My Big Ten Realignment Proposal

Submitted by Seth on July 27th, 2015 at 2:00 PM

college football realignment

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.


Newton Gimmick

July 27th, 2015 at 2:38 PM ^

Those schools would have made six-team playoffs in the past 7-8 years.

Might as well make all the conferences 11 teams:


Plains: Add Baylor and TCU, subtract Iowa St.

Midwest (I prefer "Lakes"): Add Iowa St.

Northeast: Add Rutgers and UConn, subtract Virginia

Atlantic: Add Virginia (traditional home)

Pacific: Add Utah


Yes, the Northeast is very weak at the bottom but with PSU, ND, and VT there should always be at least one power in full force, not to mention those years WV puts it all together.


Steve in PA

July 27th, 2015 at 2:47 PM ^

I do not want Saturday to become just another professional league.  I like the conferences and that for the most part* there is a long history and tradition that make each conference very unique.  Leave the AFC/NFC conferences to Sunday where the only real tradition is millionaires playing for billionaires.

Now get off my lawn!


*until administrators figured out how to "monetize" young men playing the game that they love while sharing very little of that money with those young men.


July 27th, 2015 at 2:54 PM ^

I set up the conferences like this on NCAA 14, minus the teams that weren't up yet (GA Southern, App St, Charlotte) and including UAB.  Everything except the Conference Championship Games is my idea, save the Army-Navy Game.  I also came up with what I would think would be a great non-conference twist.

Every conference will have a championship game.  We'll start with the ACC.


ACC - 8 conference games

Atlantic Division: BC, Clemson, Florida St, Maryland, NC State, Wake Forest

Coastal Division: VA Tech, GA Tech, Miami, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke

Protected Rivalries:

BC-VT, Clemson-GT, FSU-Miami, UMD-UVA, NCSU-UNC, Wake-Duke


BIG 16/Heartland Conference - 9 conference games

Big Eight Division: Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas St, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma St

Southwest Division: SMU, TX Tech, Rice, Houston, Baylor, TX A&M, Texas, TCU

Protected Rivalries (Big 8 will want to play in Texas every year for recruiting):

Colorado-SMU, Iowa St-TX Tech, Kansas-Rice, KSU-Houston, Missouri-Baylor, Neb-TX A&M, Oklahoma-Texas, OK St-TCU


American Conference - 8 conference games

West Division: Cincinnati, E Carolina, Louisville, Marshall, Pittsburgh, W Virginia

East Division: C Florida, UConn, S Florida, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple

No Protected Rivalries


Big Ten - 8 conference games

West Division: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, N'Western, Penn St (yes, dumb geographically but it's for competitive balance), Wisconsin

East Division: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan St, Notre Dame, Ohio St, Purdue

No Protected Rivalries


Conference USA - 8 conference games

West Division: LA Tech, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UTEP, UTSA

East Division: Florida Atl, Florida Int'l, Memphis, Old Dominion, UAB, UMass

No Protected Rivalries


MAC - 8 conference games

East Division: Akron, BGSU, Buffalo, Kent St, Miami U, Ohio

West Division: Ball St, C Michigan, E Michigan, N Illinois, Toledo, W Michigan

No Protected Rivalries


Mountain West - 8 conference games

Mountain Division: Air Force, Boise St, Colorado St, New Mexico, Utah St, Wyoming

West Division: Fresno St, Hawai'i, Nevada, San Diego St, San Jose St, UNLV


Pac-12 - 8 conference games

North: BYU, Oregon, Oregon St, Utah, Washington, Washington St

South: Arizona, Arizona St, Cal, Stanford, Southern Cal, UCLA

No Protected Rivalries


SEC - 8 conference games

West Division: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Miss St

East Division: Tennessee, S Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Vandy

Protected Rivalries:

Florida-LSU, UGA-Auburn, Kentucky-Miss, S Car-Arkansas, Tennessee-Bama, Vandy-Miss St


Sun Belt - 9 conference games

West Division: Arkansas St, Idaho, New Mexico St, N Texas, Texas St, UL-Lafayette, UL-Monroe

East Division: App St, Georgia St, GA Southern, Mid Tenn St, S Alabama, Troy, W Kentucky

