Sunday, May 27, 2012

Army should join the MAC

Joining the MAC would be a good move for the US Military Academy at West Point, AKA Army.  For starters they have an opening available and they would love to have the Black Knights of the Hudson.  With the direction college football is headed in life as an independent is going to be tough.  This is why Navy gave up over a century of independence for Big East membership.  Army's problem though is competitiveness; its why their 7 years in C-USA didn't work out.  The new-look Big East is even better than C-USA was when Army was a part of it so I don't think that is really a good option for them to explore.  The MAC on the other hand is considerably less competitive than the old C-USA was and I think that Army would fit right in, be able to win games, reach bowl games, and contend for a conference crown.  On the downside, it would mean having to sacrifice Army's national schedule but I think the infusion of success they would have in the MAC would make up for what they gave up.

Big East Football Division Alignment Proposals--navy is the Key!!

Once again I'm writing another post about the ever confusing Big East Conference.  The Big East, should none of the football schools leave by 2015, will have 13 football members when Navy is scheduled to come aboard (nautical pun intended).  Expecting everyone to still be here in 2015 is presuming a lot in the Big East but I'm going to presume it none the less even though I am not sold on this being a reality.

So how do you align divisions when you have 13 members,  4 of whom are in the northeast, 3 are in the upper south, 2 are in Florida, 2 are in Texas, and the 2 affiliates are west of the Rockies (that is if they are even still coming)?

You could add another football affiliate but who out there is going to jump on that offer?  BYU, Army, and Air Force have already said no.

Rather than talk about the problems involved or the ludicrousness of putting Temple in the West, far away from its regional rivals so that Temple can once again become a failed Big East football program, I'm going to go straight to my solution but there are two versions of it.  Align like this:

East:  UConn, Rutgers, Temple, Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis
West: South Florida, Central Florida, Southern Methodist, Houston, Boise St, San Diego St

I kept the upper south triad and northeastern triad together as well as all 3 "pairs" thus preserving all the big rivalries as well as keeping things regional.  While the schools I put in the east might like to have more recruiting trips to Florida, Texas, and California I think that staying regional and playing both of their regional rivals annually is a good thing.  It also boosts the chance that an old guard member (4 of the 5 are in this division) get represented in the title game.

But what about Navy?

Solution 1: Navy, as a service academy that feels having a nationwide presence is critical to their mission as ambassadors of our sailors, spends even years as a member of the East Division and odd years as a member of the West Division thus ensuring that they have exposure to all parts of the country.

I like this for a number of reasons but mainly because while asking Navy to be "the awkward school"  its really to their benefit and fits with their current scheduling philosophy of trying to play everywhere.  It also means in years where they are playing further from home in the West Division they will have Air Force at home and in years where they are playing more games in the northeast they get a road trip out west to play the Falcons thus keeping a presence out west in years when they may not be scheduled to visit San Diego St or Boise.  Yes it means they are always in the division of 7 but conference titles aren't what the Midshipmen are about and they always have their end-of-season Super Bowl, the Army -Navy game as a source of pride in lean seasons.

Solution 2: Instead of being in a division, Navy plays 4 games against East schools and 4 against West schools each year which still gives Navy national exposure and the benefit of having 8 opponents each year in a college football landscape in which it will be harder for independents to schedule games.

Initially I like this idea a lot less.  It pretty much sends the message to Navy they are an oddity and that no one thinks they will actually contend for a Big East title in football.  Then I think about Navy's reasoning for joining the Big East in the first place:  they were worried about scheduling as an independent.  They also signed on thinking that Army, Air Force, or both academies would be joining them.  Neither did and now they are in a position where it looks like they will have 8 conference games, 3 against traditional rivals Army, Air Force, and Notre Dame, leaving only one opening which will inevitably have to be an FCS school because with the other 11 games they have will be brutal.  Getting to a bowl game will be very difficult for them and losing records year after year will be bad for Navy's morale.  Then it hit me: Don't have Navy as a full member!  Instead of conference membership lets have a scheduling agreement with them instead.  The Big East enters into a contract with Navy for 3 home games and 3 away games annually.  It means that every other year each Big East football school has to find one less out-of-conference game to schedule and that they will host Navy once every 4 years.  Navy still gets to maintain all 3 of their big rivalries and has 3 openings left on the schedule for an FCS team and 2 MAC/Sunbelt teams to give Navy a solid shot at a bowl game every year.  Navy could still be included as part of the Big East's bowl tie ins too.  I see this as a win-win for everyone, especially Navy.

A Big East Confederation Leading to a Split

The Big East is an overgrown behemoth.  In 2005 they expanded to 16 members and at the time it was done to facilitate a split between the football interests and basketball interests down the road, because at the time neither the football nor the basketball contingent had enough members to satisfy the since abolished NCAA rule that to be a conference with an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament a conference had to have at least 6 members who had played together for 5 years or more. In other recent developments, the schools that formerly played the role of intermediaries between basketball and football interests have all left: Boston College in 2005, West Virginia (perhaps more aptly described as a football-first school) in 2012, and Pittsburgh and Syracuse in either 2013 or 2014.
Today the Big East is on track to reach 18 full members in 2013.  At 18 members they are essentially the size of two conferences.  In my opinion I think that they should consider starting to act like two conferences.   Of the planned membership line up for 2013, 10 members, most which have spent time in C-USA, play football in the Big East and 8 do not.  So let's add 2 more basketball schools---my favorites, when considering television markets and success on the hardwood, are Xavier and St. Louis.  Here is where I am going with this:

  • The 10 non-football schools function as a semi-independent division (or sub-conference) within the Big East.  Their basketball conference games are exclusively against each other in a double round-robin format.  I'll refer to them as the BE Heritage Conference from here on since a few of these schools are Big East founders.

  • The 10 football playing schools function as the other semi-independent division (or sub-conference).  They too play an exclusive conference schedule, also double round-robin.  I'll call this group the BE Metro Conference, which was of course a precursor to the aforementioned C-USA that many of these schools were involved with but I think that for the sport of football they should compete under the banner of the Big East.

  • The two sub-conferences meet annually in a conference challenge, similar to what the Big Ten and ACC play.  I would like to see this be a two game challenge as opposed to a one game challenge though where annually each team would play one home game and one away game in the challenge, against different opponents of course.  (i.e. BE Heritage Conference #1 and #2 would both play the BE Metro Conference's #1 and #2, HC's #3 and #4 each play MC's #3 and #4, etc.).

  • I have contemplated whether or not to have a combined conference tournament in Madison Square Garden for the two leagues.  Seeding would have to be cross-pollinated to make things fair.  But do we invite all 20 schools or to simplify things does each league's #9 and #10 get left at home?   It might just be easier to have two separate tournaments and truly be two separate conferences.

  • Contract negotiating and revenue sharing---the football division (and their football only affiliates) negotiate their football media contracts separately and without the input of the non-football playing members.  They also don't have to share a cent with the non-football schools.  As for basketball media rights, those will be negotiated together but when networks submit their bids for those rights they will be asked to submit a breakdown of how they valued the BE Heritage Conference's and the BE Metro Conference's rights.  BE Heritage Conference splits their share amongst its 10 schools and the Metro does the same with it's 10.  The Conference Challenge tv money gets divided evenly among all 20 schools.  For any media contract for the Big East Confederation's basketball rights must have the approval of 2/3rds of each conference's members.  (7 MC and 7 HC schools would be needed)

  • Replacing members---With the changing landscape of college athletics the BE Metro Conference has a number of schools that are very clear flight risks should another conference extend an invitation--Louisville, UConn, and Rutgers top the list but Cincinnati and South Florida are also hopeful.  I think to ensure the integrity and competitiveness of the football conference that the football schools need to be free to fill the void left by the departure of a school with a candidate that MAKES THE MOST SENSE FOR FOOTBALL.  Therefore the BE Metro Conference members should have the final say on who they restock with.  I would suggest that they prepare a list of possible schools that they would be interested in and submit them to the BE Heritage Conference as a courtesy and simply to say "Here is who we are going with should something happen."  The BE Metro Conference should also be free to add any football-only affiliates that it deems appropriate. 

  • Duration and potential split---I firmly believe that this will be a short term arrangement and that one side will eventually want to pull out.  I would negotiate this as a 10 year deal and that the league's will have the ability to renew at the end of 10 years if they are still interested.  This is where, should they be dissatisfied with the composition of the BE Metro Conference, the members of the BE Heritage Conference could terminate the arrangement and strike out on their own, expanding a little if they wanted to, and arrange their television agreements strictly on their own terms.  Something would have to be arranged regarding finances as only one league, in the eyes of the NCAA, could claim to be the heir of the Big East and the other would be forced to forfeit their NCAA BB Tourney money---I would propose that the BE Heritage schools maintain the Big East name and auto bid but would hand over all monies that were earned by BE Metro teams and that the BE Heritage schools would be oblidged to petition the NCAA to provide the BE Metro Conference their own auto bid.

  • Non-revenue Sports---in most non-revenue sports both the Heritage and Metro Conference's would sponsor them separately unless one conference falls below the minimum for that sport, in which case members of both conferences would play under a unified Big East banner similar to the way the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation operates on the west coast.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Big 10 and Pac 12 should dump ESPN and go to FOX for all of their college sports

I hate ESPN.  They are a giant monopoly that ruins sports and not just college sports.  Back when the Mountain West Conference told ESPN they didn't wast to play Thursday night games and decided to start their own cable channel ESPN pretended the whole conference didn't exist and ceased talking about them.  When the Big East turned down ESPN's last television offer ESPN sent the ACC to destroy them and rewarded the ACC with a better television deal for doing the bidding of the Worldwide Leader is Sports.  Not to mention the fact that ESPN buys the media from midmajors and then warehouses those games so no one can watch them.

