Restarting College Football From Scratch: Which 120 Schools Would Sponsor Football?

Is Your School One of the 120 Best Equipped to Play College Football?

Is Your School One of the 120 Best Equipped to Play College Football in Today’s Landscape?

Back in March, SB Nation’s Jason Kirk took a look at an interesting question: Where would you place a college football program if you were starting one completely from scratch? The considerations included current program geography, potential fan bases and to some degree, recruiting as well. Using these factors, both Jason and the commenters (myself included) recommended a flurry of current and hypothetical universities, with no clear choice above the rest. As it is the offseason, this is quite the entertaining exercise.

But taking that idea a step further, what if we decided to start the whole thing from scratch? Blow up the current college football landscape — structure, traditions, records, existing programs, etc. — and just completely start fresh. The only hard-and-fast rule? We’re choosing 120 schools, all of which either currently sponsor Division-1 or -II NCAA athletics and/or have an institutional endowment over $1 billion. Additionally, to narrow the consideration pool down a bit, I avoided all schools with less than 5,000 students, since it’s highly unlikely they’d be able to support football from a talent or fan standpoint (at the collegiate game’s highest level anyway).

Using these factors as guides, I built an available pool of 318 schools, and compiled the following information for each:

  • Endowment: In many cases, endowments are a nice measuring stick of a school’s ability to raise money. Since college football programs cost money and need similar fundraising to function, this should certainly come into play when considering a school’s ability to sponsor the sport.
  • Enrollment: It’s not the end-all, be-all of whether you can sponsor football, but fan support usually starts with students. If you don’t even have 7,000 students on campus, how are you supposed to draw more than 20,000 to Saturday’s game?
  • State Recruiting Ranking: This is a big one, because it examines how sustainable football is from a local recruiting level. If you’re a big school, but have no local base, that means you’re utilizing a national strategy. Likewise, if you’re a mid-size school, but exist in a large local base, you still have a significant chance of recruiting success.
  • Public/Private: Obviously, there are more public schools than private schools at the FBS level today, and in our setup, that’ll still be the case. Private schools won’t be eliminated from consideration at all, but if a decision must be made between a private school and public school, the public school will win out. Public institutions have an easier road toward attracting local talent, and in many cases support too, so that was taken into consideration on a few choice occasions.

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Atlantic Coast Convos Far-Too-Early 2013 Top 25

Alabama Will Be Favored to Win Their Third Straight Title in 2013

Alabama Will Be Favored to Win Their Third Straight National Championship in 2013

Just because the previous college football season ended only last week doesn’t mean we can’t turn our eyes to next year already. Based exclusively on returning players, currently committed recruits and your standard blind guessing, our very early 2013 top 25 is included below. Disagree? Like these picks? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Atlantic Coast Convos 2013 Top 25 (January 14)

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Oregon Ducks

3. Stanford Cardinal

4. Texas A&M Aggies

5. Georgia Bulldogs

6. Ohio State Buckeyes

7. South Carolina Gamecocks

8. Clemson Tigers

9. Louisville Cardinals

10. LSU Tigers

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Syracuse vs. San Diego State ‘Battle on the Midway': What About Football?

With Basketball Finding Cool New Venues to Play, What Uncharted Territory Can College Football Compete On?

For fans of Syracuse (or San Diego State), today’s news of November 9’s “Battle on the Midway” basketball game between the two schools was cause for quite a bit of excitement. And while the Aztec athletic department’s statement about limited ticket availability may put a slight damper on the parade, it also got your author thinking a bit. Basketball has played their game in/on some cool venues, as has professional and college hockey. Why not college football?

Well, the biggest issue is literally the biggest issue — space. Football needs more of it than any sport not named soccer (or still football, for non-Americans), and a lot of times, which removes options from other sports. The NFL plays at Wembley Stadium and Old Trafford, which is only cool because those fields are in the U.K. And we all know that everyone in the U.S. believes things from there to be pretty cool.

