Sailing the Seas of Cheese: To the Victors Go the Spoils, or Something Like That
Remember playing kickball in grade school? Wait, back that up a bit. Remember picking teams for kickball in grade school? The kids that could drill that little rubber ball high over the swingset were usually picked first. Then there were the speedy runners that were okay at kicking the ball. After that there was the kid who could but a wicked backspin on the kickball “pitch” so even the kid with the best foot out there might pop it up for an out. And then there were the kids that were picked last ever time. Nobody wanted them on his team. They couldn’t kick or catch the ball. They didn’t run fast. And god forbid they were a perfect storm of suck. But they played to fill out the teams.
All of this recent rending the garments and gnashing of the teeth regarding the shifting allegiances in the Division I-A NCAA football teams reminds me a lot of those kickball games as kids. The Big Ten is really now the Big Twelve while the actual Big Twelve seems to be imploding. Things don’t look good for the Big East. (You at least have to hand it to the Pac-10 for acknowledging their own Borg assimiliations over the years and changing names to the Pac-12.) West Virginia was told to sit and spin by the SEC and the ACC and Baylor has a heaping dose of butthurt for being the chunky kid picked last while its neighbor Texas A&M was picked by the really good team . Meanwhile Oklahoma and Missouri are itching to ditch their friends while Notre Dame still plays basketball with a few close buddies but ignores them when it comes to football.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the state of Division I-A football in America! What a mess, don’t you agree? Anyhow, there are 120 teams currently making up 11 conferences (with 4 of the 120 kids who aren’t affiliated because they’re too cool for school apparently.) In any given year there are always 25 teams that will get a lot of attention because they are listed in the BCS ranking with a handful of teams on the bubble getting a handful of votes. Meanwhile the other 90+ teams quietly do their own thing. Some of the rest of the pack may rise to the occassion and become a Cinderella team while the others will be on a highlight reel on ESPN for getting kicked into next week 91-0 (actually, that wasn’t a I-A school but the embarassemnt was still very much the same.)
And what about that BCS ranking enigma? Is it a objective ranking or a subjective popularity contest complete with tiaras and a trip to a bowl game? No matter how much they suck dead toads through a straw, USC (sorry Jayme) and Notre Dame (suck it, Anita) will always be ranked while the Badgers are routinely dissed and seem to climb no higher than a ranking of seven. Boise State, are they really that good or is the voting body gobsmacked and suffering from a little bit of Gonzaga Cinderella Syndrome? Everybody complains about it.
If you want to get rid of the black box then you need more transparency in the bowl vetting process. Enter the Mondo Conferences and well-planned conspiracy theory that could very well force a true bracket for a playoff scenario to determine the National Champion. One permutation would be four 16-team powerhouse conferences that could easily evolve from the degradation of the Big 12 and the Big East leaving the major players in The Pac-16, Big Whatever, SEC and the Frankenconference that is an amalgamation of the Best of the Best from the ACC and the Big East. It would divide the country in to four quandrants (hey, it looks good on paper, so that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Now this is where things get murky and my head explodes, but there would still be 56 other teams out there. (For the sake of argument, they don’t exist because when was the last time the Eagles of Ypsilanti have a real run for a major bowl game?) Okay, put them in 4 other mondo conferences or let the big four govern 32ish teams each and let them have as much chances of winning the Sugar Bowl as they do now which is somewhere between slim and none.
Getting back to the four major conferences. It easily lends itself to brackets. Conference champions face off in an elimination Thunderdome where only one team remains at the end and gets to hoist the Coaches’ Trophy up for all to see. (Btw, shame on my brother’s beloved Bama for putting it on display in a Walmart in Tuscaloosa. Shame!) Meanwhile there could still be at-large bids or bids extended to the #2 conference teams to make up the rest of the pool for the other major bowl games.
What else does a true playoff scenario do for the NCAA? It reduces the truly mismatched non-conference garbage like the complete buttkicking the Badgers handed to Austin Peay in that 70-3 snoozefest/bloodbath last season. Because college teams are limited no more than 14 games per season, the schedule would be focused on conference play and playoffs. Okay, it wouldn’t stop all of the complete thrashings. After all, the Big Ten still has Indiana in it.
But since I’ve already hit the tl;dr mark for this post, allow me to put on my tinfoil hat and try to make this Mondo Four work. This could make sense or it could be one giant Hot Mess.
Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Rutgers
Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan State, Penn State
Iowa, Michigan, Purdue, West Virginia
Missiouri, Northwestern, Nebraska, Indiana
Notes: Missouri would need to be reconsidered. Enough with the elitist lame excuse that it isn’t up to academic snuff to lick the boots of the Big Ten. Its style of football lends itself to the Big Whatever and would be a welcome addition. Besides, Notre Dame and Rutgers would balance it out academically. Meanwhile WV is a nice bookend to Mizzou’s football fortitude. Besides, it could be fun kicking the crap out of Notre Dame year after year.
California, Washington, Utah, Oklahoma
Oregon, Boise State., UCLA, Kansas State,
Oregon State, USC, Arizona State, Colorado
Stanford, Washington State, Texas, Arizona
Notes: So the Pacific 16 would extend deep into the Heartland. But those powerhouses all can’t go the SEC. Not sold on Kansas State, but they’re currently ranked and felt I had to put them somewhere. Boise State may be an overrated Gonzaga. Or maybe not. But it adds some regular competition for Oregeon and Washington in the NW corner whereas Oklahoma and Texas would make good intraconference rivals for USC. Sorry Cal, last time you were good there was a skinny kid from Chico taking snaps. Consider yourself the Purdue of the Pac-16.
LSU, Alabama, South Carolina, Clemson
Texas Christian, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida
Mississippi State, Auburn, Kentucky, Virginia Tech
Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Georgia
Notes: Clemson is a natural fit for the teams in the SEC. Same goes for Virginia Tech. TCU would work well in either the Pac-16 or the SEC. There are so few true turkeys in this conference, but every conference needs an Northwestern in its ranks to raise the conferences cumulative GPA. So Vandy stays and takes a beating a few times a year.
Eastern Atlantic Frankenborg
Boston College, Florida State, Maryland, Miami of FL
Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Duke, Pitt,
Army, North Carolina State, Virginia
Wake Forest, Syracuse, UConn, South Florida
Notes: I’ll admit, this is the one giant conference I’m the least confident about. I tried to bring the best of the ACC and what was left of the imploding Big East. But let’s face it, there are a few standout Big East teams, but this is a much stronger basketball conference. Needless to say the role of pounded Vandebilt/Northwestern/Rutgers will be played by Wake Forest. And I know nothing about Cincinnati’s football team whatsoever so they’re gone. Nevertheless South Florida is tougher than it appears and would fit nicely playing ACC teams on a regular basis. And why not, let’s put a Service Academy in there to make the Borg feel special. Like I said, my idea falls apart with the Frankenborg. Never claimed to be a conference rearranging whizzbang.
Meanwhile Baylor is still crying in the corner with a giant case of Butthurt.