The Big 10 and Pac 12 have already partnered with FOX for their conference channels so why not consummate their union by negotiating for FOX to have their Tier 1 and 2 media rights.  By partnering with someone other then ESPN it loosens that network's grip over college athletics and their ability to lobby for the inclusion of certain schools, whom they have a vested interest in as their media partner, for post season play.  On FOX's end it would give them a firm relationship with two college football's five remaining elite conferences--that's 40% of all meaningful college football.  Subscriber fees for their cable channel FX would sky rocket as it would be a must-have as many games featuring big name schools would be featured there when FOX already had a marquee match up for that timeslot on their flagship broadcast channel.  On the Big Ten and Pac 12's end of things they get the same great coverage, perhaps even better coverage, and they don't have to work with the corrupt crime syndicate that is ESPN.  The relationship with FOX also elevates the importance of the conference networks, which each conference owns 51% of which means more money to be split among the 12 (or 24 if we count both leagues) schools.

So here's what we do:

FOX has the following time slots (all eastern time) that they can fill with college football:
3:30 pm
7:30 pm
11:00 pm

Similarly FX, FOX's cable network has those same slots

The Big 10 Network (BTN) can show 3 games a week through October, but the conference forbids November prime time games so for the last month of the season they just have the first two.

3:30 pm
7:30 pm

The Pac 12 Network, for understandable reasons, should avoid the Noon (EST) start time but could conceivably air a game at the 11 pm (EST) slot that would essentially fall in the West Coast's prime time but would get missed by most east coast viewers.

The various regional FSN's (FOX Sports Networks) could also air games as well.

During the season, aside from Out of Conference play, which both of these leagues are classy and confine most of it to the first 4 weeks of the season, each conference has 5 or 6 games to broadcast.

So, at Noon (EST) the Big Ten can have games broadcast nationwide on 3 networks---FOX, FX, and BTN.  In the eastern US the Big 10 could also have a game on all 3 networks, and September-October a game in prime time.

The Pac 12 is a little trickier.  While they have exclusivity at the 11 pm time slot most of the US is asleep so that slot might ought to be used more sparingly.  Then again, when I'm awake that late I'd rather watch a live Pac 12 game than Sports Center highlights.  For the Pac 12 I would air 3 games on FOX, FX, and the Pac 12 Network at the 3:30 pm EST/12:30 pm PST slot in the western United States.  I'd do the same for the 7:30 pm EST/3:30 pm PST time slot but in November, when the Big 10 isn't playing at this timeslot, I would pack it with nationwide telecasts on FOX and FX of the league's biggest and best games.  The Pac 12 can also televise games on those 3 networks at the 11 pm EST/8 pm PST slot nationwide too but these would be some the Pac 12's less exciting games.  

If FOX got really ambitious they could even contract with a 3rd conference, a mid major, to fill in any slots on FX, BTN, and Pac 12 Network that didn't have a live game already.  Imagine being able to catch a MAC game when their isn't a Big Ten game available to watch.  This would be a huge win for any midmajor because it would mean increased exposure as ESPN always relegates their games to or weeknight time slots.

Something else FOX and FX could utilize is the Friday primetime slot.  The Big Ten won't play in this slot but the Pac 12 has demonstrated a willingness to play Friday games.  This could also be an opportunity for a midmajor like the MAC or MWC to get exposure.

Here is what happens when FOX steps up to the plate and commits to broadcasting college football:  Suddenly ESPN's broadcasting options for its family of networks are severely limited.  Remember that ESPN has to have games for ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU.  They now only have have three premier conferences (SEC, ACC, Big 12), a glorified midmajor (Big East),  two high midmajors (MWC, C-USA), two low midmajors (SBC, MAC), and BYU to choose from.  CBS already has dibs on the best available SEC game each week so that also limits options.  NBC and its newly acquired cable channel NBC Sports (formerly Versus) are also out there looking for programming and while it looks like they are aiming for getting a deal with the Big East they could be in the market to do themselves one better and land the ACC.   ESPN suddenly has to really scrape to find enough games for all of its channels.  All of the conferences know of ESPN's desperation and the Worldwide Leader has to start paying them more for games because they all know if ESPN doesn't win the contract (over NBC or in the case of the midmajors, NBC and FOX) they won't have anything to air.  Timeslot for timeslot, channel for channel FOX, the Big Ten, and the Pac 12 would have something better to offer than ESPN and their networks.
College football, at least among the power conferences, also becomes far more stable as there is a bull market for sports programming and since everyone is getting big pay days there is no incentive to be jumping from league to league.  ESPN has become highly vested in making sure the ACC remains a valuable conference and ups their pay to make sure no one goes to the Big 12.  Big East football might become a bit of victim as ESPN urges the ACC and Big 12 to raid them and not each other but in all sincerity the previous waves of realignment were what delivered the death blow and for the schools that left recently left C-USA to join the BE they will be simply reforming their old league and, while not getting the pay days that big leagues will be getting will still be making far more than when they were in the original C-USA days.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Big West Expansion: Say NO to Boise!

