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Let's get into the questions!
Right now, I think there are three areas where conference realignment could potentially happen in the short term. At the FBS level, I think there is potential for some sort of geographic reconfiguration between Conference USA and the Sun Belt. In the Southeast, the ASUN is hoping to create a new FCS football conference, anchored by Kennesaw State and North Alabama. That conference could eventually include programs from the MEAC, Big South, OVC, or DII.
And then you have the West.
I’m not sure if this is official-official or anything, but multiple people have told me the WAC is looking to sponsor football again at the FCS level. WAC members Dixie State and Tarleton State are currently operating as FCS independents, which is not sustainable over the long term like it mightbe at the FBS level. DII Augustana University, in South Dakota, had their bid to join the Summit League rejected. If they’re still hell-bent on joining D1, the WAC might be their only hope. So that’s three FCS football teams.
I know the WAC has looked into a variety of DII programs in Colorado. I imagine they’ll continue to talk with other DII schools in the West to see if anybody else wants to jump. Perhaps they’ll be successful in poaching an FCS school from another league. Eventually, I think they’ll have enough teams to form a league again.
So that’s one place where realignment could/will happen. As schools, especially at the FCS level, become even more concerned about costs, there might be reasons for some Big Sky schools to consider different affiliations, but that would depend entirely on which schools ended up joining the WAC. Leaving one geographically spaced out league for another, slightly-less spaced out league, isn’t much of an upgrade, especially when you consider how good an FCS league the Big Sky is, and how…uh…not good the WAC is going to be, at least at first.
COVID really throws a wrench into reclassification plans. This is not the time for a university to commit to millions of dollars in athletic facility upgrades, after all. But once the dust settles a bit and the ability for schools to better project future revenues, I’d expect these talks to heat up a little bit more.
I’m not sure if there’s going to be a ton of movement at the FBS level, since reclassification downward is so politically unpopular. But could there be formalized schedule alliances between the MWC and the Big Sky/WAC in other sports, to save travel money? Sure. That could happen.
Reader Johnathan asks:
I noticed that some of the scores from the early 1900’s were outrageous. 80 and 90 and even 100 points scored by the winning team… Now I know the rules were completely different back then, but could you maybe explain from what you know how those scores got that way? Talent differential etc.?
It’s true, the rules were very different, as were play-styles. Remember Georgia Tech’s 220-0 massacre over Cumberland? Tech didn’t even attempt a forward pass. With a few exceptions, even well into the 1940s, teams weren’t dropping back 30 times a game to throw the ball. If there was a huge blowout, it wasn’t because somebody was running the Air Raid.
There are beatdowns in every week of college football, but it’s true, you generally have to go back to before 1930 to find teams scoring more than 80 points in a game.
I think talent disparity explains that the most. Pre-1930, it wasn’t at all uncommon for a “power” program to play against just absolutely hilariously over-matched opposition. It might be a high school, or a local athletic club, or some tiny college. And a tiny college in the 1910s might be just a few hundred kids, if that.
If Alabama lined up against some D3 schools with only 40 kids on the roster, well, they could probably score 85+ a few times too. When you see Alabama dropping 110 on something called the Marion Institute, or Auburn scoring 92 against Mercer, that’s the dynamic.
That’s a good question. On Thursday, JohnWallStreet reported that two P5 ADs suggested that as a way to increase revenues post COVID, P5 schools might push for increased conference schedules in their next round of media rights deals. If a nine game schedule is attractive for networks, surely a ten game schedule would be better, right? That means even more Ohio State and Michigan!
I think the positives are clear. If your league has bloated thanks to conference realignment, the more conference games you play, the more chances you get to see your traditional rivals and opponents. A ten game schedule means Ohio State fans don’t have to wait nearly as long to play Nebraska, Purdue, Iowa or Minnesota, for example.
It also means that you’re not going to have as many “buy” games on the schedule. Those early season games between the Big Ten and the MAC, the SEC and Conference USA, the Pac-12 and the MWC are generally not very good! Fans don’t enjoy them and they’re not compelling television or especially competitive, especially for the biggest programs. Lopping off one of those games means, at the very least, you’re going to get another game between schools that are closer in resources.
Now, if you root for a G5 or FCS team, that’s a disaster, because it means less buy game money for you and your program. It also means less inventory for actually fun out of conference games. If schools are still going to shoot for seven home games a season, that would make home and home arrangements for higher quality out of conference games much more challenging to schedule.
So sure, ten games probably means less Michigan-New Mexico State. But it also may mean less Michigan-Notre Dame, or Michigan-Washington. And shoot, it might even mean there’s no New Mexico State football at all.
Okay, so here’s the deal. There are too many college football teams named the Tigers. There are too many Eagles. There are too many Bulldogs. Too many generic animal names.
The best college football names are tied to some local anachronism or tradition. You want something unique.
Nebraska is so good at this. Cornhuskers is a very solid name, in my humble opinion. But they used to be the BUGEATERS. Or the Mankilling Mastodons! Those are elite nicknames. They are college football as hell. Nebraska has this whole thing figured out.
So if you have a boring animal name, you gotta go back to something local and bizzare. Ball State, if you want to stay in FBS, in my humble opinion, you gotta ditch the Cardinals. Go back to the Hoosieroons. Northwestern? Too many Wildcats. Copying goes against ethics in journalism, y’all should know better. Go back to your old name, The Fighting Methodists.
Washington State? We have too many Cougars already. Embrace your true identity.
Rebrand at the Washington State FIREBALL.
Okay, last one:
TJ, I am a son of the Midwest.
The correct ranking here is:
Thanks for reading everybody. Have a great weekend.
Comments, questions, business inquires, story ideas and more can be sent to MBrown@TheIntercollegiate.com, or to @MattBrownEP on Twitter dot com.