two?


September 22nd, 2011 at 10:26 AM ^

that was actually part of my original proposal.

The winner of the Lower Tier would get an auto-bid to the higher tier the next year. During the offseason, the conference would designate one last-place team from the Upper Tier to move down, and one at-risk team (2nd worst). The at-risk team and the loser of the Lower Tier championship game would play a game at the beginning of the season to determine which one of them gets to play the following season in the top league (this would be played during the week that you have to play a lower-tier team).

This got into a bunch of problems though, like Western Michigan riding a few games at the end of the season against MAC teams and Indiana into having Nebraska and Ohio State and Penn State playing in in K-zoo but not playing EMU at all, while a single bad year from Michigan could get us into a season where we're visiting MAC schools the following year. Imagine if 2009 had to be played in the MAC. No MSU game, and Ohio State the only Big Ten team we face (at Ohio State, not at home).

This is why it would never happen. The Big House is made for Big Ten football -- having Michigan or Oklahoma or Texas or Alabama or Penn State or USC play a season as a mid-major is just plain bad business for NCAA.


September 21st, 2011 at 1:10 PM ^

Unfortunately the second people hear "pod" or "tier" they will recoil in horror and confusion.  The line about this being the system designed for the 50s is dead-on.  At best, we can hope for gradual reform. 

Megaconferences MIGHT be a step towards a better system, or they might be a step towards the system eventually blowing up.  Either outcome is a long way off.  For now, it's basically going to be the same thing as it has been - and that's not really terrible for CFB fans.

M Go Snacks

September 21st, 2011 at 1:26 PM ^

Yes; this is the only sports blog to ever mention Europa Universalis. It's also the first mass-audience anything to mention Europa Universalis. But dear god is that one of the best games ever created... if you're in to 2d graphics and running the government of a country over many centuries. I know that's not everybodies thing.


September 21st, 2011 at 3:45 PM ^

14 team conferences will hopefully bring around 10 game conference schedules.  8 games is just silly for a 14 team conf.

So then you have 6 games vs. division teams, 3 cross division rotational opponents, and 1 protected cross division rivalry game.  It can basically turn into an every other year deal.  More conference games = better matchups and less MACtion.  You can still schedule 2 bodybags. Everybody wins (except for the Sun Belt, CUSA, and MAC)


September 21st, 2011 at 4:14 PM ^


I like it. The relagation thing would bother and confuse a helluva lot of people. Too european, especially for some people we could talk about. 

What I like:

* Gives Notre Old Dame the special consideration due their actual achievements on the field. None. When they're the winningest program in history, I'll think about it.

I've had enough of this Disney fairy tale world they want us all to live in. Knute's dead, get over it.

* Actually gives most of the schools that play football and somehow didn't pay--to-play in the Bogus Championship Series so they could be automatic qualifiers, whether qualified or not, a chance - chance mind you - to maybe compete for a national championship.

The college sports world is changing. Just as ND no longer deserves the special place in the sun it never deserved in the 1st place; schools like Boise, TCU, USF, who knows, that nobody ever heard of (or didn't exist) when ND was maybe/kinda good will continue to emerge as national population demographics change.

Championships should be won on the field. Butler and Gonzaga play D1 Bball with the same rights and chance to play for a championship as everybody else in D1. Football should be the same.

But I'm old school. (Can we bring back Chicago? I really miss playing the Old Maroon.)

I like the Big10/12 the way it is. We're the only conference thinking about academics and culture in all this. Except maybe the Ivy League.

That means something. It's one reason our schools are so big, why we have some many alumni. Our degress mean something. Our brand means something. We're not watching future felons running around winning at any cost and hoping not to get some slap on the wrist compliance sanctions. (You listening Ohio?).

The world's changing. We don't want to become irrelevant, like the Ivy, by holding on too much to our traditions. But playing Rutgers, TCU, or Whoever U (in any sport) just because they fit in some TV land footprint or were gonna get swooped up by a prison team conference? No thanks. 

16's just a random number. Besides 42 is the answer to Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything anyway.

We are the Big 10. 

Just my $.02


September 21st, 2011 at 6:08 PM ^

Great thought experiment on the direction our current system could go.  It's unlikely any of this would ever happen with the amount of money dedicated to keeping the status quo, but it would be great to have a system that produces its national champion(s?) in a more objective way.

Blue Durham

September 21st, 2011 at 7:40 PM ^

I have seen a similar system in use elsewhere (totally different sport and situation).  One caveat to be considered.  In the post-season, the winner of the lower tier plays the bottom team of the upper tier for the place in the upper tier.  This gives a chance to the bottom team to keep its place.

This is a great way to include rather than exclude all of the secondary conferences, and ultimately, is a system of merit.  Isn't that what sports is supposed to be all about?

Misopogon for comissar of the NCAA?  Would it pay better than MGoBlog?



September 21st, 2011 at 11:07 PM ^

If I have to give up "the way it used to be", I prefer a more simple old school baseball style format.  Four 20 team mega conferences. All other teams make what ever conferences they want. Yea to keeping the WAC, MWC, MAC.

Each mega conference is broken into two 10 team divisions.

You play a 9 game season against your division opponents.

The two winners of the divisions play each other for the conference championship.

There is then an 8 team playoff.

The 8 teams are comprised of:

- 4 conference champions automatically in

- 4 other slots are at large made up of:

- 2 highest ranked from the 4 major conferences

- 2 additional slots for at large teams. These can come from any conference and are based on top rankings. 

This is as legal as the current BCS system.  It provides a playoff. It's simple. It makes sense. It won't happen.