I read online that the Big West, an all-California conference (with the exception of Hawaii, who they admitted recently but gives the other schools travel subsidies to come to the island) was considering letting Boise St into their league, providing them a life raft from the WAC, where they chose to dump their sports after getting a Big East football invite.  The Big West is presumably considering this because they want to keep San Diego St, a school they nabbed, in theory, when they too accepted a BE football invitation.  Being Boise's (and for that matter San Diego St's) conference of convenience is a poor decision for the Big West for a number of reasons:

Additional travel with no real payoff----aside from the Hawaii, this league is a bus league.  Boise would require a charter flight.

No extra bid to the NCAA men's basketball tournament---Boise is not going to improve the conference's RPI enough to merit a team getting a second bid.  As it stands now, if they were to keep San Diego St the league probably won't ever net an at-large berth unless San Diego St loses the conference tournament.  No one else in this league is sexy enough to get a bid on their own.

Different Athletic Dept Mission---Boise only cares about football.  It doesn't sponsor men's soccer or baseball, two of the Big West's biggest sports.  Boise in their attempt to get into the BWC has tried to claim they are a "California School" with athletes from the Golden State.  In reality, they siphon off athletes that might have gone to a UC or Cal St school instead.

No Loyalty---Boise will only be around as long as its convenient for them.  They have no affinity or attachment to the conference they just want a place to dump their Olympic sports.

Boise is a pointless add Big West.  They will cause you nothing but headaches, heartaches, and a loathing sense of regret in your gut because you allowed yourself to be duped by the smurf turf.  If you want to expand, add Sacramento St.  They are a Cal St school, they play the same sports as the Big West schools, and they'd actually want to stay and be a part of the Big West as long as they can still play their football in the Big Sky.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

If the CAA implodes could there be America East Conference football?

My last post represents a best-case scenario for how the CAA could handle realignment and the loss of three members: circling the wagons, banding together, and taking the interests of all of the members into consideration as they rebuild the conference by not going too far north/south or focusing on basketball/football while neglecting football/basketball.  But what if the CAA members didn't circle the wagons and everyone starting looking after their own interests?  I am talking about a scenario where the footprint gets shifted south with the addition of two southern basketball schools, Davidson and College of Charleston.

Suddenly ODU isn't the only one going to FBS as James Madison and/or Delaware has secured an invitation to  the MAC for football only.  The geographic middle and all three of the conference's top football programs are gone.  Without its instate rivals, William and Mary decides to join its academic peers in the Patriot League.

Then football affiliates New Hampshire and Maine step in and decide to provide leadership during the crisis.  Their solution:  America East will takeover sponsorship of the FCS football league that began as the Yankee Conference and then was transferred to the A-10 and later the CAA.  America East members Albany and Stony Brook will take part as well putting membership at 4.  With AmEast's membership at 9 full members they have room to grow and they  issue invitations to other football playing schools to be a part of their nascent league.  Central Connecticut St, a state school in a private school league, jumps at the opportunity to be with their state-sponsored New England brethren.  Towson, abandoned by the other CAA football schools, comes aboard as well and serves as a travel partner for UMBC for Olympic sports.  The league then takes on Villanova and Richmond on as football affilliates raising membership in football to 8.  AmEast then convinces Rhode Island to not pursue its downgrade and instead of going to the NEC to stay with their New England comrades, honoring the history they have had with UNH and Maine since the '30's.

All Sports membership stands at 11 and looks like this:
New Hampshire
Boston U.
Central Connecticut St
Stony Brook

Football looks like this (affiliates have *):
New Hampshire
Rhode Island*
Central Connecticut St
Stony Brook

11 seems like a good place to leave all sports membership.  Should Delaware or James Madison still be FCS they could easily slot into that spot to round things out.  They could decide to toss the basketball schools a bone and give that last spot to basketball-centric school like Drexel, Hofstra, or Northeastern (or take all three and go to 14 members).  If America East is feeling gutsy they could even try to add more football affiliates like Fordham and Duquesne, who are currently football-only affiliates of the Patriot League and the NEC respectively.

Rebuilding the Colonial Athletic Association

Tackling the CAA is difficult task as a blogger.  This conference lacks a real sense of identity and geography.  It stretches from Boston to Wilmington, NC so its geography is best described as Atlantic coast but that is hardly an exact description.  The CAA is a hybrid league too which further complicates things.  Are the a high midmajor basketball conference or are they an elite FCS football league?  Can they be both?  This is also a conference with 4 football affiliates which also makes its cohesiveness a little blurry.