No Protected Rivalries



ACC: 1 FCS, 1 Challenge, Any 2 others

AAC: 1 FCS, 1 Challenge, Any 2 others

BIG 16/Heartland: 1 FCS, Any 2 others

Big Ten: 1 FCS, 1 Challenge, Any 2 others

C-USA: 1 FCS, 1 Challenge, Any 2 others

MAC: 1 FCS, 1 Challenge, Any 2 others

MWC: 1 FCS, 1 Challenge, Any 2 others

Pac-12: 1 FCS, 1 Challenge, Any 2 others

SEC: 1 FCS, 1 Challenge, Any 2 others

Sun Belt: 1 FCS, Any 2 others


Conferences will be seeded by strength.  In this case, I've seeded the conferences accordingly:

1. SEC

2. Big Ten

3. Pac-12

4. BIG 16/Heartland

5. ACC

6. American

7. Mountain West

8. C-USA

9. MAC

10. Sun Belt


Conference Championship Day: First Saturday of December


Playoffs, Round 1 - 2nd Saturday of December:

(9) MAC @ (8) Conference USA, 12pm ET

Army-Navy Game, 4:30pm ET

(10) SBC @ (7) MWC, 9pm ET


Playoffs, Round 2 - 3rd Saturday of December:

(1) SEC hosting lower seed remaining of (7), (8), (9), or (10), 6:40pm ET

(2) Big Ten hosting higher seed remaining of (7), (8), (9), or (10), 12pm ET

(3) Pac-12 hosting (6) AAC (American), 10pm ET

(4) BIG 16/Heartland hosting (5) ACC, 3:20pm ET


Playoffs, Final Four - January 1:



College Football Final - 2nd Sunday of January, 8:30pm ET


CHALLENGES (Week 1 or Week 2)

Non-conference matchups set by previous season's conference finish; even seeds host.  BIG 16/Heartland and Sun Belt do not participate as they play 9 conference games.

