NCAA Conference Realignment: What a New College Football Landscape Could Look Like

Christopher Walsh

Ten years ago, the last great spasm of realignment began. 

What if we did it over. 

What if we blew up the system and completely started over from scratch?

Sports Illustrated Senior Pat Forde tackled the idea of realignment and created a 120-school ecosystem spread across 10 conferences.

It's one that shakes up the NCAA system as we know it, with the emphasis on how it should look different no matter what happens. It would expand the College Football Playoff, assign teams in a sensible way geographically, and have inner division play creating new rivalries.

The Southeastern Conference would be gone as well, at least as we know it. Most of the teams would be split into The Deep South Conference, and a Sun Belt Conference. 

Alabama would be in the latter along with Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. 

The rest of the league would include Memphis along with some schools Alabama is already familiar with like Lafayette and Southern Miss, and long-ago SEC member Tulane.    

"Everyone would play 11 league games, taking on every opponent within the conference every season," Forde wrote. "There would be no unbalanced scheduling, beyond six home games vs. five, and that would be flipped every season. Without divisions, there is no luck of the draw in cross-divisional opponents. And the endless carping from conferences that play more league games than others would be silenced.

"Having automatic playoff bids tied to conference championships—and having enough room in the playoff for every conference champion—would remove another chronic complaint. Win your league, get a shot at the national title. It’s just that simple. It works for the NCAA basketball tournament, and it would work for the new FBS."

Check out the Forde Plan and also BamaCentral's Joey Blackwell reaction. 


If you want to know how quickly a virus can spread within an NFL team, and how powerless a team can be to stop it, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer has a telling anecdote from ex-Patriots team doctor Thomas Gill in the MMQB.

In January 2007, something ripped through the New England locker room the week after the team upended the top-seeded Chargers in San Diego. Ahead of a trip to Indianapolis for the AFC title game, the doctors and trainers were managing the growing issue, and doing the best they could.

“The conspiracy theory—and this is all hearsay, I have no evidence—but everyone said [then Colts president] Bill Polian knew that we had a problem with the flu,” Gill said. “There were a lot of guys that had been sick and were coming back from injury, and they said he thought if they kept the dome warm we’d get dehydrated. And I’ll be honest, we had a ton of guys cramping up. We were so good at hydrating and all that. We had more guys cramping up and getting dehydrated, it was so darn hot in that dome.

“I remember Rosey Colvin having a real problem. I do remember that was an issue. think I set a record for starting IVs that day, the number of guys cramping up and going down.”

The Patriots built a 21–3 lead, led 21–6 at the break, and then Peyton Manning and the Colts came roaring back and the Colts won 38–34. Two weeks later they won the Super Bowl. 

Here's the point of the story, and why the coronavirus is going to be especially problematic for football teams. 

“Whenever somebody got the flu, got a respiratory bug, got diarrhea, an infectious problem, a gastroenteritis problem, we sent them home immediately,” Gill said. “And we would see them, from a medical perspective. But we sent them out of there, they weren’t allowed back in the locker room until they got better. It was probably 20 years ago now, when we didn’t have that protocol, it would go through the locker room very, very quickly.

“And so I think that’s pretty standard around the league [now]. I’ve been around plenty of teams that have literally lost six, seven, eight people at a time, for at least four or five days, because of the flu.”  

Did you notice?

• The Patriots surprised fans Sunday night when they signed Cam Newton to a one-year deal reportedly worth up to $7.5 million. The timing of New England's news suddenly seemed convenient when the NFL reportedly handed down its punishment for the team illegally filming the Bengals' sideline last season. The team received a $1.1 million fine, was docked a third-round pick in 2021 and was banned from shooting games during the 2020 season. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Newton's signing exactly 17 minutes before his colleague Mike Reiss shared news of the NFL's punishment.

• Meanwhile, how could the rest of the NFL let Bill Belichick get Cam Newton?

 Both the House and Senate of Mississippi passed a bill Sunday to remove the Confederate battle emblem from its state flag. The state has faced pressure to change its flag over the past month amid nationwide protests over racial injustice. Among those to post his appreciation was Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill, who had used his platform and tweeted that he wouldn't "be representing this state anymore" unless the flag was changed. 

• MLS confirms 26 more coronavirus cases ahead of the MLS is Back Tournament in Florida.

The lighter side

• MLB teams have released their 60-man player pool rosters for summer training camp.

• Johnny Manziel says his football career is probably "in the past."

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Comments (1)
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Joey Blackwell
Joey Blackwell


I literally laughed out loud at Belichick's dog.