March is the most exciting time of the year for fans of college basketball and it is a month of eager anticipation for major league baseball fans anxious to see the season get underway, but, for the college football fan, it is perhaps the most interminable part of the offseason. The bowls and polls are over and done, the recruiting classes have been signed, the spring game has yet to be played (except at Auburn), and the preview magazines will not be on the newsstands until the summer. What is a football fan to do?
This is the offseason, as seen from the point of view of a college football fan.
In my case, I use this opportunity to realign the Division I-A conferences in a radical fashion. Thus far, I have shoved Conference U.S.A. to the periphery, made the Pac-10 truly Pacific and the W.A.C. genuinely Western, reanimated the Big West, and reconstituted the M.A.C. Now the time has come to resurrect the Southwest Conference:
This one's a no-brainer: 10 teams to a conference; 10 Division I-A teams in Texas . . . voila, you've got yourself a league, comprised completely of Lone Star State squads. No state lines were crossed in the making of this conference.
Shown here are Lone Starr, commissioner of the new Southwest Conference, and Princess Vespa, the league's director of compliance.
For most of the league, of course, this represents no change more jarring than a return to the old neighborhood. Eight of those 10 teams previously were members of the Southwest Conference: Baylor (1915-1995), Houston (1976-1995), Rice (1915-1995), S.M.U. (1918-1995), T.C.U. (1923-1995), Texas (1915-1995), Texas A&M (1915-1995), and Texas Tech (1960-1995).
Although the Mean Green's league affiliations have been limited to the Missouri Valley Conference (1957-1974), the Big West (1996-2000), and the Sun Belt (since 2001), and while U.N.T. was in the Division I-AA playoffs as recently as 1994 (when North Texas lost in the first round to Boise State), the school that produced four winning records in six years under Hayden Fry deserves its chance to compete with the big boys. This is, after all, the squad whose first postseason berth was a victory in the 1946 Optimist Bowl . . . and one that beat Texas Tech in Lubbock as recently as 1999.
If nothing else, the Mean Green could contribute some quality commercials.
Likewise, the Miners have called the Border Conference (1935-1961), the W.A.C. (1968-2004), and Conference U.S.A. (since 2005) home, but U.T.E.P. shared the Western Athletic Conference crown with the Horned Frogs in 2000 and, during the Mike Price era, the Miners have beaten Houston (44-41 in 2005), Rice (35-28 in 2004 and 38-31 in 2005), and Southern Methodist (57-27 in 2004 and 24-21 in 2006). U.T.E.P. also lost to the Red Raiders in overtime last year.
If current Conference U.S.A. members Houston, Rice, and S.M.U. are going to return to their former S.W.C. affiliation, it seems only fair that fellow C.-U.S.A. West squad U.T.E.P. should be taken along for the ride. It also makes sense to bring the Miners in with the Mean Green, since U.T.E.P. and U.N.T., while never league rivals, still played one another annually from 1951 to 1966.
Coming soon . . . the brand-new Central Conference.