How a National “Super” League Could Actually Bring Regional Sanity Back to College Sports


With the news of Boise State and San Diego State joining the Big East, the most rediculous and unthinkable event in the topsy-turnover world of conference realignment occurred. For the past two years we have been seeing unthinkable proposals and actual moves occurring that defy regional sense and sensibility. We all realize that this has nothing to do with the needs of the student-athlete, or natural geographic rivalries, or travel times, or anything else that has any sort of logic. It is all about the almighty dollar. The Pac-12 tried to reach over to Texas and Oklahoma, the Big-12 went up into Appalachia, and the ACC went up to the Adirondacks. But, no one reached out as far or desperately as the Big East.

People have been talking about the eventual formation of 16-member “super-conferences”. Well, with the SEC and ACC already at 14, the Big Ten and Pac-12 already at 12, and the Big East gyrating around anywhere from 5 to 21 members, it does seem like only a matter of time before this occurs. In fact, some members are switching conferences before they even join (TCU) or after only one season (Boise State), so really the contracts they sign are not even as good as the ink on the paper.

But, what sense do 16-member conferences spanning 3000 miles even make? Why not just form one gigantic super-league? Larry Scott for one seems to think its coming

“He goes on to say these are the first steps in the long, messy march toward what he sees as inevitable: a single football conference consisting of as many as 72 teams, possessing as much negotiating leverage and commercial potential as the National Football League. “The market right now is inefficient. We have too many sellers and limited buyers. Imagine the kind of value we could unleash if there were only one seller. All six power conferences negotiating one deal. That’s where this is going.”

In fact, there are a lot of reasons to believe that forming one gigantic conference would actually IMPROVE the natural rivalries, travel times for student athletes, excitement among the fanbases, AND make everyone involved very rich.

The most logical situation would be to form one giant 72-team super-conference. But, within this structure, you could have 8 “divisions” of 9 teams that are geographically based and maintaining most of the significant natural rivalries. This would allow each team to play a round robin within its division (8 games). Nine team divisions would allow for the schedule to be balanced at 4 home games and 4 road games. Then, they would have 3 or 4 inter-divisional games against teams from other divisions.

Here is one possible alignment of these 8 “divisions”:

Pac-9Mountain WestSouthern Plains
WashingtonBoise StateTexas
Washington StateAir ForceTexas Tech
OregonArizonaTexas A&M
Oregon StateArizona StateTexas Christian
StanfordBYUOklahoma State
UCLANew MexicoKansas State
San Diego StateUNLVNebraska
Deep SouthOhio ValleyGreat Lakes
AlabamaMissouriOhio State
GeorgiaVanderbiltMichigan State
South CarolinaTennesseeIllinois
LSUNotre DameNorthwestern
Mississippi StateIndianaWisconsin
Ole MissPurdueMinnesota
HoustonPittsburghIowa State
NortheastSouth Atlantic 
ConnecticutNorth Carolina 
Boston CollegeNorth Carolina State 
RutgersWake Forest 
MarylandGeorgia Tech 
Virginia TechFlorida 
West VirginiaFlorida State 
Penn StateMiami 

As for the inter-divisional games, one idea would be to have teams play teams from other divisions who finished in the same place in the standings in the previous year play each other. In this scenario, 1st place teams from one division would have to play 3 or 4 other 1st place teams from the previous year. 2nd place teams would play 3-4 other 2nd place teams.

This would certainly create some serious marquee matchups for TV audiences. Teams who are perennially strong would have to prove themselves with tough non-divisional matchups, rather than playing the North-Central Missouri States of the world. This design would also allow struggling teams who finished 8th or 9th the previous year to have easier schedules and allow them opportunities to rebuild their programs faster.

Either way though, in the end you would have the opportunity for a 16-team playoff to develop. The top team from each division (within division, not counting non-divisional games) would automatically get a spot in the playoffs. Then a BCS-style point system could decide the other 8 teams who get in as wildcards (here’s where strength of schedule helps) and then the BCS-style points system would seed the teams 1-16 for the run to the title game.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking. This is just pure random speculation. Anyone could put together an assortment of conferences and divisions just like I have above. I completely concede that point. But, you have to start somewhere. The scenario laid out here would essentially preserve the structure of the historic conferences and most of the significant rivalries. Maybe there would be some tweaking here and there. Maybe some of the teams on the margin could be swapped out with someone else (Louisville for Cincinnati or Fresno State for UNLV).

As for those left out, the 48 FBS teams not included in the Super-league? Hey, this is capitalism man. There’s no crying in football. They can form their own league or drop down and join the FCS. Someone gets left out, but do you really think television executives are really going to cry about San Jose State or South Alabama being left out? Basically every team already in a BCS conference (not counting the Big East which has never been worth of BCS automatic qualifying status) is already in. Then, there are lots of quality non-BCS teams given a seat at the table (Boise State, TCU, BYU, welcome in). So, its hard for anyone to really have a legitimate complaint.

But, the main issue here is that a super-league is coming. It may be a messy processes of teams moving around constantly for the next 5-10 years to get there. But, it does seem like only a matter of time before something like this happens.