With all the upheaval in college football lately, and more yet to come, there are two conferences that appear to be the biggest losers of the television money realignment, the Big 12 and Big East Conference. Rumors are both conferences are trying desperately to cast aside the water on their sinking ships, the Big 12 by possibly luring Louisville or West Virginia, the Big East even more desperately by trying to add Boise State, Army, Navy, and a host of other non-BCS conference schools like UCF and East Carolina. Both conferences moves look more like temporary bandages on mortal wounds that Nebraska, Colorado, and Missouri leaving the Big 12 and Pittsburgh and Syracuse leaving the already football weak Big East created. The Big 12 and Big East might make it a few more years but eventually they’ll be picked off by the four bigger conferences who will try to compete for the likes of Texas and Oklahoma, Rutgers, and WVU.
Instead of waiting around to fold I say one of the two “walking dead” conferences takes the bold move of becoming the first truly national conference with 24 teams. The Big 12 has the most leverage since they have national powers Texas and Oklahoma so the chances of the Big 12 creating a national super power are much greater than the Big East’s, as seen by TCU immediate departure from the Big East to the Big 12 once they came calling.
First, this plan doesn’t require Notre Dame, but would be more marketable if the Big 24 could convince the Irish to join the new super conference. To help convince Notre Dame to join they would be granted a special exemption to keep their NBC TV deal in place, and by joining the conference their division would be the weakest of the four allowing Notre Dame to be the big dog and almost ensure they reach the Big 24 conference playoffs each year. The three conference playoff games would be sold as part of the big 24 national TV package so an ESPN/ABC or whoever else buys the rights would almost always get at least one Notre Dame game and possibly two games per year.
The goal of the Big 24 is to create a conference with a national presence that would even outstrip the SEC and allow the conference to have a presence in every region in the country and at least one team in the key states of California, Texas, and Florida. The 24 teams would be BYU, Boise State, San Diego State, Air Force, Baylor, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Houston, Iowa State, Notre Dame, Army, Navy, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, UConn, Rutgers, WVU, South Florida, Cincinnati, and East Carolina.
This would allow the conference to have a great presence in national top 25 polls with Texas, Oklahoma, WVU, Notre Dame, Boise State, BYU, TCU as regulars in on in the polls in the recent past. South Florida and San Diego State would provide the conference with a presence in two key states to help with recruiting and TV coverage and the conference would have a several teams with huge national followings such as Texas, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame and to a lesser extent BYU, WVU, Army, Navy, and Air Force. In addition, the Big 24 conference would have schools in some of biggest TV markets in the nation with Houston, Dallas, and New York covered by Houston, TCU and Rutgers respectively. Plus, San Diego State could potentially tap into the Southern California market, especially as USC goes through some down years in near future.
In order to make such a large conference work there would need to be four divisions of six teams each. Each team would play its division once per year, and then play the other division twice, once and, once on a rotating basis. For example if Texas was in division A, it would play it’s division foes every year, equaling five games, then play two division B teams, one division C team, and one division D team. The next year it would play only one division B team, two division C teams, and one division D team all on a rotating basis so it should play every team in the Super Conference every three years. The conference schedule would be nine games long and allow of the traditional three non-conference games scheduled per year.
The divisions would be set in part on geography and part on past rivalries/conferences.
San Diego State
Americans love playoffs and one of the biggest sellers for this super conference would be the creation of either a four or eight team playoff to crown the conference champion. In a four team playoff each division winner would make the playoffs with the team with the top overall record playing against the division winner with the worst overall record. The first round would be played at the better team’s home stadium with the conference championship rotating between the bigger conference cities playing in NFL stadiums like Dallas, New York, Houston, and San Diego. With an eight team playoff the Big 24 would simply change the regular season schedule to playing outside your division only one time each for a total of three conference games outside your division instead of four you’d have in a four team playoff format. America loves playoffs and this alone would create huge ratings and interest in conference and its schools. I’d lean towards an eight team playoff as it would be insanely popular, create a sense of fairness that all the schools have a shot at the conference championship, and a playoff game would generally be much more watched and attended than a the regular season conference game.
A 24 team conference might seem too big now, but it’s where we’re headed and the first conference to realize this and move early will be the big winner.