Building a College Football Super League, Part III: Replacing FBS

Yesterday we identified the schools that might form a super league and suggested that a 32-team league would strike the best balance between maximizing the value of the schools selected and ensuring a) that Clemson would be among the schools selected, minimizing the possibility that the best team in what’s left of FBS would be able to claim to be the “true” national champion and reducing the incentive for fans to simply declare FBS their college football competition of choice, and b) in turn, convincing Notre Dame that they need to surrender their independence and join the league to maintain their relevance, rather than lending their brand name and relevance to FBS. But there were some tight margins in selecting the last few teams, and we had to stretch a bit to pick Clemson and Notre Dame’s rival Stanford. So whoever’s forming this league could conceivably decide it’s worth it to expand it a bit and remove the stress over justifiably picking those teams, and once they start going down that path it won’t be long before they’ve reached the point of eliminating FBS as a threat to the league’s claim to be the undisputed top tier of college football entirely. It would effectively take less inspiration from the European super league and more from the Premier League, which was effectively a secession of the existing top flight of English football from the established Football League. What schools would that involve? I’m going to try to keep the analysis to a minimum for this post, but I’m not sure I succeeded. 

Getting to Clemson Without Fudging

First, we left off with only 31 schools technically selected (and then removed the last two of them), so let’s finish off the group of 32 schools that’ll provide a baseline:

  1. Colorado

Towards the end of the last post, I was chomping at the bit to get Colorado on the board in order to simplify the allocation of New Mexico (and El Paso) to the Arizona schools. This chart includes enough schools for us to get to 40 with a little extra, with NC State now being the main obstacle to going lower as it carves out a small chunk of North Carolina from the Tar Heels.

  1. Mississippi
  2. Stanford
  3. Indiana
  4. Northwestern

The addition of Indiana means all four of Northwestern’s top rivals are now in the league, and makes apparent that we’re going to be taking the entire “classic” Big Ten lineup, as Purdue also now has all four rivals in the league. That means it’s time for an update to the standings:

As you can see, North Carolina and Clemson are suffering as a result of the ACC’s lack of depth, as Purdue and UCLA benefit from their rivalries with Indiana and Stanford, respectively, to vault ahead of them and cause their shots at a 40-team league to start slipping. (Yes, I’m aware North Carolina should still be ahead of UCLA.) Clemson at least has the Palmetto Bowl, as well as Georgia Tech being on the board, but North Carolina’s biggest rivals are the other three teams in the state and Virginia, and only NC State is close to making the list. Let’s take just two more teams for now:

  1. Purdue
  2. Georgia Tech

And presto, Clemson rockets to the top of the board:

  1. Clemson

I could make a case for any of the four remaining schools taking the next pick. We’ve been over North Carolina ad nauseam, but UCLA completes a rivalry with USC, completes the set of largest stadiums in college football being part of the league, and does have some decent history in the sport. Arizona has the fourth-highest flagship factor and 2040 population of any state that doesn’t yet have a league school after North Carolina, New Jersey, and New York, and swap out the last one for Maryland for the non-league states with the most recruits; Arizona should be the flagship school with better academics and more adjusted revenue even before that step, but Arizona State has the population center of the state and everything north and west of it. That I screwed up the order of North Carolina and UCLA weakens the latter’s case considerably compared to what I initially thought it was, and realistically Arizona and Arizona State should probably enter the league together; if the two were considered co-flagships there’s a decent chance Arizona State would actually finish ahead of the Wildcats. NC State is probably going to vault ahead of where North Carolina is now once the Tar Heels enter the league, but for now let’s finish off a 40-team league with:

  1. North Carolina
Northern College Football Conference

  • Michigan
  • Ohio State
  • Wisconsin
  • Iowa
  • Michigan State
  • Minnesota
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Northwestern
  • Purdue
Eastern College Football Conference

  • Penn State
  • Florida State
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Miami (FL)
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia Tech
  • Georgia Tech
  • Clemson
  • North Carolina
Western College Football Conference

  • USC
  • Notre Dame
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Nebraska
  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • Stanford
Southern College Football Conference

  • Alabama
  • LSU
  • Auburn
  • Tennessee
  • Texas A&M
  • Arkansas
  • Baylor
  • Texas Tech
  • TCU
  • Ole Miss

Notre Dame would probably be more willing to accept this if they were in the East, bumping a Florida school to the South, or perhaps moving both Georgia and Florida to the South while putting Tennessee in the East, but I don’t think I can fairly choose just one Texas school to move West; Texas Tech is the furthest west, but Texas A&M has the biggest rivalry with Texas, and of course all of them are heavily intertwined.

