SI's Conference Realignment Plan: What Would Change for the Sooners? Well, Not Much
John. E. Hoover
It’s been 10 years since conference realignment upended the college football landscape.
Sports Illustrated writer Pat Forde suggests it’s time for a new round of realignment — and a far more drastic one, at that.
Whether it’s just whimsical offseason banter or a serious plan for the future, here is Forde’s idea — and what it could mean for Oklahoma:
- A 120-school ecosystem, with 11 current FBS members relegated to FCS and one elevated from that level. Congratulations to North Dakota State; condolences to UTEP, Texas State, UTSA, South Alabama, Louisiana-Monroe, Bowling Green, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Coastal Carolina, Troy and Liberty. (Relegation/elevation can be revisited every three seasons.)
- Ten leagues, each with 12 members, each designed to maximize proximity and reduce travel demands and costs. All current conference structures are broken and reassembled. There are no more than eight Power 5 programs in a single new conference, and no fewer than four. And there are no independents—yes, Notre Dame is in a conference.
- In football, each school will play a full round-robin schedule plus one nonconference game (no FCS opponents). The nonconference opponent will be locked in for a minimum of four seasons before there is an opt-out to schedule someone different. There will be no conference championship games.
- All 10 conference champions, plus two at-large teams chosen by a selection committee, advance to the expanded College Football Playoff. The teams are seeded by the committee. The top four receive a first-round bye, while seeds 5–8 host seeds 9–12 at their home stadiums the first weekend of December. Quarterfinals are played the next week at the home stadiums of seeds 1–4. The semifinals and championship game are conducted under the current CFP format.
- There still will be bowl games for the teams that don’t make the CFP. Just fewer of them, which nobody should mind.
- The conferences will work for basketball and other sports as well — in fact, it will be better for non-revenue sports in terms of travel cost savings. The 230-odd non-FBS programs that are part of NCAA Division I will remain aligned pretty much where they already are, with a few exceptions.
In this radical new world, Oklahoma’s conference — Forde calls it the Southwest — would consist of more than half the current Big 12 (OU, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech and TCU), plus Texas A&M from the SEC, North Texas and Rice from Conference USA and Houston, SMU and Tulsa from The American.
OU and Tulsa? Conference rivals?
Great for Tulsa. Like, life-saving great. Less so for Oklahoma.
Same with Texas and North Texas, and Texas A&M and Rice.
Those would be strictly one-way relationships.
Forde, however, correctly points out that other schools — historically, think Kansas and Iowa State in Big 12 circles — have been siphoning off their conference bosses for generations. Every league has its pretenders, its little brothers, its economic drains. This would just exchange membership cards.
The bottom line for Oklahoma is that not much would change. Road trips would be closer, but in football, the trophies would continue to flow.
Since the last major round of conference realignment in 2010, the grand total of years someone from this group other than Oklahoma won a Power 5 conference title: three. That’s one by Oklahoma State (2011), one by Baylor (2013) and one shared by Baylor and TCU (2014).
Texas hasn’t won a conference championship since 2009. Texas A&M hasn’t won one since 1998.
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