At long last, we arrive at the conclusion of my efforts to reorder the college football universe as we know it. The Sun Belt, Conference U.S.A., the M.A.C., and the Mountain West have been transformed. The Central, Eastern, and Midwestern Conferences have been created. The Pacific Coast and Southwest Conferences have been revived. Along the way, L.D. has provided many helpful suggestions for possible conference championship game sites.
Let me get this straight. Not only am I expected to realign the college football conferences and provide daily pictures of Kristin Davis . . .
This brings us to the last of the refurbished Division I-A leagues, the modified and modernized Southeastern Conference:
Really, this arrangement needs no explanation. Nine of the 12 current S.E.C. squads remain unchanged. Now that Arkansas, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt have been spun off into other conferences, the teams in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee comprise the Western Division and the teams in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina form the Eastern Division.
The Bulldogs, the Gators, and the Gamecocks no longer must contend with playing in-state rivals in out-of-conference games, as the Yellow Jackets, the Seminoles, and the Tigers now have joined their respective states' flagship universities in the S.E.C.
. . . but now I'm expected to give you daily photos of Emily Procter, too?
Such a reformation hardly seems revolutionary. Before spending 23 seasons in the A.C.C. (from 1983 to the present), the Ramblin' Wreck spent 31 seasons in the S.E.C. (from 1933 to 1963). Clemson and South Carolina were conference foes until 1971 and the Purple and Orange played the Bulldogs, the Yellow Jackets, and the Gamecocks as Southern Conference opponents all in a single season as late as 1932.
Florida State's decision to join the A.C.C. in 1992 gave rise to murmurings that the 'Noles were ducking the S.E.C., which provided a more natural fit due to F.S.U.'s annual series with the Gators. Now the Seminoles will have the opportunity to answer the charge.
Georgia's series with Clemson will be revived and Georgia Tech's series with Clemson will be preserved. The Yellow Jackets' longstanding rivalries with Alabama and Auburn will be renewed without their having to sacrifice their more recent A.C.C. series with F.S.U.
I'd purely hate it for Georgia Tech if the Yellow Jackets missed out on the chance to play these fellows every autumn.
The third Saturday in October will see the Crimson Tide and the Volunteers taking part in a divisional showdown and every year will now contain classic matchups like last year's L.S.U.-Tennessee game on the Bayou. Now that former Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe has returned to Knoxville as the Big Orange's offensive coordinator, it'll be interesting to see what a yearly confrontation between the Rebels and the Vols is like.
The Bowden Bowl between Clemson and Florida State will continue, while the Evil Genius in Columbia will get the chance to match wits with both Bobby and Tommy on an annual basis. The Georgia-Florida State series desired by some Dawg Sports readers will come to pass each autumn and, now that the Golden Tornado will go back to being an S.E.C. opponent, the Bulldogs will be free to schedule tougher non-conference opponents . . . not that the 'Dawgs have been doing too badly in that regard already.
Georgia and Auburn would remain one another's permanent opponents from the other division. The Florida-Tennessee game would continue on a yearly basis, despite the Vols' placement in the Western Division, and the team coached by Division I-A college football's all-time winningest coach, Bobby Bowden, would take on the team that produced his hero, Bear Bryant, as Alabama and Florida State would be perennial out-of-division rivals.
It seems only natural that Clemson and L.S.U. should play each other every fall, with the Tigers traveling to Death Valley to play the Tigers in even-numbered years and the Tigers traveling to Death Valley to play the Tigers in odd-numbered years. The teams from the league's most and least scenic campuses could alternate years visiting one another's stadiums, as Ole Miss and Georgia Tech would be locked into each other's schedules every fall. That leaves M.S.U. and U.S.C. to continue their series between Starkville and Columbia on an annual basis.
Naturally, the conference championship game would remain in the Georgia Dome.
Unless L.D. has another suggestion he'd like to share for this one, too?
I submit the new Southeastern Conference for your approval. Frankly, I can't imagine how any S.E.C. football fan could greet the prospect of such a conference with anything other than unbridled enthusiasm.
That concludes my reorganization of the college football landscape into nine 12-member conferences and one 10-member conference, each with its own league title game at the end of the regular season.
Wait a minute, though . . . there are 119 Division I-A teams. Having nine conferences of 12 members each accounts for 108 of those institutions and the lone 10-team league brings the tally of squads present and accounted for to 118. That leaves one left over.
That team is Miami (Florida).
I submit that, in 1989, the year the Hurricanes captured their third national championship in a seven-year span, the school in South Beach surpassed the school in South Bend as the N.C.A.A.'s major independent power. Admittedly, the 'Canes joined a conference shortly thereafter, but the Big East seldom was anything more than the backdrop for Miami's dominance, much as Notre Dame's Big East affiliation in basketball merely served as a means to an end.
In the seasons since, the Hurricanes have remained relevant while the Golden Domers have been marginalized, being treated as members of the college football elite year in and year out only because of their history, their T.V. contract, and the fawning of the mainstream news media.
More pertinent than Rudy and the Gipper.
When you get past all the hype, the fact is that Notre Dame has contended seriously for the national championship just once in the last decade and a half, whereas Miami has been a perennial contender.
Just as the 2000 season illustrated the breadth of the gap between Georgia and South Carolina---the Gamecocks went 8-4 and their head coach could have gotten elected governor, whereas the Bulldogs went 8-4 and their head coach was fired---the 2005 campaign likewise demonstrated the difference that has emerged between Miami and Notre Dame: the Irish went 9-3 and their head coach was given a multimillion-dollar contract extension, while the 'Canes went 9-3 and half of their assistant coaches were left unemployed.
If circumstances change and a 120th Division I-A school is added, perhaps it will be time to reshuffle the deck and form 10 conferences of a dozen teams apiece. Until then, though, the Fighting Irish have a natural geographic connection to the newly-formed Midwestern Conference, whereas the Hurricanes, who are isolated in Coral Gables, have no particular allegiance that makes them a prime candidate for inclusion in a conference.
Of course, the new S.E.C. arrangement (in which the Florida-Florida State game will become part of each squad's eight-game conference schedule) makes it much more probable that the Gators and the Seminoles each will square off more often than not with an independent Miami.
This concludes my radical realignment of the college football conferences. Let me know what you think of it in the comments below and in the diaries to your right.