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Fun with realignment: FBS promotion/relegation

Is there something else you wanted to talk about?

Stanford v North Carolina State Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Yes, conference realignment is back in full swing. No, this isn’t another article about what is actually happening or what could potentially happen. No, this isn’t necessarily a serious article. Yes, I took the time to write it anyways.

This is an article specifically about what should happen. Not because I have some crystal ball and have outlined the best future option (side note, I mean... shoot, it could be), but because everything is so dang ridiculous that we might as well lean fully into it and embrace the chaos to the highest extent possible.

The Big Ten and SEC are in the midst of a Cold War era USA vs Russia arms stockpiling, all in the name of trying to land an ever-bigger media rights deal from their respective network conglomerates - or whatever new one(s) will come along and offer them even more stupid money.

Eventually, though, one of two things will happen: either the sheer size of the conferences will become unwieldy and they’ll split into regional-based divisions, or they’ll realize the per-team payouts starts diminishing with each new team they add and start working towards kicking lower value schools out. Regardless of why, it seems like a safe assumption that smaller regional pods/divisions/whathaveyous are in the future. So let’s just skip all the stupidness and go right in.

I’m proposing a European style promotion/relegation system among the FBS schools with three tiers. Fifty-six teams will comprise the top tier, while each of the secondary and tertiary tiers will be comprised of 40 teams each. This will require three teams to be pulled up from the FCS ranks, so theoretical congratulations to North Dakota State, South Dakota State, and Montana State.

Each tier will be comprised of eight divisions, with the champions of each division going to the championship playoffs. There will be four teams promoted and four teams relegated each season. The 56 teams in the top tier make it easier to stay in the top tier for longer, while the lesser number of lower tier teams makes upward mobility easier.

Promotions are easy: the four playoff semifinalists get to move up.

Relegations are a bit trickier, because you don’t want to punish a team for one bad season. It would have to be based on a factor of multi-year performance.

Of course, with each round or promotions and relegations, the divisions would have to be reassembled to the best geographical effort.

Here are the breakdowns by tiers (keep in mind this is about football only - we’re assuming that conference commissioners and school administrators have the common sense to divide off all other sports into meaningful conferences... yes, I’m a dreamer):

Tier 1

  • Division A: Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, USC, UCLA
  • Division B: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami
  • Division C: Clemson, South Carolina, NC State, UNC, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Tennessee
  • Division D: Arizona, Arizona State, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Baylor
  • Division E: Oklahoma, OK State, Mississippi, Miss State, Arkansas, Missouri, LSU
  • Division F: Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Purdue
  • Division G: Indiana, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State
  • Division H: Maryland, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Syracuse, West Virginia, Rutgers

Tier 2

  • Division A: California, Stanford, Fresno State, San Diego State, Wyoming
  • Division B: Boston College, Temple, Northwestern, Duke, Vanderbilt
  • Division C: UAB, Middle Tennessee, Toledo, Arkansas State, Louisiana Tech
  • Division D: Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech, SMU, Houston
  • Division E: Tulsa, North Texas, UTSA, SMU, Louisiana-Lafayette
  • Division F: UCF, USF, Troy, Tulane, Memphis
  • Division G: East Carolina, Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State, Liberty, James Madison
  • Division H: Colorado, Colorado State, Boise State, BYU, Air Force

Tier 3

  • Division A: UMass, UConn, Army, Navy, Buffalo
  • Division B: North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, Montana State
  • Division C: Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Bowling Green, Kent State, Akron
  • Division D: Ball State, Miami (OH), Ohio, Marshall, ODU
  • Division E: Louisiana-Monroe, Sam Houston State, Southern Miss, South Alabama, Jacksonville State
  • Division F: Charlotte, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, FIU, FAU
  • Division G: Utah State, Nevada, UNLV, San Jose State, Hawaii
  • Division H: New Mexico, New Mexico State, UTEP, Rice, Texas State

Yes, bicker and argue about which teams belong where or what alignment of regional-based teams works best. I don’t care. I’m just here to watch a team that gets promoted spend recklessly with a huge infusion of cash. Could you imagine what a program like ECU would do with a one-year infusion of SEC money? It would be amazingly entertaining.

Now let’s just hope that the new version of the NCAA Football video game franchise that’s set for release in the summer of 2024 has a promotion/relegation feature included.

And yes, please tell me how dumb and wrong I am in the comments. Feed me the hate!