Georgia St has already taken a Sunbelt invitation so they are out of the picture.  As for the other schools discussed as possibly leaving I think Virginia Commonwealth will be departing to become the 14th member of the A-10.  George Mason has declared their intention to stay but I think its only because the A-10 no longer wants them now that they lost Charlotte so expanding by 2 makes far more since for that league than expanding by 3 as it would give them an odd number of schools and GMU was their least favorite of the 3.  Old Dominion is a toss up--jumping straight from FCS to C-USA after just restarting their program would be huge for them but I think ODU is unsure as to whether or not they have the funds to do the facilities upgrades that they would need to play with the big boys.  I'm going to assume that they don't pass up this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity and go to C-USA. This leaves the CAA with 9 members:

Northeastern---no football
Hofstra---no football
Drexel---no football
George Mason--no football
James Madison
William and Mary
UNC Wilmington---no football

And football affiliates:
New Hampshire

I'm going out on a limb here and predicting that none of these schools will leave for another conference and become football only members of the MAC (Delaware and JMU rumored) and that with a strong Virginia presence still in place that William and Mary doesn't consider the Patriot League.

Expansion for this league because a northward expansion runs the risk of alienating UNC Wilmington, a founding member, while a southern expansion could alienate the powerful northern block of Northeastern, Hofstra, and Drexel, who could depart as a block for America East if they didn't like the direction of the CAA was taking.  You also have to balance of the four aforementioned schools, none of whom play football, and the interests of the four football schools, who also could explore conference membership elsewhere if they become disgruntled.

After much deliberation, my suggestion for realignment for this league is to add 3 schools whose additions will hopefully balance the interests of the current schools.  They are Boston University (no fb), Stony Brook, and Coastal Carolina.  I would also recommend starting division play to alleviate travel pressures:

North--Boston Univ., Northeastern, Hofstra, Stony Brook, Drexel, Delaware
South--Towson, George Mason, James Madison, William & Mary, UNC Wilmington, Coastal Carolina

The North has nice, neat travel pairs while in the South UNC Wilmington has a buddy.
For football, when you add in the affiliates you have a nice 10 team league that could easily reabsorb UMass should they be asked to leave the MAC.

I think this plan satisfies everyone's desires (aside from FBS aspirations) and creates a manageable that is even more tenable with the institution of division play and the integrity of the CAA brand in FCS football is preserved.

There are some drawbacks---football affiliates Maine and New Hampshire probably won't be thrilled to have their primary conference, America East, reduced to 7 members and probably would like to be included in the CAA expansion.  However taking them would, in my opinion, shift the footprint too far northward and I don't think that William and Mary or UNC Wilmington would vote to add 3 new northern members.  I think this can be mitigated by telling NH and Maine that if the AmEast can't find replacements that the CAA would go to 14 and absorb them.  Another possibility would be to offer to take AmEast expansion candidate Central Connecticut St football membership if the NEC is not willing to let the Blue Devils go to the AmEast and continue playing in the NEC for football.  NJIT is always there for AmEast to grab and I'm guessing they can pry at least one of the bigger private schools in the NEC or MAAC from their current home.

There are also some other ideas floating around out there concerning adding some southern non-football schools--Davidson and College of Charleston.  This is a terrible idea for so many reasons.  It would leave the conference with 3 extremely northern basketball schools and 3 extremely southern basketball schools and not much left in the middle should any of the football schools leave. This move also hems in CAA football--the SoCon will likely replace these two schools with schools playing football and Coastal Carolina and Liberty are two of their top 3 possibilities.  Presuming Stony Brook is the CAA's 3rd school, the CAA is still left with only 5 football members and 4 affiliates with the only expansion options out there being very weak teams in the northeast or trying to pry away Youngstown St from the MVFC.  The CAA also has to be leery of the MAC scooping up a football school to pair with UMass as that would deprive them of yet another core football playing member and a school like Delaware (other sports membership to AmEast) could easily make that jump.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My take on College Football Playoffs

I have already blogged about why I think 4 teams are insufficient for a college playoff due to the instability it creates so I won't reiterate those sentiments but what really irks me is that the SEC won't budge on the issue of campus site playoff games or opening the bidding up to neutral sites across the country.  It's simply unfair that when it comes to the biggest stages of college football the Big 10 always ends up being the de facto visiting team.  The Rose Bowl sits in USC's backyard; same with the SEC and the Sugar and Orange Bowls.  The Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, AZ is the only BCS site that is ever truly neutral but only because the 2 big programs in that state are tied to the much older Rose Bowl through their Pac 12 affiliation.  In my opinion, if Mike Slive and the SEC refuse to budge and give the Big 10 and Pac 12 the concessions they want in the playoff format I think Jim Delany and Larry Scott should walk out of the talks and then announce their intention to start their own playoff----let's call it the Delany-Scott Plan:

  • 8 team playoff
  • First round games are hosted by the higher seeds and held at on-campus sites--in the event that a team whose home stadium seats less than 50,000 that university will be asked to find a suitable nearby venue (NFL Stadium) to play the game.
  • Semi-finals and Title games are hosted  at neutral site stadiums that would be bid upon each year.  One semi-final site each year will be west of the Mississippi and the other east of the Mississippi.  
  • All conference winners in the top 12 automatically get in the playoff.
  • Any remaining slots in the playoff are determined by a selection committee and preferably should be the highest ranked teams who did not win their conference.  

