The radical realignment of the college football conferences is nearing completion, as the Sun Belt, Conference U.S.A., the M.A.C., and the Mountain West all have been rearranged, the Pacific Coast Conference has been revived, and the Central Conference and the Eastern Conference have been established.
Now the time has come to reanimate the buried corpse of another historic league, one that has lay dormant for barely a decade. I am speaking, of course, of the traditional alliance known as the Southwest Conference.
While the 21st-century version of the S.W.C. is not identical to the former conference that bore the same name, I have attempted to recapture some of the league's rich heritage in an effort to marry the best elements of the old Southwest Conference with the current Big 12.
What follows is going to involve a lot of talk about Lone Star State gridiron competition, so I figured it made sense for this one posting to replace Kristin Davis with Angie Harmon, a Texan who likes football.
Here is how I set up the divisions:
Historically, this alignment is pretty easy to defend. Nine of the 12 members of the new Southwest Conference were members of the old S.W.C.: Arkansas (1915-1991), Houston (1976-1995), Oklahoma (1915-1919), Oklahoma State (1915-1924), S.M.U. (1918-1995), T.C.U. (1923-1995), Texas (1915-1995), Texas A&M (1915-1995), and Texas Tech (1960-1995). The three exceptions (Arkansas State, Tulsa, and U.T.E.P.) come from the Natural, Sooner, and Lone Star States, respectively, so they share territory with traditional member institutions of the league.
Meet the co-commissioners of the new Southwest Conference.
Even what we think of as Big Eight schools rather than S.W.C. schools (like Oklahoma and O.S.U.) have ties to the historic league. The Sooners and the Longhorns, obviously, were longstanding rivals long before the Big 12 came into being and the Razorbacks and the Cowboys squared off in a non-conference matchup in all but three of the seasons between 1950 and 1980.
Former Southwest Conference mainstay Texas Christian competed against Tulsa and U.T.E.P. for five seasons in the W.A.C. and, although Arkansas and Texas haven't been conference rivals in 15 years, the two teams have elected to resume their series and some Longhorns fans believe this could be the beginning of a regularly-scheduled neutral site rivalry renewal.
The inclusion of A.S.U. will be controversial, I am sure, so a word in defense of the Indians is warranted. Arkansas State first made the move to Division I-A in 1975, when the squad from Jonesboro went 11-0. The Indians won a pair of Pecan Bowls in 1969 and 1970, dropped a 24-21 decision to T.C.U. in 1999, defeated Tulsa in 2002, and attended the 2005 New Orleans Bowl.
In any case, an annual divisional contest between Arkansas State and Oklahoma State would provide plenty of fodder for "Cowboys and Indians" references, so consider the team's inclusion to be harmless fun.
Lay off of Arkansas State. They're flagrantly politically incorrect; doesn't that automatically qualify them for inclusion in the rule-breaking, convention-flouting Southwest Conference?
In the end, then, this revival of the Southwest Conference and many of its historic rivalries represents a return to traditional arrangements for the Lone Star State and its neighbors. I mentioned this previously, but it warrants clarifying that the revived S.W.C., like all the 12-member conferences in my radical realignment proposal, would feature an eight-game league slate in a 5-1-2 format.
In other words, each year, each team would play all five teams in its own division, one permanent opponent from the other division that appeared on its schedule each autumn, and a pair of rotating opponents from the other division that came on and off the schedule in staggered two-year cycles of home and away.
Naturally, Texas and Oklahoma would be one another's permanent opponents from the opposite division, setting up the intriguing prospect of two games per year between the Longhorns and the Sooners . . . one in the Cotton Bowl at midseason and one in the conference championship game in December.
Likewise, the blood feud between the Aggies and the Red Raiders would be perpetuated by making Texas A&M and Texas Tech each other's permanent out-of-division opponents. Houston and Tulsa enjoyed a competitive series with one another during the nine years (1951-1959) in which both the Cougars and the Golden Hurricane belonged to the Missouri Valley Conference, so they will be given the opportunity to renew their rivalry on an annual basis, as well.
When Texas Tech plays Texas A&M, this guy actually manages to be the second-smarmiest head coach on the field.
T.C.U. and Arkansas shared a common conference membership for almost seven decades, from 1923 until 1991, so the Horned Frogs and the Razorbacks will square off every year in a clash of wild animals in serious need of a dermatologist.
Both Arkansas State and S.M.U. had losing records every season from 1998 to 2004, a period in which the Indians went 26-56 and the Mustangs were 22-58, so pairing them with one another as yearly interdivision rivals would seem to represent a fair fight. That leaves Oklahoma State and Texas-El Paso as permanent out-of-division opponents, as well.
Naturally, the S.W.C. title game would take place in the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Welcome back the Southwest Conference. Admit it . . . you missed it, didn't you?
Coming up next . . . the Midwestern Conference.