SEC - Big Ten Challenge

SEC 1 @ B1G 2

B1G 1 @ SEC 2

SEC 3 @ B1G 4

B1G 3 @ SEC 4

SEC 5 @ B1G 6

B1G 5 @ SEC 6

SEC 7 @ B1G 8

B1G 7 @ SEC 8

SEC 9 @ B1G 10

B1G 9 @ SEC 10

SEC 11 @ B1G 12

B1G 11 @ SEC 12


Pac-12 - ACC Challenge

Pac-12 1 @ ACC 2

ACC 1 @ Pac-12 2

Pac-12 3 @ ACC 4

ACC 3 @ Pac-12 4

Pac-12 5 @ ACC 6

ACC 5 @ Pac-12 6

Pac-12 7 @ ACC 8

ACC 7 @ Pac-12 8

Pac-12 9 @ ACC 10

ACC 9 @ Pac-12 10

Pac-12 11 @ ACC 12

ACC 11 @ Pac-12 12


American - Mountain West Challenge

AAC 1 @ MWC 2

MWC 1 @ AAC 2

AAC 3 @ MWC 4

MWC 3 @ AAC 4

AAC 5 @ MWC 6

MWC 5 @ AAC 6

AAC 7 @ MWC 8

MWC 7 @ AAC 8

AAC 9 @ MWC 10

MWC 9 @ AAC 10

AAC 11 @ MWC 12

MWC 11 @ AAC 12


C-USA - MAC Challenge

C-USA 1 @ MAC 2

MAC 1 @ C-USA 2

C-USA 3 @ MAC 4

MAC 3 @ C-USA 4

C-USA 5 @ MAC 6

MAC 5 @ C-USA 6

C-USA 7 @ MAC 8

MAC 7 @ C-USA 8

C-USA 9 @ MAC 10

MAC 9 @ C-USA 10

C-USA 11 @ MAC 12

MAC 11 @ C-USA 12


2015 Hypothetical Challenge  Games Based Upon 2014 Conference Finish:

Alabama @ Michigan St

Ohio St @ Mississippi St

Georgia @ Minnesota

Wisconsin @ Ole Miss

Auburn @ Iowa

Notre Dame @ LSU

Florida @ Illinois

Michigan @ Tennessee

S Carolina @ Penn St

N'Western @ Arkansas

Kentucky @ Purdue

Indiana @ Vandy


Oregon @ GA Tech

Florida St @ Arizona

UCLA @ Duke

Clemson @ Arizona St

Southern Cal @ Maryland

N Carolina @ Utah

Stanford @ NC State


Washington @ Miami

VA Tech @ Cal

Washington St @ Wake Forest

Virginia @ Oregon St


Cincinnati @ Colorado St

Boise St @ C Florida

Marshall @ Fresno St

Utah St @ Louisville

E Carolina @ Air Force

San Diego St @ W Virginia

Pitt @ Hawaii

Nevada @ Temple

Rutgers @ New Mexico

San Jose St @ S Florida

Syracuse @ UNLV

Wyoming @ UConn


Memphis @ Toledo

N Illinois @ LA Tech

UTEP @ Bowling Green

W Michigan @ UAB

Old Dominion @ Ohio

C Michigan @ UTSA

Florida Int'l @ Akron

Ball St @ UMass

Florida Atl @ Miami U

Buffalo @ Tulsa

Tulane @ E Michigan

Kent St @ Southern Miss


July 27th, 2015 at 3:34 PM ^

Leave it how it is with power 5, but use the same 6 team playoff format. You must win your conference to go to playoff. 6th spot is an at large bid, voted by i don't care just somebody. Gets us to the end result faster. All power 5's get at least one shot plus an at large that can be anyone in the country that is respectable.

L'Carpetron Do…

July 27th, 2015 at 3:39 PM ^

Seth's conference lineup strongly resembles what the conferences used to be before the ACC ruined everything by poaching BC and Miami years ago.  I think that was beginning of the end for sensible conference alignment.  

If I was Dictator of Conferences I would put BC, Miami, Syracuse, VTech, WV and ND (blech) back in the Big East.  Maryland would go back to the ACC (Rutgers can go wherever).  I would keep Penn St in the Big Ten and send Nebraska to the Big 12.

This is roughly what we had prior to 2002.  

I, unlike every other person on Earth, preferred the old, pre-playoff style of determining a college football champion because it emphasized perfection in the regular season (Ohio St triumphed last year and essentially wasn't punished for a garbage early season  loss to a weak VT team).   

This system was obviously flawed in numerous ways, but it was strictly unique to college football, required near perfection in the regular season and preserved the importance of the bowl games.  But, I would add one twist: if, after the bowls, there was more than one undefeated team or if the polls awarded split national champions, then those two remaining teams would play a bonus, championship game.

So, for example, if a #1 team marches through the reg season and bowls and there is no doubt, then they are crowned champion after the bowl game (FSU in 1999 would be an example of this type of undisputed champion).  But, if the bowls conclude with two undefeated teams (such as Michigan and Nebraska in 1997) then those teams would go to battle in a winner-take-all championship game a week or so after New Years Day.  

This has many flaws  too but it would presumably rectify any injustices in the polls and quell controversy while maintaining the unique, albeit, stupid, structure of Ol' College Football.  But that's dead now anyway, so carry on....



Mr. Owl

July 27th, 2015 at 4:17 PM ^

Call me crazy here, but I'll go out on a limb and say that this will never happen.

I know that I'm on the outside looking in and truly lack vision, but I just somehow have this insane notion that this doesn't get much momentum.


July 27th, 2015 at 5:16 PM ^

My idea: Michigan plays Ohio the Saturday BEFORE Thanksgiving. Michigan plays someone in the Rose Bowl on January 1st. Profit.

Not to hate on Seth's idea, it was interesting. But after the last 5 years of realignment and change and all, I've found out that I really do mostly just care that we play Ohio at the end of the season, and that the Rose Bowl features two of the best teams in the country on NYD.


July 27th, 2015 at 5:19 PM ^

You left too many teams out. The leftover league (or southwestern league, if you use the term loosely) has TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech, Utah, BYU, Boise St, Colorado St, Houston, Fresno St, and San Diego St. Instead of a 6 team playoff make it 8 with one at large team.

Mr Miggle

July 27th, 2015 at 7:12 PM ^

It's not so easy to have tongue in cheek proposals taken so seriously. I think you're on the right track, but I'd make several adjustments. Bring back the U of Chicago program and add them to the Big Ten. Remove the most junior member from your  to remain at ten. Make all schools who have repeatedly been caught cheating ineligible for the playoffs. Use the current standard for major infractions.


July 27th, 2015 at 8:37 PM ^

I am convinced that (for football anyway) the ideal conference size is 8, or less.  That allows each team to play a round-robin schedule and add plenty of non-conference variety to the schedule- some enticing matchups against other big names to stay part of the national picture, and one or two mid-majors to tune up on and share some of the wealth.

I realize we are never going back that way, just sayin'.



July 27th, 2015 at 9:16 PM ^

One problem for me is the cross divisional games.  By insisting on a home-and-home scheduling format, before a team gets rotated off/onto the schedule, we get:

  • too long between playing schools in the other division- not so good for fans, terrible for players. (can you imagines playing for Michigan, and never get a chance to play Wisconsin, or Nebraska, etc. because of the way the schedule worked out?)
  • an unevenness in strength of schedule which can affect division standings

Things get even worse when there are "protected rivalries".