This would be a brash and bold move by the Big 10 and Pac 12 chiefs but I think creating a rival playoff system will allow them to win out.  The other conferences are going to have to choose their allegiances and for conferences like the ACC, Big East, and the former non-AQs the Delany-Scott Plan would allow them far more access than the SEC's 4 team format.  The only conference I see being in Mike Slive's camp other than his own league is the Big 12 but if everyone else chooses to follow Delany and Scott then they will have no choice but to sign on as well.

Remember, the BCS (and the Bowl Coalition and Bowl Alliance before it) were the brainchild of the SEC's Roy Kramer and it got off the ground because Kramer led it and, naturally, created a system that catered to his league.  It's time for Delany and Scott to be the leaders in the playoff era.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dear Big Sky Conference, Some healthy contraction could be a good thing...

In the midst of the all the conference shuffling there is one conference out there that I think could afford to lose some members and be better for it.  That conference is the Big Sky.  They currently are in an awkward situation where they have 11 full members and 13 football members.  This is a product of the summer 2011 realignment, where the Big Sky was worried it was going to lose members so preemptively expanded only to see no one exit.  They ended up with 11/13 because they were banking on South Dakota coming along with North Dakota but at the 11th hour the Coyotes backed out when the MVFC agreed to take their football program.

North Dakota is a school I'd like to see them part with.  Sure it would be in bad faith to boot them out after just admitting them but that move was with the idea that there would be two Dakota schools and as it stands, ND is a geographic outlier.  Let them join the Summit League with their Dakota brethren and then smooth things out with the MVFC.

Sacramento St is the other school that is a bit of a misfit.  They are the only California school and while their administration might not openly admit it, they would prefer to be in the Big West with the other UCs and Cal Sts.  Since the Big West lost Pacific they could use another Northern California school to be UC Davis's travel partner so I think the two leagues could reach an amiable agreement where Sacramento Sts Olympic sports leave for the Big West and their football team gets the same Big Sky football affiliate status that Big West members UC Davis and Cal Poly have.

This is addition by subtraction---the Big Sky would now be at a nice neat situation where they have 9 full time members and 3 affiliates for their FCS football conference.  This would also open the Big Sky up for absorbing refugees from the failed Western Athletic Conference.  Idaho would be an ideal addition and New Mexico St wouldn't be bad either (although they are bit out of the footprint)--both schools would have football too.  The Big Sky could also become Boise's new conference of convenience if they were willing to accept the Bronco's Olympic sports.  Non-football WAC members Seattle and Denver could even be in the mix as well.

Provided North Dakota can be passed off on the Summit and Sacramento St can get all-sport membership in the Big West I think the goal should be 1) getting an odd number of football-playing full members, and 2) adding a member who doesn't play football:

getting Idaho and just Idaho is nice but they would have an odd number of football teams when you add in the 3 affiliates.  Getting Idaho and New Mexico St is great but then you have an odd number in every other sport.

Why a 4 Team College Football Playoff is a Terrible Idea

I'm not going to describe the series of events that has gotten us to a 4 Team college football playoff.  If you found my blog you already know about it as well as the myriad of potential versions there are for a 4 Team model.  A 4 team playoff will only make the rich conferences richer and the poor conferences poorer and, much like Barack Obama, will completely kill the middle class.  A 4 team model means that at most 4 conferences are represented in the playoff.  With the demise of the WAC there are now 10 conferences left which means at least 6 of them will not get to participate and will receive no, or considerably less, revenue than those conferences who put a team in the playoff.  In the BCS model we had 6 elite conferences but realignment has left one of those leagues, the Big East, a shadow of its former self and dropped the conference from the ranks of the truly elite.  That leaves us 5 elite conferences and only 4 spots so one of the elite leagues will get left out each year.  Furthermore, one of those 5, the ACC, while having strong, profitable schools in its league has struggled in the BCS era, notching only 2 victories and only 1 at-large berth which went to an undeserving Virginia Tech team last year.  If the ACC struggles to put a team in the new playoff system some of the bigger programs are going to grow concerned that they are going to be cut off from all of the playoff money and may look to jump to a conference that is more likely to land a team in the playoffs on a yearly basis.  The Big 12, with only 10 members is stalking the ACC like a predator, waiting for the first sign of weakness the league shows.  They could jump in and grab schools like Florida St, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Miami and the rest of the league would be powerless to stop it.  Much like the Big 12, the money hungry $EC wouldn't wince at the opportunity to add more tv markets in a populous state like North Carolina and a school like NC State could easily be separated from its collapsing conference.  They would need a 16th school and would probably give Virginia Tech a counter offer to their Big 12 invitation.  A raid of the ACC would lead to another realignment cascade where the ACC raids the Big East (for the 3rd time in this millennium), the Big East survivors--if they are even still under the Big East banner--raid C-USA and possibly the MWC, those conferences in turn raid the Sunbelt or an FCS conference, etc.  Meanwhile we could potentially have a similar ripple effect among non-football conferences if their is a split in the Big East between the football and Catholic basketball factions.