So where to now? Well, we’ve put together a list of our top five places to stage a college football game, should money, realism, logistical issues and other things of that nature be completely irrelevant. Yes, this may seem like a foolish exercise, but at least entertain the fact it could be intriguing. Below are the top five, in reverse order, with brief explanations: Continue reading

Big East Expansion: Navy-Finally-Says-Yes Edition

The Big East Makes Another Addition: And This Time, It's Navy

After a strung-out courtship that apparently lasted 10 years according to Navy Athletic Director Chuck Gladchuck, the Midshipmen are finally part of the Big East (/Country/Continent/Least, etc.)… in 2015. While I’m always one to applaud the tradition of our service academies as major college football programs, it’s still difficult to see what this addition truly gives the “country’s first national football conference” (source: John Marinatto, who also believes Syracuse, Pitt, TCU and West Virginia were wrong in leaving). While Navy surely adds more tradition than most of the current conference schools, what it lacks is success to go along with it. Yes, the Midshipmen have been to eight bowl games in the last nine years, but just nine bowl games during the previous 125 years of play. And if for some reason, their triple-option attack just can’t measure up anymore (we saw glimpses of this during 2011), Navy could end up as an annual bottom-dweller.

So now what? For the conference to truly be a “national,” coast-to-coast league, the final addition almost HAS to be west of the Mississippi. Remember, the Big East will likely have 13 teams in 2013, but then drop down to 10 in 2014 with the departures of SU, Pitt and WVU. Navy bumps them back up to 11, but with seven teams in the Eastern time zone, two in the Central, one in the Mountain and one in the Pacific, any “Western” division likely needs another team in the western part of the country. Still, we’ll dissect some quick odds on the remaining candidates, taking an open look at the country: Continue reading

Big East Expansion: “Now What?” Edition

When the Big East Expands Again, This Guy's Definitely Still Interested

When we last left our more beleaguered East Coast football brethren (former rivals, for the five defectors among us), they were busy expanding to a four timezones format, extending its reach over 3,000 miles from its original locale of Providence, to the shores of San Diego. Since then, Air Force has made it awkward, and no longer wants a seat with the USSR of college football, while fellow service academy Navy is officially locked into independent status until 2014 (at least). So at this juncture, as we’ve asked several times before: now what?

We’ve mentioned most of these at one point or another, but worth noting all of the current candidates again, with odds and explanations attached. The following schools are listed from most likely to garner an invite to least likely. Also keep in mind that a) all schools are pretty much on the table at this point, and b)the conference has not necessarily said it will stop at 12 teams for football.

Temple Owls (Odds — 2:1): Already members of the Big East once, Temple fits the league’s original profile (good at basketball, eastern location), and this time brings a more formidable football program (they’d hope). The biggest barrier to their admittance has always been Villanova, but unless the Wildcats want to play basketball in the Atlantic 10, that stance will probably be changing soon.

Memphis Tigers (Odds — 8:1): Another all-sports addition, Memphis could contend immediately in basketball, but would likely be the new Temple of the league (while Temple would become the Rutgers of the new Big East?). Losing 10 games this past year won’t help them out much, but another defection (not unlikely) would.

ECU Pirates (Odds — 10:1): We’ve mentioned this several times before, but the Pirates have already applied to join the Big East! That was easy. A school that regularly draws 50-60K for football would normally be a big attraction, except that they’re the fifth-best game in town down in North Carolina, and provide little in terms of TV revenue. Ceiling in the new iteration of the league would likely be an 8-4 record.

Villanova Wildcats (Odds — 15:1): Given they’re already a member in all other sports, adding Villanova would be an easy fix. And at this point, the soonest they’d join is 2014, which as luck would have it, could coincide with Navy’s entry date. On the other hand, they play home games in a soccer stadium and usually play less compelling football than (at the very least) Penn and Temple.

Southern Miss Golden Eagles (Odds — 25:1): And to be honest, if they were in an even marginally larger media market, this would be a slam dunk already. The reigning Conference USA champs would love to continue rivalries with UCF, SMU and Houston, and raise their own national profile (they’re the San Diego State of the Gulf Coast, really). Even better than all of this: They’d be an immediate contender in a budding Western division.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (Odds — 35:1): If you’ve already got two teams in Texas, why not add an Oklahoma team, too? Tulsa’s always been decent at football, especially with the whole not-playing-defense thing which seems to work so well for C-USA teams. The drawback — most eyes in Tulsa are likely on the other two big football teams in the state, plus it would be difficult to finish higher than fourth in that Western division.