A Full FBS Secession

But realistically, 32 might be the largest super league size that doesn’t blow all the way up to 48. If we’re putting together a 40-team league, there’s not much reason not to go all the way and adopt the Knight Commission’s recommendation for a full-fledged split of FBS from the NCAA. As I noted earlier this year, the Commission’s observation that “three in five FBS leaders acknowledged that they spend too much on FBS football ‘to keep up’ with other schools” would naturally include a significant number of Power 5 schools, at least some of which would take the “reset opportunity” the Commission pitched as an advantage of an FBS split to stay behind at the FCS level. A 48-team split would still leave out some teams not worried about how much they’re spending, and not every team worried about their spending would necessarily elect to stay behind, so you could make an argument that starting with an FBS split would result in a 64-team split encompassing most, but not all, of the Power 5. Still, a 48-team split that at least represents itself as a full-fledged FBS split is more natural than the 40-team split we just established.

The question, of course, is whether such a thing would actually happen. A secession being led by the power schools and instigated by rich investors or media or tech companies would much prefer to stop at 32 if they can justify including Clemson and Stanford in it, as any additions beyond that would mean cutting up the pie more ways for diminishing returns. If Clemson and Stanford are being included over schools with more value, you just might be able to justify expanding to include them, but it might be a bit of a long shot. Taking on responsibility for a bunch of schools you weren’t intending to bring on is the sort of thing that might only happen if the league was forced to do it, whether the result of going through the legal system or the NCAA agreeing to a “divorce” from FBS and forcing a separate entity to take on as many teams that wish to join them as it can accommodate.

Now then, where were we?

…not gonna lie, I was kinda expecting NC State to make more of a leap there. At least pass UCLA if not Arizona. With the Territorial Cup vaulting Arizona State ahead of UCLA, let’s go ahead and take all four:

  1. Arizona
  2. Arizona State
  3. UCLA
  4. NC State

As we look at the contenders for the final four spots, some interesting dynamics are starting to come into play. Most notably, Penn State is the furthest northeast school we’ve taken so far, but now Maryland’s rivalry with NC State has put them into the conversation, and Syracuse is also getting into range. It’s a testament to how little this part of the country cares about college football that even with Syracuse claiming the vast majority of its home state, including the main four boroughs of New York City (sorry Staten Island, but culturally and geographically you should be part of New Jersey), and even potentially being the closest school for all of New England (including all of Connecticut and the whole Boston area following non-league schools), Maryland’s status as its state’s flagship school (with Syracuse being private) alone gives them more potential than the Orange (as Maryland actually produces a decent number of recruits), and the bits and pieces of other areas along the coast allows them to pip ahead of Duke for the overall lead. (Note that Syracuse’s total doesn’t include Orange County, New York, which is primarily Army territory. I could have attempted to estimate a revenue figure for the Black Knights, but the county wasn’t going to be worth more than $10,000 to the Orange, so I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.)

Meanwhile, UCF becomes our first school from outside the power conferences (during the period the revenue figures were taken from) to get on the board. I consider myself somewhat skeptical that the Knights can be more than a flash in the pan, and this shows how conference effects can inflate the value of a school that has significantly more revenue than the rest of its conference, but it’s worth noting that the calculation adjusts for wins before adjusting to conference effects, and even with wins-adjusted revenue below $20 million, UCF was still the most valuable school in the American by a good margin – and had carved out much of the area around Orlando as their territory in the NYT map, before their undefeated “national championship” run. Besides, we might once have cast the same doubt on Louisville.