I'm not saying that another round of radical realignment propelled by the pursuit of profit is eminent, I'm just saying that it lays the foundation for yet another Darwinian, eat-or-be-eaten game of conference musical chairs...

Major League Baseball: A Few Suggestions

My suggestion for Major League isn't so much a change in alignment (Astros to the AL West was a great move)  as it is the format of the game and scheduling.  Since the inception of the DH fans in the AL and NL have hotly debated which system is superior.  NL fans like the fact that under their system there is much more strategy involved in winning games and that the managers have to make more make-or-break decisions during games.  AL fans like the hitting and offense that comes with a DH.  The increase in interleague play has made this argument even more heated.  Each side feels like they are at a disadvantage when they play in a ballpark in the other other league and have to conform to their gameplay.  Both sides want to see Bud Selig standardize game play and make the other league play by their rules.  DH is never going to go away---the player's union will not give up 15 high paying jobs to aging veterans.  On the other hand NL fans tend to be baseball purists and buying into DH would be an anathema for them.

Here is what I would like to see: A Compromise
Let's add a 10th batter and have both a DH and the pitcher bat in both leagues.  The best elements of both systems are preserved and neither fanbase feels like the commisioner's office alienated them.  Interleague play becomes much more seamless as neither team has to make adjustments as both will be accustomed to the same rules.   The player's union will be happy too as 15 jobs for utility players just became high paying DHs and the careers of 15 veterans will be extended.

I'd also like to see baseball try to build more regional rivalries by having the NL and AL teams in the region play each other (i.e. more games between the AL Central and NL Central)

My other suggestion is that they should look into adding two additional franchises within the southeastern United States.  This region is fanatical about sports, particularly baseball and football, and has been historically under-served by professional sports.  The Southeastern United States is also home to many excellent collegiate baseball programs too as the SEC and ACC are both powerhouse leagues in the sport.  This is also a rapidly growing region while MLB's strongholds in the Midwest and Northeast are starting to shrink.  Studies would have to be conducted to determine the best possible locations for expansion franchises but Charlotte and either Nashville or Memphis seem to be good fits.  This opens up the possibility of creating a division of southern teams in each league and going to 8 divisions as opposed to 6.

It's time to go to FCS Idaho and New Mexico St.

Unfortunately for the Vandals and Aggies they are victims of realignment that have been tossed by the way side for more successful programs in better media markets.  Both of these schools struggle meeting the NCAA's attendance requirements (which it has been lax in enforcing) and New Mexico St has been particularly pitiful on the gridiron lately.  Life as an FBS independent is rough.  No one is going to want to come to Las Cruces or Moscow for home-and-homes.  Did I mention that the Vandals play in an indoor arena that only seats 16,000 and that they only qualified for FBS by playing nearby Washington St at their place and designating the game an Idaho home game?  They will have to rely on rent-a-victim games against the nation's top teams to fill their schedules.  Furthermore every AD in the country knows that these schools are desperate for games and the price that they get for coming into a giant stadium and losing will be less than what they can expect now.  This would be detrimental for all of the lower-tier FBS schools as the price for these games will drop for them to because a Texas, Michigan, or Georgia could simply tell UAB, Wyoming, or Toledo that if they don't want to pay what they are willing to give them they will just schedule Idaho or NMSU for appreciably less.  

For Idaho going to the Big Sky makes perfect sense geographically and they could restore old rivalries with the Montana schools and Idaho St.  New Mexico St could look at the Big Sky as well but I think that the Southland would be a better option (and they have a slot open and would love having a football school).  The Aggies would be able to heavily recruit Texas and could be a dominant force in that FCS conference.

Go for it Sunbelt--What's another two teams?