Would rather see:
Something like a 3 year rotation- play home against team X from the other division, play them again two or three years later on the road. Every player gets a chance to play every Big Ten team at least once in his career, and many twice.
(BTW I'd really like to see this done with big out of conference opponents too).  Don't play ND or Texas every year, but every 3 or 4 years would build the anticipation and get more teams on the schedule)

and/or (hopefully some combination thereof)

A strength of schedule component- cross-divisional opponents are dependent to some degree on the way each team finished within their division overall. (East #1 plays West#2 or #3 team it didn't play the year before and depending on whether it needs Home or Away slot to fill; and a lower team it didn't play the year before; a middling team if that is needed) 


July 27th, 2015 at 8:24 PM ^

BTW if the playoffs are exanded to give major conference champions autmatic spots (which I hope they will), then the conference playoffs should be treated as a qualifying round for the playoffs- i.e. lose the conference championship game, and you are out of the playoff

This would raise the stakes of the regular season and the championship games, as well improve interest, ratings (and hopefully attendance) for the conferece championship games.  After all, if playoffs really are a desirable thing, it only makes sense to make these games de facto playoff games, or as a FIRST ROUND.  Power conference title game champs- you'r in.  Loser, sorry.  That's tough, I know, but hopefully you get a nice bowl game as consolation.

For any remaining playoff spots, for purpose of fairness and to avoid lawsuits and other such unseemliness, at least one (or two) of the remaining teams in the playoffs should come from the highest ranked mid-major or independents.  Any remaining at-large teams that did come from power conference teams would have to come from the teams that were NOT in their conference playoff.


July 27th, 2015 at 9:02 PM ^

Hmm...I'm not a native Texan but I spent enough time there to tell you that naming a conference that contains TX teams "The Plains Conference" AND leaving out TCU and Texas Tech is going to get the TX schools to secede and create their own conference.  

Would probably be more appropriate and accurate to call it the "Southwestern Conference".  Especially since a lot of the land mass covered by this conference is, well, to the West of the SEC.

If the Huskers throw corn at the idea of being a SW conference, move them to the MW conference and add, say, TCU and Tx Tech to the SWC.  

One topic that doesn't seem to come up much on these threads re: conference realignment is...

Forget us fanz for a sec...what about the kids? 

Wouldn't a realignment to make things closer and emphasize generally playing games between schools that are closer geographically be better for the athletes - less time spent traveling?  If they really are Student athletes (capped S intentional), shouldn't this factor be discussed with regard to conference realignment?  

For that reason, and for strengthened rivalries and meshing with the CFP, I would favor a mega-league with 4 conferences, each with 2 divisions of 8 teams.  

Keep it simple.  And fergoshsakes, Southwest Conference > Plains Conference.


July 27th, 2015 at 9:00 PM ^

2 best teams get buy?  And what determines the 2 best teams?  That's an incredible advantage for 2 teams and it will be very subjective.

make it 8 divisions and let 2 more teams into the playoff.  No byes.

Uncle Joey

July 28th, 2015 at 8:11 AM ^

Nice idea, but the term "determined by committee" is going to make many stomachs turn. I agree with the consensus of 8 conferences, 8 team playoff. Must win your conference or your out. This making the regular conference schedule extremely important and awesome. No committees, no polls, no BS.

Above and Beyond

July 28th, 2015 at 10:53 AM ^

I really do think the name of the conference needs to be amended. We have fourteen teams and eventually (likely) more. It's just stupid to keep calling it The Big Ten. I have been saying for years that they should just change it to The Midwestern Conference. I know that still lacks some sense considering Rutgers, PSU, and Maryland are not in the midwest of this country, but it makes a hell of a lot more sense than The Big Ten.


July 28th, 2015 at 11:00 AM ^

Football is not the only sport played at the Division 1 level.  If schools are serious about 'student' athletes they should be concerned with how much time they spend traveling and missing classes.  Making the conferences very geographically centric like this is the most reasonable solution for all other sports where they have to get in a van and drive to events.  The super conferences of today that are spread out across the country  work for five football away games a year but screw all the other sports.  Notre Dame should be begging to get into the Big Ten to reduce travel costs and greatly improve the life of their student athletes.  


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July 29th, 2015 at 12:54 AM ^

"I really do think the name of the conference needs to be amended. We have fourteen teams and eventually (likely) more. It's just stupid to keep calling it The Big Ten. "

It would sound like an overfed adolescent, but "The Big Teen Conference" would work for a while- at least until Delaney, Jr.  comes around in another decade or two and decides we need an even two dozen teams in the conference by expaning to Asia and Europe.