Spring is in the air. The weather is warm, the flowers are in bloom, and, while Dennis Felton's Hoop Dogs are beginning their run through the N.I.T., I am radically realigning the college football conferences.
I began by unveiling the new (and distinctly downgraded) Conference U.S.A., which is now the home for the detritus of Division I-A from sea to shining sea. Having thus separated the wheat from the chaff, I now commence cobbling together conferences based predominantly upon geographic proximity, starting on the West Coast with the freshly refurbished Pacific-10:
San Diego State
San Jose State
Arizona and Arizona State have been booted from the ranks of the Pacific Coast league because the Copper State isn't next to the ocean. Say what you will about the Beaver, Evergreen, and Golden States, but at least they abut the large body of water whose name dominates the conference's nomenclature. Hence, the California, Oregon, and Washington schools comprise the new Pac-10, in which the sand comes primarily from beaches rather than deserts.
The league's major rivalries (Oregon-Oregon State, Southern California-U.C.L.A., and Washington-Washington State) have been retained and the addition of Fresno State to the mix ought to keep things interesting, particularly in light of Pat Hill's hard-hitting persona and the Pac-10's need to overcome the popular perception that it is a finesse-oriented league.
Given the cliffs off of which Arizona, Arizona State, and Stanford have fallen in recent years, it is tough to imagine that the substitution of Fresno State, San Diego State, and San Jose State would represent much of a drop-off in the long run. The Bulldogs already have made a name for themselves against B.C.S. conference competition and both the Aztecs and the Spartans have shown signs of life.
At a minimum, San Jose State has the best college football team nicknamed "Spartans." (Image from Fanblogs.)
S.J.S.U. capped off a nine-win season with a bowl victory in 2006 and S.D.S.U., which briefly acquired national notoriety while Marshall Faulk was on the roster, is demographically situated to succeed, being located as it is in California's second-largest, and the United States' seventh-largest, city. The Aztecs could realize some of their considerable unfulfilled potential by participating in a more high-profile conference.
Likewise, the new members of the longstanding league hardly qualify as unfamiliar to the remaining conference institutions. Fresno State has scheduled at least one Pac-10 team on its regular-season slate in each of the last eight seasons.
San Jose State, which beat ousted Stanford last year, is led by Dick Tomey, who coached in the Pac-10 from 1987 to 2000. San Diego State, which faced U.C.L.A. in 2005, joined the W.A.C. in 1978 to replace the departed Arizona schools, so it is only fair for S.D.S.U. to take the place of the Sun Devils and the Wildcats again. Besides, wouldn't it be fun to have the Aztecs, the Spartans, and the Trojans all in one conference?
Coming soon . . . the revised Western Athletic Conference.