Remaking College Football, And Notre Dame's Place In It

Bryan Driskell

Bigger isn’t always better, and new isn’t always preferred over tradition or history. It would be wise to remember that when thinking about the future of college football. Whether its athletic directors and presidents obsessed over immediate cash while ignoring long term sustainability, or media folks obsessed with erasing what made the game so great in the first place.

Sports Illustrated writer Pat Forde recently came up with a proposal to completely remake college sports. I don’t intend to write a rebuttal to Forde, but rather to take his lead and willingness to think about making major changes to the current alignment and put my own spin on it.

His remaking of college football was meant to “spread the wealth,” but my objective is too primarily make the game better and more exciting, while also attempting to make it more geographically sound.

My objective is to give a “promotion” to some of the Group of Six teams that are ready for it, but not at the expense of creating watered down leagues.

My objective is to restore some of the tradition of the game, which means bringing back a couple of conferences and moving teams back to where they belong while also moving around enough teams into new leagues to make things interesting and create new rivalries.

A few overall notes before we begin:

*** I am against Notre Dame joining a league, but for the interest of discussion and debate, I am putting the Fighting Irish in a conference.

*** Every major conference will play nine league games. Each team will play the five schools in its division plus four crossover games. Ideally, one crossover rivalry will be established with each team, and that game will be played every season as part of the league slate, like we see with Alabama and Tennessee.

*** It’s impossible to divvy up teams in a balanced manner based on where programs are today. One of the objectives was to move some traditional powers around in a way that will give them an opportunity for a “rebirth,” which in turn would hopefully create a deeper game and go away from the last decade of CFB being dominated by a smaller number of schools.

*** Teams can only play one game against a FCS opponent every three years. Any FCS games played outside of that framework will not be counted towards their win-loss record when looking at their postseason resume.

*** I realize having leagues with numbers that don’t match the number of teams might be annoying, but that’s a tradition I am not willing to give up.

Here is how I would remake college football:

ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE

COASTAL

Clemson Tigers
North Carolina Tar Heels
Virginia Cavaliers
Duke Blue Devils
Maryland Terrapins
Appalachian State Mountaineers

ATLANTIC

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Florida State Seminoles
NC State Wolfpack
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Navy Midshipmen

Analysis: If Notre Dame is going to join a conference it will be the ACC, so that’s where they will be placed. Adding Notre Dame gives the conference a major shot in the arm. The ACC will go back to its original form plus Florida State, which means returning Maryland to the conference. Notre Dame, Navy and Appalachian State would all be added. By putting the Midshipmen in the league it means one of Notre Dame’s rivals will now be in the same division and on the schedule every year, which gives the Irish one more non-conference slot to work with.

From a Notre Dame perspective, it will retain its rivalries against USC (non-conference) and Navy (conference), but it adds a new annual rivalry game with Florida State, which could be epic.

BIG TEN CONFERENCE

EAST

Ohio State Buckeyes
Michigan Wolverines
Michigan State Spartans
Indiana Hoosiers
Ohio Bobcats
Toledo Rockets

WEST

Wisconsin Badgers
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Iowa Hawkeyes
Purdue Boilermakers
Northwestern Wildcats
Illinois Fighting Illini

Analysis: I added a couple of quality MAC teams to the conference, and both are in the East, which is much stronger than the West. The West isn’t as good at the top, but without the former MAC teams it’s also deeper. A key here was getting rid of programs like Maryland and Rutgers, who had no business coming to the Big Ten, and putting Nebraska back where they belong (see below). I contemplated leaving the Big Ten at ten teams (crazy thought, right?), but if we are going to keep the power conferences uniform and also respect better geographical considerations this makes a lot of sense.

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE

EAST

Florida Gators
Georgia Bulldogs
Tennessee Volunteers
South Carolina Gamecocks
Kentucky Wildcats
South Florida Bulls

WEST

Alabama Crimson Tide
Auburn Tigers
Mississippi State Rebels
Mississippi Rebels
Vanderbilt Commodores
UAB Blazers

Analysis: I did quite a bit of shaking up of the SEC. The East is relatively intact, but I moved Vanderbilt to the West because it makes more sense geographically, especially with South Florida being added to the East. I’m interested to see how the Bulls can recruit with the SEC behind them. In the West, adding a program like UAB made sense to me geographically. There’s a pretty big-time program missing from the West, but I’ll get to that later.

SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE

EAST

LSU Tigers
Texas A&M Aggies
Arkansas Razorbacks
Memphis Tigers
Rice Owls
North Texas Mean Green

WEST

Texas Longhorns
TCU Horned Frogs
Baylor Bears
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Houston Cougars
SMU Mustangs

Analysis: Simply restoring the SWC to its former self was good, but not good enough, and that’s why I added LSU. It’s the old SWC with some major oomph. It makes sense geographically, it takes away a great program from the loaded SEC and adds another power program to the SWC, which needed it. LSU has beaten Texas A&M eight out of nine games when the two were in the SEC, but there were some epic games, and the rivalry would be enhanced in the SWC. After watching Texas and LSU play last year I said to myself, "I want more of that!"

BIG 12 CONFERENCE

NORTH

Nebraska Cornhuskers
Colorado Buffaloes
Utah Utes
Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas State Wildcats
BYU Cougars

SOUTH

Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Missouri Tigers
Iowa State Cyclones
Air Force Falcons
Colorado State Rams

Analysis: Getting the Big 12 back to 12 teams while also rebuilding the SWC was a challenge, but I like how this shapes up, at least in time. This is one alignment that is accepting that one division (North) won’t be strong right now, but returning Nebraska and Colorado is geared towards helping them rebuild and get back to being power programs. Adding the Utah/BYU combination should be good for both programs, and adds a quality rivalry to go with OU/OSU and Nebraska/Colorado.