As the Sunbelt stands now after the early May 2012 realignment they have 12 members, 10 of whom play football spread out across the southeast from east Texas to Atlanta and from Kentucky to Fort Lauderdale. my suggestion for the Sunbelt is that they should, while the realignment frenzy is still upon us, grab the SoCon's two premier programs: Appalachian St and Georgia Southern.  Both of these moves would be for on-the-field quality as opposed to media market grabs but these programs have a lot to offer the league.  Appalachian St leads FCS in average season home game attendance at over 28,000 and would have been second only to Louisiana Lafayette in the SBC last year and miles ahead of the next best attended school, Arkansas St.  Georgia Southern was also in the top 10 in attendance in the FCS last year, outpacing Georgia St, whom the SBC has added due to their media presence in Atlanta.  Both of these schools have excellent football pedigrees and each have multiple national titles at the FCS level and who can forget Appalachian St's victory over Michigan?

This move would secure the Sunbelt as a solid southeastern FBS conference and through victories by Sunbelt schools over C-USA schools, can gain respect.  For football I would align the Sunbelt like this:

Texas St
Arkansas St
Louisiana Lafayette
Louisiana Monroe
Middle Tennessee
Western Kentucky

South Alabama
Georgia St
Georgia Southern
Appalachian St

Arkansas-Little Rock

I placed the Alabama schools in the east and shifted WKU and MTSU to the west because the Alabama schools are closer to geographic outlier FAU.  For basketball I would go without divisions--each of the 14 members would play everyone once (13 games) and would play 5 schools close to them twice.  The schools in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana would all play twice for example.  This way there is less travel for everyone.

I also think that the Sunbelt should encourage its two non-football members to add the sport and for them launch their programs at the same time to avoid having 13 football members.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May 4th: As the Dust Settles

Much has occurred since my last post.  Butler left the Horizon for the A-10.  WAC disintegration is in full swing with Utah St and San Jose St being claimed by the MWC, while C-USA has grabbed LA Tech and UTSA, Texas St is a lock for the Sunbelt and UT-Arlington is on their way too.  C-USA also made a wild move by going to 13 and possibly soon to 14 with the aforementioned adds plus the Sunbelt's FIU and North Texas and the A-10's Charlotte.  Old Dominion is in line to be #14 but they need to get their house in order before the move is official.  So where does this leave us?:

MWC-- 9/10 and very stable
C-USA--13/13 with member #14 in the works
SBC--12/10 and could potentially be still growing, could help out NMSU and Idaho.
WAC--5/2 and rapidly falling apart, will take anyone they can
A-10--at 13, needs 1 or 3 more members, CAA schools likely targets
CAA--11 full members, 5 of whom play fb and 4 fb affiliates, probably losing ODU,  will need to make some moves (Big South and America East are targets),
Horizon--down to 9, needs a 10th probably a Summit school
Summit--still at 9, likely to be down to 8, North Dakota, Denver, and Chicago St are options
Southland--11/9 and still have a spot open that will likely go to New Orleans or UT Pan Am, unless NMSU downgrades
Big Sky--still at 11 plus 2 football affiliates, shake ups could cost them their outliers North Dakota and Sacramento St for Olympic sports,  could take in WAC refugees
Big West--still at 10 but might lose new acquisition San Diego St, Sacramento St, Cal St Bakersfield, UC San Diego are all options.
WCC--stable at 10 but could be generous and help out Denver and/or Seattle

What's to come
Out West its really a matter of what options New Mexico St and Idaho find themselves.  The four possibilities are A) landing full membership in an FBS conference, B) landing a football only membership in an FBS conference, C) downgrading to FCS and joining the Southland or Big Sky, D) becoming an FBS independent

If these schools stick around then the WAC will attempt to rebuild with whoever they can find albeit some of the candidates would like another conference better and would be quick to jump ship if their dream conference came a calling.  The collapse of the WAC and Boise and San Diego St's return to the MWC is my dream scenario but the Big Sky could always shelter the Broncos and become their new conference of convenience.  The Big Sky is likely to lose ND to the Summit and possibly ND football to the MVFC; Sacramento St's Olympic sports to the Big West is also a real possibility as their baseball and men's soccer are already there.

The Northeast and Atlantic seaboard are going to be hit by the expansion wave next as the A-10 refills its ranks and the CAA figures out which who they have left and what direction they could go.  The America East, NEC, MAAC, and maybe even the Patriot could see the cascade impact them and should be on alert. I'm really unsure what FCS football in the region is going to end up looking like and whose banner it will be under: CAA or America East.

If the CAA maintains their football conference and takes the Big South's Stony Brook (fb only) and/or Coastal Carolina or Liberty that league would be devastated and would have to look for relief from the myriad of A-Sun teams with non-scholarship football up and going or in the works.  The South, particularly the SoCon could also be subject to FCS to FBS upgrades by Georgia Southern and Appalachian St, further destabilizing the region's football landscape.  Through the domino effect, entry-level conference A-Sun might have to turn to DII for upgrades.

In the Midwest its simply a matter of Horizon reloading from the Summit and the Summit turning to the DI options available to it or looking to DII for an upgrade like UM-St Louis.