Because of the premise of this split, we should also take into account how much each school would want to join the league, meaning there’s going to be a bit more variation than before. In particular, a strong focus on academics might now become almost as much a liability as a benefit; I’m not going to be including Duke in this version of the league, as I fully expect them to take a step back and focus on their superlative academics and basketball program, and Cal, considered the biggest deadweight keeping Stanford out of the Big Ten, might do similarly. Given its own strong academic score I’m actually strongly inclined to keep Maryland out as well and declare Syracuse the non-Penn-State team for the Northeast. (Notably, Syracuse had the edge over Maryland until the rivalry stage, and while Maryland has long and competitive series with NC State and North Carolina, I’m not sure they actually care about them more than any others; Wikipedia lists four rivalries in the Maryland football program’s article, none of which are with a North Carolina school. It’s also worth remembering that Maryland joined the Big Ten in large part because of how much the school was struggling financially at the time.) Maryland and Duke not joining the league would be bad for Virginia, as those are two of the Cavaliers’ top rivals, while Cal would be bad for Washington State and Oregon State, but it wouldn’t be enough for any of them to pass the team in the top four that most resembles a football power:

  1. Oklahoma State

You may not think of Oklahoma State and Iowa State as rivals (or Iowa State as a football power even at the limited level we’re looking at), but they’ve played for long enough and competitively enough for the Cyclones to vault ahead of Syracuse and Louisville, and high enough that Washington State still can’t catch them even if Cal were to join the league. It’s also worth noting that Iowa State has the largest adjusted revenue before the academics step of any school under consideration, ahead of even Oklahoma State.

At this point the schools in question are close enough, and tightly linked enough through rivalries, that which schools elect to apply for the league could have a significant impact on what other schools get chosen. If we go solely based on the formula I’ve established, whether or not Maryland, Duke, or Cal want to join the league would impact what schools would ideally be chosen for the other two spots. Any of the following scenarios seem plausible:

  • (Nearly) completing the Big Eight: Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas. Possibly swapping out UCLA for Missouri, although the Tigers might be too far down to be justifiable. Alternately, swap out UCLA for Syracuse.
  • Completing the Pac-12: California, Washington State, Oregon State.
  • Focusing on the traditional ACC: Maryland, Duke, Virginia.
  • Emphasis on the Northeast: Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and either Maryland, Iowa State, or Louisville. Possibly take two of those in place of UCLA.
  • Based solely on adjusted revenue before the academics step: Iowa State, Syracuse, Louisville. Swap out UCLA for Pitt to combine with the “emphasis on the Northeast” approach.

Personally, I think Pitt has enough history in the sport to be worth taking, which would favor the “emphasis on the Northeast” approach. Conversely, though, Iowa State and Louisville seem to be the schools under consideration that care the most about putting a good product on the football field; Kansas State is up there too, but I’m hesitant to add them without Kansas. (Notably, Kansas is the dominant school in most of the state outside Manhattan, but K-State has more adjusted revenue after every step and so gets credit for being the state’s flagship. Kentucky and Louisville are in a similar position, but the gap between them is larger.) It’s also worth noting that the only schools not yet in the league with a larger college-only stadium than Iowa State are BYU, Cal, and Missouri.

In the end, I went with the schools that produced the most appealing conference structure, allowing the most heated, tightly-contested rivalries to mostly stick together, and that lent itself to a favoring-the-Northeast approach to fill out the area of the map that naturally opened up as a result, with the caveat that such considerations may not weigh so heavily on the people making the decisions for the league:

  1. Syracuse
  2. Louisville
  3. Pittsburgh

Even then, putting together four 12-team conferences didn’t quite fit together. You can see I couldn’t quite decide whether to replace UCLA with Iowa State, which resulted in Louisville incongruously ending up in a division with schools from Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, or Virginia, which awkwardly squeezed Tennessee out from their SEC brethren and replaced it with Georgia Tech (not Florida State as Georgia Tech has rivalries with both Georgia and Auburn), both the result of the North Carolina schools being the “hinge” schools between the two divisions of the Eastern conference:

Northern College Football Conference Eastern College Football Conference
West Division

  • Nebraska (or Notre Dame)
  • Wisconsin
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Illinois
  • Northwestern

East Division

  • Michigan
  • Ohio State
  • Notre Dame (or Louisville)
  • Michigan State
  • Indiana
  • Purdue
North Division

  • Penn State
  • Virginia Tech
  • North Carolina (or Tennessee)
  • NC State (or Virginia)
  • Syracuse
  • Pittsburgh

South Division

  • Florida State
  • South Carolina
  • Miami (FL)
  • Georgia Tech (or North Carolina)
  • Clemson
  • Louisville (or NC State)
Western College Football Conference Southern College Football Conference
Pacific Division

  • USC
  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Stanford
  • Arizona
  • Arizona State

Central Division

  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Oklahoma State
  • Iowa State (or Nebraska)
East Division

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Auburn
  • Tennessee (or Georgia Tech)
  • Ole Miss

West Division

  • LSU
  • Texas A&M
  • Arkansas
  • TCU
  • Baylor
  • Texas Tech

All things considered, I prefer the lineup resulting from six eight-team conferences, even though that not only breaks up the traditional Big Ten, it results in putting no fewer than four blue or indigo bloods (Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State, plus arguable purple blood Michigan State) in a single conference (have fun, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Louisville!), but trying to fix that results in another “misplaced Tennessee/Georgia Tech” problem, with the added problem that Tennessee’s most obvious rival in its new conference, Virginia Tech, has itself left. The conferences are also a bit neater if you swap out UCLA for Maryland or Duke, allowing Colorado to join the other Pac-12 schools, Arkansas to join the Oklahoma and Texas schools, South Carolina to move from the ACC-equivalent to the SEC-equivalent, and if it’s Maryland that’s swapped in, Louisville to take South Carolina’s place in the ACC (where it’s actually a better geographic fit than you might think when Virginia Tech is the furthest north school), but I feel like that’s unlikely to actually happen, all things considered. I might actually like this model better than any alternatives, so I made a full-fledged Google map out of it where you can see the teams and conference alignments.

All told, the league shown on the map contains:

  • Every national champion selected by any major poll since 1984
  • All but one national champion selected by any major poll since 1953
  • All but two AP national champions selected since World War II
  • Every school ranked in the final AP poll more than 20 times
  • All but one school to be ranked in the AP poll in 300 weeks
  • Every non-military academy to be ranked #1 in the AP poll in at least seven weeks
  • Every current full-time home stadium in college football with a capacity over 70,000
  • Every current full-time home stadium not shared with an NFL team with a capacity over 65,000
  • Every stadium has a capacity over 45,000, and only Baylor, TCU, Northwestern, and Syracuse have less than 50,000
  • The 14 current FBS programs with the most wins
  • All but one current FBS program with over 750 wins all-time
  • Every school with at least 18 wins in bowl games, or over 40 bowl appearances
  • Every current FBS school with at least a 6 rating all-time in the Simple Rating System calculated by sports-reference (excluding James Madison who’s only played two seasons in FBS)
  • Every current FBS school with at least 50 seasons of top-level football and at least a 5 rating all-time in the Simple Rating System, and all but one school with at least 50 seasons and at least a 4 rating
  • The alma mater of every Heisman Trophy winner since 1990
  • Every non-military academy current FBS member to have multiple Heisman Trophy winners
  • All but one non-military academy with at least 20 consensus All-Americans
  • Every school with at least 250 NFL draft picks
  • All but one school with at least 25 first-round NFL draft picks

17 power-conference schools would be left behind in what would likely end up being merged with FCS. These schools would be very geographically dispersed and have very different academic profiles, so they probably couldn’t fit in a single conference, but the existing Group of Five conferences would have a problem taking them in as the American and Mountain West, before the most recent round of realignment, had enough members already. I could see them forming these conferences:

Western Football Conference

  • California
  • Iowa State
  • Washington State
  • Oregon State
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi State
  • BYU
  • West Virginia
Eastern Football Conference

  • Maryland
  • Duke
  • Virginia
  • Kansas State
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • Vanderbilt
  • Rutgers
  • Boston College
  • Wake Forest

Note that these schools were broken up as much along academic lines as geographic ones; except for Cal, every school with an academic score above 250 was placed in the East, and Kansas State is the only school below that mark in the East. The result is that while the “east” extends into Kansas, the “west” extends all the way to West Virginia. Perhaps the Mountaineers could join the American if that’s too much of a problem, but the West would then need to find a replacement for them, and the SEC schools in this conference are far enough east that it wouldn’t help that much.

Of course, a lot also depends on how the Group of Five conferences look after realignment outside football. More on that later.

A Full Power-Conference School Secession

Of course, another option would be to simply expand the league enough to take all the schools in consideration. I settled on 48 as the best size for an FBS secession based on the roughly 52 schools that weren’t worried about how much they were spending on football, but besides that a 48-team league wouldn’t have space for all of them, not all the schools worried about how much they’re spending would actually opt out of an FBS split, especially once boosters get involved.

Frank the Tank pointed out recently that for all the back-and-forth of schools in past waves of conference realignment, the actual number of power-conference schools has stayed remarkably stable at 62-68. The 90s wave of realignment saw the collapse of the Southwest Conference cancel out the numerous independents that joined the Big Ten, SEC, and Big East, resulting in a number of schools settling for mid-major status; the 00s-10s wave saw the collapse of the Big East and its rebirth as the Group of Five American conference, with the demotion of Cincinnati, USF, and UConn cancelling out the promotion of Utah and TCU; and the current wave is seeing the Pac-12 collapse and Washington State and Oregon State being put at risk of losing their power conference status, no thanks to the Big 12 adding four schools from the American. This isn’t the first time I’d seen this pointed out, but Frank the Tank went further and posited why this might happen:


I’m not sure the sort of businesspeople and media/streaming outlets that would want to fund a “super league” would go with a 60-64-team league by choice. It would involve too many schools with limited value, and with so many mouths to feed, would make it more difficult to keep the biggest-name schools happy and maintain the centralized structure that’s supposed to be the point of the league and its main advantage over the ad-hoc form of realignment we’re seeing instead. (Remember that the original College Football Association in the 80s, which controlled the rights to most power-conference-level teams outside the Big Ten and Pac-10, broke up as schools and conferences left to get more money on their own.) If it were to happen, it would either be the result of lawsuits, or of starting from the premise of an FBS split first and everything else spinning from that, similar to the 48-team league, and the latter isn’t likely to result in the nice, neat structure I want. It would, however, more firmly establish this organization as the undisputed top tier of college football, more so than a 48-team league, and the logic laid out above might well push the super league organizers in this direction. So let’s go ahead and add all the schools considered above, and then some:

  1. Maryland
  2. Duke
  3. California
  4. Iowa State
  5. Washington State
  6. Oregon State
  7. Virginia
  8. Kansas State
  9. Kansas
  10. Missouri

The schools that leaves that have been power-conference schools since the 00s-10s wave of realignment are:

  • Vanderbilt and Rutgers, two schools with sterling academic reputations that generally haven’t put much emphasis on football and feel out of place in the SEC and Big Ten respectively.
  • Kentucky, a school that’s dominant in most of the state outside Louisville, but hasn’t gotten a lot of buzz or revenue (despite going to bowl games the last seven years and finishing the season ranked in the polls in two of them) and represents a state that doesn’t produce a lot of recruits.
  • Boston College, a relative powerhouse in the Northeast that nonetheless pales in comparison to the likes of Syracuse and Pitt and hasn’t had much football history to speak of outside Doug Flutie.
  • Mississippi State, a financially struggling school in a poor state that’s expected to slightly shrink by 2040, that, despite being the dominant school in most of the state outside the northwest corner, is clearly the state’s #2 school.
  • Wake Forest, a private school with some history in the sport and some recent success, but which might be the odd school out in a crowded state that, historically, doesn’t care as much about football as you might think, with significantly less value than its Tobacco Road brethren, and which might be able to justify opting out of this split on similar terms as Vanderbilt or Rutgers.
  • West Virginia, a school with a lot of history and tradition, but one that’s collected high-mid-major level money since joining the Big 12 despite decent success, and trapped in the state that’s expected to shrink more than any other by 2040.

A 64-team league would leave out at least one of these, but it’s entirely possible that most of these schools elect to tap out and make room for some of the strongest Group of Five programs. As we look at the most valuable schools not yet taken, the strongest Group of Five teams might surprise you:

UCF and SMU make sense; we all know about UCF’s long, undefeated, “national championship” run, and arguably the only reason SMU won’t be a power-conference team until a couple years from now (and only then by effectively buying their way in) is because of the “death penalty” they suffered in the 80s. UConn, a power-conference team until the collapse of the Big East football conference, had a decent amount of success for a while in that conference, even if its time in the American and as an independent haven’t worked out, and dominated its home state on the NYT map; it’s probably the team outside the power conferences that most resembles a power-conference team (and would actually be ahead of Boston College for New England supremacy until the rivalry step). But what’s Colorado State doing ahead of the likes of BYU and Boise State? And the next team that would be included on this chart is… Rice?! Even among the power conference teams, Vanderbilt would seem to be exactly the sort of school that would be in line to opt out of an FBS secession, yet they’re not only the leading power-conference team on the board but have a big gap over the next-closest team in Kentucky.

Colorado State actually had the most raw revenue of any Mountain West team, ahead of Boise State, in the four years under consideration, despite not being terribly successful on the field; as the second team in the fast-growing state of Colorado, they have a lot more potential than their meager index value suggests. As for Vanderbilt and Rice, they both benefit from the same thing: being among the most respected academic schools in all of FBS. Both of them also benefit in the rivalry category, with Rice accounting for several of the strongest rivalries for many of the old Southwest Conference schools. But while that means that a lot of the schools already in the league would want them to join, it also suggests they may be very reluctant to join, with rather low adjusted revenue figures and considering their status as private schools that may not have as many friends in state government. So we’re going to put them aside and take:

  1. Central Florida
  2. SMU

Rice will shoot up the rankings after taking SMU, and South Florida will benefit from taking UCF as well. Now, since this is going to be the last chance at all for schools to enter the league (at least for now), let’s look at every school with a listed value over $20 million:

Some notes on why some Group of Five schools rate lower than you may expect:

  • BYU’s adjusted revenue is higher than that of Boston College and its academic reputation isn’t that far behind. BYU’s limited area where it would be the closest league school certainly hurts (especially since Provo is south of Salt Lake City so it can’t claim any of the heavily Mormon parts of Southern Idaho), but the real problem is Utah being BYU’s only rival in the league, while BC has Syracuse, Pitt, and Virginia Tech. Temple is the only school ahead of BYU with a worse rivalry score. Perhaps the best reason to take Colorado State is that it would cause BYU to jump ahead of Wake Forest and Temple by itself.
  • Houston seems to have been a mostly political addition to the Big 12, but its adjusted revenue is actually respectable. But its academics just don’t measure up to the schools in front of them, and being overshadowed on its home turf doesn’t help either.
  • Boise State has respectable revenue, but its poor academic reputation is a killer. Even half-decent academics would put it ahead of BYU.
  • The bottom five schools have all been discussed about moving up to better conferences in the past (or in Cincinnati’s case already have) but their adjusted revenue falls too far short, with Memphis and Fresno State having the additional problems of deep rivalries with non-league schools and no rivalries with league schools. It also doesn’t help that none of them have great academics; Tulane is ahead of only San Diego State in adjusted revenue, but zooms past the others on the academic step and doesn’t look back.

If we took the four highest-ranking public schools, we’d take Kentucky, Colorado State, UConn, and Rutgers, though taking Kentucky would likely cause Mississippi State to leapfrog the Scarlet Knights. But if Colorado State were as strong a candidate as these numbers suggest, they’d be in the Big 12 right now (though Big 12 expansion may have been as much about putting the American in their place as taking the best four G5 schools available), and while Vanderbilt and Rice (and Rutgers for that matter) would likely opt out of the league, Boston College wouldn’t, especially if Connecticut is also joining. Other possible Final Fours:

  • If Vanderbilt is in: Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State, any of the others
  • Highest adjusted revenue: Kentucky, Temple, and any two of Mississippi State, Boston College, Connecticut, BYU, and Colorado State
  • Potential index (meaning largest market): Connecticut, Boston College, Rutgers, Boise State
  • Largest college-only stadiums not yet picked: BYU, Mississippi State, Kentucky, and either West Virginia, Rutgers, or Temple
  • Highest-demand rivals: Mississippi State, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Kentucky
  • My vague sense of what schools would best fit Frank the Tank’s definition of providing value: Rutgers, BYU, and any two of Connecticut, Boston College, Kentucky, West Virginia, or Boise State (any three if we decide to leave UCF out)

Of course, in the end the level of interest from each school is as important as the level of interest for each school; this is mostly looking at what the league might prioritize if there are more than 64 teams showing interest. As I did before, I’m going to lay out which schools would result in the neatest set of eight conferences of eight schools each. Since the majority of power conference schools are now part of the league, there will necessarily be quite a bit of splitting up schools; I mostly adhered to the conference alignments in place before the 1990s wave of realignment as a baseline. The problem that came up here was that the holes in the conferences didn’t neatly align with the schools available, and I struggled with a few different lineups. Here there’s a clear “miscellaneous” conference that isn’t quite accurately named, though every conference gets at least one blue- or indigo-blood; the main alternative I came up with ended up putting South Florida in the league, which I really wasn’t happy with, or to take all Mountain West schools and BYU to form a conference with Utah, Colorado, and the Arizona schools, which would probably never happen. You could honestly convince me to dump SMU, move Arkansas to the Southwest, and add Mississippi State to the Southeast.

Pacific Conference

  • USC
  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Stanford
  • UCLA
  • California
  • Washington State
  • Oregon State

Northwest Conference

  • Nebraska
  • Wisconsin
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Illinois
  • Northwestern
  • Indiana
  • Purdue

Great Plains Conference (=Big Eight)

  • Oklahoma
  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • Oklahoma State
  • Iowa State
  • Kansas State
  • Kansas
  • Missouri

Southwest Conference

  • Texas
  • Texas A&M
  • TCU
  • Baylor
  • Texas Tech
  • Arizona
  • Arizona State
  • SMU
Metro Conference

  • Penn State
  • Miami (FL)
  • Syracuse
  • Pittsburgh
  • Maryland
  • Central Florida (or Rutgers, or Temple, or West Virginia)
  • Boston College
  • Connecticut

Heartland Conference

  • Michigan
  • Ohio State
  • Notre Dame
  • Michigan State
  • South Carolina
  • Clemson (or Central Florida, or West Virginia)
  • Louisville
  • Kentucky

Atlantic Conference

  • Florida State
  • Virginia Tech
  • North Carolina
  • Georgia Tech
  • NC State
  • Duke
  • Virginia
  • Wake Forest (or Clemson)

Southeast Conference

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Tennessee
  • LSU
  • Auburn
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi

Any of the power-conference schools left out could fill the spots opened up by teams from the American joining the league.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how these leagues might actually work in practice in terms of their season and postseason structure, as well as what effect decoupling the power conferences from football might have on conference makeup within the NCAA.

1 thought on “Building a College Football Super League, Part III: Replacing FBS

  1. thanks for all this – def an interesting read. a 48 team league with promotion/relegation would be fascinating IMHO, with 24 in each division.

    my idea of postseason would be top 12 in div A make the championship playoffs. bottom 12 in div B are done for the season.

    bottom 12 in div A play each other and 6 losers are eligible for a relegation game. similarly, top 12 in div B play each other and 6 winners are eligible to be promoted. then you have six pro/rel games.

    for non-playoff teams, you’d have at most 2 games, and the bowl games could still be used to cover these matchups.

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