Bringing back the SWC and restoring the Big 12 is also designed to create more competition for the SEC.

PAC 12 CONFERENCE

NORTH

Oregon Ducks
Washington Huskies
Washington State Cougars
California Golden Bears
Boise State Broncos
Oregon State Beavers

SOUTH

USC Trojans
UCLA Bruins
Stanford Cardinals
Arizona Wildcats
Arizona State Sun Devils
San Diego State Aztecs

Analysis: There were simply too many teams up north to keep this purely geographical, so I put Stanford in the South because I like their rivalry with USC. The Cardinal can still have their annual game against California, but it will now be a crossover game in the league. Adding Boise State and San Diego State while removing Utah and Colorado doesn’t weaken the league at all, and it makes a lot more sense geographically.

BIG EAST CONFERENCE

NORTH

Penn State Nittany Lions
Pittsburgh Panthers
Boston College Eagles
Syracuse Orange
Cincinnati Bearcats
Temple Owls

SOUTH

Miami Hurricanes
Louisville Cardinals
Virginia Tech Hokies
West Virginia Mountaineers
UCF Golden Knights
Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Analysis: The Big East needs to come back for football and for basketball, but going back to the old Big East doesn’t work for football. Penn State is needed in the Big East to give it some power potential, and that’s also why UCF was added. This is another grouping where the hope is that getting Miami, Louisville and Virginia Tech back to the Big East helps them get back to form, especially Miami and Virginia Tech. This league will need some time to grow, but there’s potential for it become quite strong and challenge the Big Ten.

In part two of this breakdown I will use the new leagues to create a better postseason that involves a restoration of the bowl system with a playoff. 

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Comments (20)
No. 1-14
Ndm1633
Ndm1633

Bryan has my vote as the CFB Czar. This would be wildly entertaining and actually help cfb in my opinion.

norfolkirish
norfolkirish

Good stuff!!!

norfolkirish
norfolkirish

Can't wait to see your playoff scenarios because I believe a return to the old bowl system with maybe a couple of tweeks to also add to the playoff system is needed! Example: Rose Bowl back to Big 10/Pac 10 matchup, etc. Having the old Bowl matchups, I believe, would be playoff games in and of themselves.

chamgel
chamgel

I know where this is going and I like it... you had mentioned an idea a few years ago to go back to the original bowl format and have the committee pick the best 4 teams after it for the playoffs.. Personally I love that idea. Make the bowls mean something again.

Gorm_is_Or
Gorm_is_Or

That’s a significant improvement on Forde’s suggestion. Ultimately I’d prefer independence but I’m with you on the ACC choice if it has to be given up.

I like your Navy idea and you’re a man after my own heart when it comes to FCS opponents. And as a traditionalist I like the return of the SWC. I just hope SMU will tone down the brazen, repeated cheating!

RPalmeri
RPalmeri

I have always wanted ND to go to the Big Ten West. Adding them in with Wisconsin and maintaining some rivalries with Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State would be fun. Even if they just rotated through the East and only caught them once every few years, a Michigan-ND conference championship would be as good as it gets for college football. This would be after Harbaugh leaves of course

TxIrish
TxIrish

I'd be up for giving this a try!

Jpirish58
Jpirish58

I like the idea although the Forde realignment plan seemed like an easier schedule set up. The ACC makes sense like the idea of FSU every year and keeping the USC gig going is perfect. nice job.

GoIrish99
GoIrish99

I kind of want to see NDSU in big ten west

Chief1
Chief1

I know you had to put ND in the ACC but I’m really curious about them in the big East haha

PSUUC
PSUUC

Bryan, curious why you put Ohio U which is in eastern Ohio with the Big 10 rather than Cincy, in the southwest-most part of the state?
Cincy is obviously a strengthening program, good history in both football and basketball, and has history playing many of the schools in this proposed new BE including Penn State. But if you're going for better regionalism then Ohio makes better sense going east.
Thanks. I'll hang up and listen for your answers.

thomasna33
thomasna33

I think the Big East would be better than the Big 12. At least for now. The Big 12 would have Oklahoma and Oklahoma State but not much else. Big East could roll out PSU, Cincy, UCF and Louisville which are all at least solid programs. I would bet all four of those programs are top 25 teams this upcoming season. If Miami and VT could improve then they would be a power conference imo.

dbhenders
dbhenders

Like this much better than Forde's model but I am still a "guardian" of the old system and prefer no changes really - fully understanding that isn't practical long term. At least you had the decency to put two of my alma maters in separate divisions of the ACC - but for some reason I just don't see Appalachian hosting ND in Boone. I've been to games there (and would have access to the chancellor's suite through family connections). Kidd Brewer Stadium seats at best 30,000 -- and that's with the end zone "grass section" filled. If App State is to move up, it is going to need a major overhaul of the stadium. Their new field house and athletic offices are going to be first rate when the new building is finished but seating only 30,000 seems like a non-starter to the rest of the ACC.

Jamestulane
Jamestulane

Very interesting stuff Coach. A couple thoughts on where we disagree

That Big East is pretty weak based upon where we are today. Selfishly, I’d rather see Miami in the ACC rather than Florida St. as a new yearly game for ND

Hard to not see UT / OU every year also. I’d miss that game more than I miss TX / A&M now


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