FBS Conferences Realignment Options Analyzed

There is an order to realignment picks, the major five (ACC, B1G, Big XII, Pac 12, SEC) picks before the minor conferences (Big East, CUSA, MAC, MWC, and Sun Belt). The Big East has been relegated  to minor status. Of the major five, the B1G, the Pac 12, and the SEC are the top three. These top three have very defined geography and will likely stay geographically based. Of these the Pac 12 have very limited options and at this point, they are not likely to expand. The expansion candidates for both the B1G and the SEC expansion candidates all reside in the ACC. The B1G candidates are Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech. The SEC candidates are Virginia Tech and North Carolina State. My sense remains that the two Virginia schools and all four North Carolina schools will remain in the ACC. If this is true, then there will be no expansion for the B1G or the SEC in the near future. Thus of the major conferences, expansion will depend on the ACC and the Big XII.

The ACC just lost one (Maryland) while taking three (Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse) to go to 14. The Big XII has recently lost 4 (Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M) while taking only two (Texas Christian and West Virginia). Despite being smaller than before, the media grants of rights contract agreement appear to make the Big XII more stable than the ACC. I believe the ACC is unlikely to expand further at this point, but if they do Cincinnati and Connecticut are the likely options. The ACC is not in the position to take from the Big XII.

Whether the Big XII expands will depend on whether a conference championship game will offset the cost of the additional members, whether the BCS 4+1 format for 2014 will benefits conferences with the championship more, and finally how easy or how hard Maryland's exit from the ACC's with the $50 million charge will be. However, unlike the ACC, the Big XII should they expand, could take from the ACC but if so, it should happen sooner rather than later. Allow me to explain. If Maryland's exit is arduous, thus making it difficult for the Big XII to take from the ACC, then they may want to have the option to take Louisville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse before they become full ACC members. If Maryland's exit is easy, the ACC will likely take steps to make exit more arduous, such as a media grants of rights like the B1G, Pac 12 and the Big XII have and thus the window to take from the ACC may close fairly quickly. We should know this year whether the Big 12 will expand or not and if they do, a cascade of reaction will follows.

To analyze the available teams, I used two resources. Firstly is mcubed which take a team's football record from 1960 through 2012 analyzed and ranked; lower is thus better. This gives me an understanding how competitive a team is, along with its competitive reputation. Second is the team's popularity and I use the actual averaged stadium attendance for 2012, with a percentage change from 2011. I then took the attendance figure divided by the mcubed rank to get one number, and this time the bigger the figure the higher the value, at least as by my method.

For the Big XII candidate I have assumed the Virginia and North Carolina ACC schools are not available. Thus the candidates are, in order;
  • Program: attendance / mcubed = value (trend from 2011 - 2012)
  1. Florida State: 75,601 / 27.6 = 2,739 (-)
  2. Clemson: 79,429 / 44.3 = 1,792 (+)
  3. BYU: 61,161 / 42.6 = 1,435 (+)
  4. Miami: 47,719 / 33.8 = 1,411 (+)
  5. South Florida: 44,130 / 50.1 = 880 (-)
  6. Pittsburgh: 41494 / 48.5 = 855 (-)
  7. Louisville: 49,991 / 63.4 = 788 (+)
  8. Syracuse: 37,953 / 49.5 = 766 (-)
  9. Air Force: 32,015 / 57.1 = 560 (-)
  10. Connecticut: 34,672 / 71 = 488 (-)
  11. Navy: 32,363 / 68.9 = 469 (-)
  12. Cincinnati: 29,138 / 66.4 = 438 (-)
I just don't see any other program for consideration. Programs in italics would not be available if the ACC holds as is. For the Big XII the top four would change to BYU, South Florida, Pittsburgh, and Louisville. BYU is a top for regardless. Florida State, Clemson, and Miami speak for themselves and the Big XII would do well to consider going to the Big XIV.  My gut says no Florida State, Clemson, or Miami. Without the ACC teams, South Florida makes sense to provide the Big XII with a presence in Florida. I am uncertain whether teams like Pittsburgh, Louisville, Syracuse or Air Force would be worth going to the Big XIV for, especially if it would be difficult to any team from the ACC. I think this is most likely. Though the Big XII and BYU failed to reach an agreement previously, the new BCS arrangement will make it very difficult for any independent team other than Notre Dame. BYU will be more flexible, and the Big XII will have no problem with a religious school as they already have Baylor and Texas Christian. South Florida will jump at the chance of joining the Big XII. Air Force declined previously due to the level and schedule of competition in the Big XII seems unlikely unless the Big XII expand to include Navy. Thus the Big XII should take BYU, South Florida, possible Air Force and Navy as well. This looks like a pretty good conference as the new Big XIV. These changes will leave the ACC intact.

The Big East will lose one to two programs (Navy and South Florida). If the Big East wish to have twelve teams for a championship game, two to four additional teams (assuming San Diego State returns to the MWC) will be needed. The candidates for the Big East are:
  • Program: attendance / mcubed = value (trend)
  1. Southern Mississippi: 25,751 / 53.4 = 482 (-)
  2. Army: 32,205 / 81 = 397 (-)
  3. Tulsa: 20,020 / 53.5 = 374 (-)
  4. Arkansas St: 26,398 / 90.1 = 292 (+)
  5. Buffalo: 13,242 / 97.6 = 135 (-)
  6. Massachusetts: ?
Massachusetts is transitioning from FCS to FBS thus I have no data for them. They have been mentioned as a local candidate for Connecticut. As have been Tulsa. Southern Mississippi should really be considered as a regional presence, and it is a bridge between Tulane and Central Florida. I could see the following divisions:
  • East: Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina, Navy (or Massachusetts), and Temple
  • South: Houston, Memphis, SMU, Southern Mississippi, Tulane, and Tulsa
The next conference to be affected by realignment would be the MWC. But this would only occur if the Big XII take Air Force. I am skeptical BYU would join the MWC until the Big XII moves to 12 teams. UTEP would be a clear replacement for Air Force to revive old WAC rivalries and give the MWC a foothold in Texas. The MWC would likely stay at 12 but team 13 and 14 would have to be Idaho and New Mexico State. They should stay at 12.
  • Program: attendance / mcubed = value (trend)
  1. UTEP: 29,374 / 87.6 = 335 (+)
  2. New Mexico St: 14,247 / 93.4 = 152 (-)
  3. Idaho: 12,582 / 100 = 125 (+)
Should Conference USA lose both Southern Mississippi and Tulsa, they would still have 12 teams and a conference championship game. But if they also lose UTEP then Army or Arkansas State should be taken.
  • Program: attendance / mcubed = value (trend)
  1. Army: 32,205 / 81 = 397 (-)
  2. Arkansas St: 26,398 / 90.1 = 292 (+)
The MAC would need replacement only if they lose Massachusetts and Buffalo, but all they need is one replacement to be at 12 as they have 13 now. Army, Marshall, and Western Kentucky should be considered. Army is the best option.
  • Program: attendance / mcubed = value (trend)
  1. Army: 32,205 / 81 = 397 (-)
  2. Marshall: 24,896 / 82.7 = 301 (-)
  3. Western Kentucky: 17,415 / 105.8 = 164 (+)
The Sun Belt belt could escape unscathed if they don't lose Arkansas State. But even if they take New Mexico State and Idaho, they would only be at 10 football schools. In addition to just FBS South Alabama and Georgia State following suit, two more FCS teams will be needed. It seems unlikely Arkansas Little Rock or Texas Arlington, already members of the Sun Belt, would start FBS football. I have no data for FCS so I have only guesses taken from recent FCS champions.
  • North Dakota State
  • Sam Houston State (Texas)
  • Eastern Washington
  • Delaware
  • Villanova (Pennsylvania)
  • Montana 
  • Richmond (Virginia)
  • Appalachian State (North Carolina)

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