SALT LAKE CITY — A decade after the college sports environment underwent a makeover, including Utah joining the Pac-12 and BYU going independent, Sports Illustrated writer Pat Forde believes it’s time for another renovation.
The Forde Bowl Subdivision, as SI cleverly called his realignment daydreaming, would group teams together in a way that makes much more sense geographically than some of the conferences are currently comprised.
On a local note, the changes would include a new Rocky Mountain Conference featuring the Beehive State’s three top-tier football programs — Utah, BYU and Utah State — along with Pac-12 transplants Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado, and the Mountain West’s Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV and Wyoming.
It’d almost be a Back to the Future re-envisioning of the old WAC.
The new Pac-12 would keep old-timers Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State while embracing Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada and San Diego State.
In all, there would be 120 programs divided up into 10 12-team conferences: Deep South, Great Mideast, Great Midwest, Mid-American, Mid-Atlantic, Pac-12, Rocky Mountain, Southwest, Sun Belt and Yankee.
The new college landscape would be financially beneficial because of the closer proximity of the schools in each conference, Forde believes. There are more advantages.
“If only this could be pitched to centralized leadership of college football that was interested in the good of the entire enterprise. But that doesn’t exist, and that’s another column for another day,” Forde wrote. “What college football would gain from this realignment: uniformity; conference championships that truly matter; increased access to a more lucrative playoff; a more level playing field for the little guys; renewed regional identity; cherished rivalries preserved, restored—and, in some cases, forced into permanent existence. The advantages are abundant.”
Forde pointed out that the realignment would make even more sense for the budgets of basketball programs and non-revenue sports because of travel savings.
Other highlights of Forde’s suggested makeover:
— The College Football Playoff would include the champion of each conference plus two at-large teams, with the top four seeds earning a first-round bye. There would still be bowl games for non-playoff teams.
— Each team would play 11 league games, evening the playing field scheduling-wise.
— The plan would lift North Dakota State up from the FBS, but Bowling Green, Coastal Carolina, Liberty, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, San Jose State, South Alabama, Texas State, Troy, UTEP and UTSA would be demoted from the FCS. The could be a relegation/elevation system every there years.
Forde admits there are flaws, including the breakup of traditional conference rivalries and trying to get Power 5 schools to share their riches with non-P5 schools, and academic incompatibilities.
“Will it happen? Nah. But it’s fun to think about and argue about,” Forde concluded. “The Great College Sports Realignment that began in 2010 can be improved upon, by simultaneously contracting and expanding.”