Editor’s note: I would rather the Big 12 have stayed what it was, but if this thing must be blown up at the end of the current Grant of Rights, I prefer the college football landscape consider the following.
What the Landscape Has Become
When the Big 12 Conference made known its intentions to explore expansion publicly prior to departing 2016 Media Days in Dallas, the usual hysteria with expansion talk followed. As the following weeks unfolded, cable networks Fox and ESPN made sure their feelings about expansion were made known publicly too. Those feelings? There are no great candidates to add value to the current Big 12 season package to justify their contractual per school amounts.
This news seems to suggest that – 1) bad contracts were written, but more so 2) the proverbial line in the sand has been drawn as to who is worthy and who is not by cable networks and 3) cable networks are seeing more of the backside of a bell curve rather than exponential projections in terms of revenue they can support. The 2010s realignment first go around gave the impression that the Big 12 would be disbanding and orphaning the “forgotten five”. This left institutions like Kansas State and Iowa State feeling like they would be collateral damage as a result of the other popular notion at the time the four 16 team super conferences.
The Idea of a Super Conference
Four 16 team super conferences would leave a field of 64. Auditing the current Power Five conferences, the math nets 64 as well. It would appear that the exclusive members list to the club has already been set.
While the ACC has recently extended its Grant of Rights to 2036, the PAC-12 and the Big 12 are staring at theirs expiring in 2023-24 and 2024-25 respectively. Re-reading the tea leaves, it would seem if cable networks could negotiate rights for an entire field of 64 (or 72 explained later), it could be easier to manage the year to year financial expectations. If rights are negotiated for the entire field, there would no longer be the need to have obscure Geographical pairings that the college football world has entangled itself since the mid-2000s gave us the Big East Marquette-South Florida relationships. It would give college football the opportunity to mend ties with neighbors and restore century old rivalries as no longer would greener pastures be across the fence.
How Does it Work?
Super conferences could actually save and restore college football if and only if media rights are negotiated for an entire field. Here is what that could look like. Starting with the current field of 64, that is four conferences each with two divisions of eight. The divisions could easily feature one expansion team (one not currently in a Power Five Conference – shown in gray below) each to provide eight divisions of nine. Or a field of 72. The greatest regular season of all sports becomes a round of 72. Winners of their division would be paired with a scheduling partner (division) for the Championship weekend of early December. These scheduling partners could be known as a super conference, or they could simply be known as Regional Championships. Regional Champions would be the representatives in the college football playoff.
What Do the Regionals Look Like?
West Regional | PAC-16 | Fox Networks
Pac-8 division – it has worked before, only this time with blue turf
SWC division – because this time it actually includes teams in the Southwest
Midwest Regional | Big 10 | Fox Networks
Big 8 division – Oklahoma v Nebraska, Kansas v Mizzou and the Metroplex?!?!
Big 10 division – sincerest apologies to Leslie Knope
Southeast Regional | SEC | ESPN Networks
SEC W Division – no more late November tilts with Troy, so you can keep Vandy
Coastal Division – Florida and Georgia recruits may never leave home
East Regional | ACC | ESPN Networks
ACC Division – ESPN is banking on months of January through March to recoup their losses on this division
Big East division – nice gridiron and hardwood balance here.
No more FCS teams. No more cupcakes. 12 game schedules would consist of six home games and six away games all built from within the field of 72. Eight divisional round robin format. One permanent cross over rival in the division opposite of yours within your regional. One rotating opponent through the other eight in the from the division opposite of yours. One permanent cross over rival in each of the two divisions within your super regional (within the network affiliate umbrellas of Fox and ESPN). So you want to dream? Here is that schedule: