With the apparent breakneck speed of the conference realignment carousel, most have lost sight of the fact that these teams are academic institutions, and not just brands. But what if, instead of athletic earning potential, they were rearranged by academic ranking? The stature of conference partners may not matter to Florida State trustees, but it apparently matters a good deal to those in-charge at Miami. So while this would obviously never happen, it’s fun to imagine what-if. Especially for the fan bases that are a bit more obsessive about how academics fit into the realignment game than others may be.
For the groupings below, we took a look at U.S. News & World Report’s Top National Universities list for 2012. Yes, we’re well aware these rankings mean nothing and are very imperfect and flawed. Funny enough, so are the BCS rankings and conference realignment, yet those play an pretty important role in a lot of college football happenings, now don’t they? Since we were limited to the top 200 overall, just 93 FBS schools were ranked (service academies not included).
Conference One: The “Not-Quite-Ivy” League
By division: East: Duke, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Virginia
West: Stanford, Rice, California, USC, UCLA, Michigan
Commentary: All four California schools from the Pac-12 stick together, and align themselves with Michigan and Notre Dame, two schools they all have plenty of experience playing over the years (some more than others). Vanderbilt and Rice definitely upgrade themselves to a group of more academically-suitable peers, and not surprisingly, there are three ACC schools here, too. Also of note, four of these schools appear in early renditions of a 2012 top 25. This setup also wouldn’t do half-bad from a money standpoint, capturing the Los Angeles, Bay Area, Chicago and Nashville markets outright, along with Raleigh, Houston, Detroit and Washington D.C. Continue reading