Just a quick post on the latest conference realignment nuttiness. I couldn’t resist…
On Monday a bunch of schools in Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference (along with three schools about to join the Mountain West) announced plans to form a new, bigger league, essentially combining the membership of the two existing conferences. They also seemed interested in adding between 2-8 more schools, which would result in a league of between 18-24 members.
I’ve written before on the potential for a conference this large, back when the possibility was first raised in September of last year. Now, though, it appears it’s going to actually happen.
Some reasons for the de facto merger between C-USA and the MWC include:
1) If/when the BCS schools break away from the NCAA and form their own confederation, the CUSAMWC group (which henceforth in this post I will call the “Big Country”) wants to be in the running to crash the party. I don’t think it has much of a shot, to be honest, but it’s probably worth a try.
Being members of the Big Country also differentiates those institutions from the “leftover” FBS schools in the MAC, WAC, and Sun Belt (and any wannabe FCS schools trying to get in the action, like Appalachian State or Georgia Southern). Essentially, Big Country universities would become the middle class.
2) Big Country may have an opportunity to compete for a big-money television contract against the Big East, which when last seen was busy reinventing itself after Pittsburgh and Syracuse (and subsequently West Virginia) decided to leave the league for greener ($$$) pastures.
3) Scheduling could be a problem for some Big Country schools as the BCS leagues continue to expand. By combining forces, it may be easier for each individual school to create its yearly slate of games.
One key to making Big Country workable is noted in the above-linked release:
— Championship football game format that includes semifinal match-ups
Actually, I don’t see how the new league could function without semifinal games. Basically, we’re talking about one conference with four divisions. Without semifinal games, the league would have to split into two divisions for football instead of four, and that’s not going to work for any grouping larger than 16 (and 16 is a stretch). Those two semifinal games are also important when taking any potential TV deal into consideration.
So what would Big Country look like? Well, I’m not sure, but since this is just a blog, I’ll wildly speculate and create some imaginary divisions. There are 16 members schools already in the fold (Hawai’i is going to be a football-only member), but I think there will be at least 18 schools when the dust settles, and probably 20-22. There won’t be more than 24, and that’s the number I’m going to use for this discussion.
Teams in bold are not in the “Original 16”. They are the schools I’m adding, based on early reports and a few theories of my own. Are a couple of them a little dubious? Sure. That just makes it more fun.
— Big Country West: Hawai’i, New Mexico, Fresno State, San Jose State, UNLV, Nevada
— Big Country Mountain: Air Force, Colorado State, Wyoming, Utah State, UTEP, Tulsa
— Big Country Southwest: Rice, North Texas, UT-San Antonio, Tulane, Louisiana Tech, Southern Mississippi
— Big Country Atlantic: UAB, FIU, East Carolina, Marshall, Temple, Massachusetts
Yes, UTSA is in the Big Country despite having started its program just last year. I think the new league is going to want to tap into the Texas TV market, and grabbing large schools in big cities like UTSA and UNT might not be a bad idea. I’m not saying that either school dominates the news, or even creates that big a stir, in their respective communities, but when presenting a potential TV package to a cable/TV network, it could be a plus to have schools in big markets.
That’s also partly why I included San Jose State, Temple, FIU, and UMass.
Louisiana Tech and Utah State are both more “natural rivalry” fits for the new league. Of the eight schools listed in bold, Utah State is arguably the most likely one to get the Big Country nod. The AD at UTEP was reportedly quoted as stating that USU and FIU would be expansion candidates.
I’m just glad we have more conference realignment discussion. It helps the college football offseason go by that much faster.