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Radical Realignment 2007: Introduction

No matter what I came up with to write about this evening, I was doomed to have no better than the fourth-best idea of the day. In terms of inherent coolness, nothing I had to offer could possibly compare to LD's announcement, The Lawgiver's data, or my son's suggestion to his mother that the fried shrimp she was preparing for supper tonight would go well with bacon.

Accordingly, I thought I might as well go ahead and get started on what is liable to be an annual springtime ritual here at Dawg Sports . . . the radical realignment of the Division I-A college football conferences. I undertook this selfsame task last year (with questionable results), so I thought I'd try it again, only, this time, I have taken a somewhat different approach.

Last year, I reshuffled the arrangement of the 119 Division I-A teams into nine 12-member conferences, one 10-member conference, and one independent (not Notre Dame, incidentally). This was partly an attempt to level the playing field by forcing every league to host a title tilt, for which I was criticized by fans from conferences which do not determine their champions in this manner.

I oppose this in principle but enjoy it in practice.

Accordingly, I went in the opposite direction this year, creating 11 leagues with 10 members each and a twelfth with nine teams, so that none of the Division I-A conferences would host a championship game and, thanks to the advent of the 12-game regular-season schedule, all of the leagues could play a full round-robin schedule in which every team plays every other team with which it shares an affiliation.

This year, I relied almost entirely upon geographic contiguity, rather than historic rivalries or competitive balance, as the primary criterion for clustering teams together. (There is one noteworthy exception to this rule, to which I shall get anon.) As a traditionalist, I wouldn't advocate this particular arrangement, but I believe it is a useful exercise in looking at the sport in a new way and there is an argument to be made that, when a team with untapped potential is elevated from the so-called "mid-major" ranks to a B.C.S. conference, that program's upgrade in status will be accompanied by the opportunity to demonstrate its quality. We saw this with Louisville and I believe we are starting to see this with South Florida.

Ere we get down to the business of throwing less heralded squads into the deep end with their more muscular neighbors to see if they will sink or swim, though, I must take out the trash, as it were. I believe it generally is conceded that 119 Division I-A teams is a few too many and I thought about dropping nine squads down to the Division I-AA ranks.

Howard, I forget whether you coach at F.A.U. or at F.I.U., but, either way, you're on the list.

Doing so, however, created some complications, as some of the bottom-dwellers of big-time college football maintain one-sided rivalries with upper-echelon competition and, should those elite squads wish to continue playing those grudge matches annually even in this new world order, I would not wish to penalize them unduly.

Consequently, I will begin the 2007 edition of radical realignment by laying out the nine-member hodgepodge that is the new Conference U.S.A. (Where possible, I have retained recognizable league names in order to maintain some scintilla of continuity.) The member institutions of this refurbished (read: downgraded) conference share nothing in common except crummy football and the fact that they will be the only Division I-A league to play eight (rather than nine) conference games frees them up to be schedule fodder for the big boys, should they be so inclined (which they shouldn't be, but that's a separate conversation).

Stay tuned. . . .

Go 'Dawgs!