Toledo Rockets/Colorado State Rams/UNLV Rebels (Odds — 100:1 each): And this is just a sampling of the schools the Big East could consider. Hell, might even throw Hawaii in there while they’re at it. If they’re going for eyeballs and institutional cache, then they’re going for UNLV or to be honeset, Hawaii (have been to a BCS game). Logically, the pick’s Toledo — probably as good as half of the league this year and a natural rival for Cincinnati. Colorado State’s more tossed in there to represent any mountain-type team in that general region of the country.

If we’re stopping at just one additional school (to pair with Navy), Temple would appear to be the pick. However, to avoid pushing too many teams out West (and further toward leaving the conference), they may go with another choice left of the original conference footprint. If that’s the choice, I’d give Southern Miss the call first. In the case of more than just one invite though, no blog post can truly capture the amount of teams on the table. Might as well include every team currently in the MAC, Mountain West, WAC and C-USA. And that’s just for starters.

Big East Expansion: Four Different Time Zones Edition

Will Boise State's Lauded Arrival Save the Big East's AQ Status?

As most have probably heard by now, the Big East is suddenly not so “east” anymore. With the additions of Boise State, SMU, Houston, UCF and San Diego State, the conference is now one that stretches all the way from Florida to California, or the just as ridiculous Rhode Island to Idaho if you’d prefer that visual. Further complicating matters is the fact that it still needs two more schools to reach its goal of having 12 football-playing members. Who are the big contenders? To me, you first look at the two obvious answers:

Navy — end the years-long flirtation and help the Midshipmen get out of some of their scheduling conflicts, so they can join the league as soon as possible.

Air Force — you’re not getting one of these military academies without the other. And now that the Falcons have several travel partners out west, it’s a lot more palatable of a move for them.

If you’re Louisville Cardinals basketball coach Rick Pitino, however, you have something else in mind:

“…my hope is that they’ll go out there and get a Temple or a Memphis to keep basketball strong.”

Something tells me that Air Force and Navy will be easy gets, and the Big East probably stops there. They’ve also stated that Temple is their first alternate should there be a snag in their plans — something I support, so long as Memphis isn’t part of the deal (terrible facilities, poor academics). Then again, Syracuse won’t be the ones that have to travel all over the country just to play in-conference, so I’m not as broken up as I once would’ve been.

The bigger question, once the league fills out at 12 schools for football and who knows how many for basketball, is are they better off? For its traditional strength — basketball — there’s no way the schools above replace SU and Pittsburgh (and even West Virginia, to a point). For football? I still think it might be more of an even swap (or even a downgrade) than anyone within the conference is letting on. The Mountaineers are no Boise, but they are regularly in the BCS standings and usually win their BCS bowls as well. Pitt, Syracuse and oft-forgotten defector TCU have also been to BCS games with varying degrees of success. The other adds besides the Broncos? Zero BCS berths, few appearances in the standings and outside of the former Southwest Conference teams, little history to speak of.

Yes, as they’ve done before, the Big East will surely write its own epilogue here. But for those already penning a success story on the gridiron, maybe you should hold off for a few before you start throwing a parade for the league’s bumbling leader up in Providence, John Marinatto.

Big East Expansion: Spurned by BYU Edition

Like the Pioneers, Big East Commish John Marinatto Keeps Heading West, In Spite of Hardships

As most know, the Big East (furthermore notated as Big “East”) has been courting a full Western annex to appease the whims of the Boise State Broncos (the linchpin in the conference keeping its AQ status). This Frankenstein-like setup would include Boise, Air Force, SMU, Houston and a fifth team, plus UCF in the west to complement the traditional eastern division. That fifth team was supposed to be currently-independent BYU, who everyone thought would jump at the chance to be an automatic qualifier. Yeah, about that.

So now what? Well, there’s the logical next step of inviting Temple. Though the Owls were tossed out of the Big “East” back in 2004, there’s rumblings all around for them to return. Temple sure wants it, as does Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. There’s also the simple option of ECU, who applied for football-only membership back in September. And of course, Villanova, who’s already a league member in every other sport, is still pretty interested in making the jump. But why would the conference be interested in any of these logical choices?

No, instead, the Big “East” is probably gunning for the least logical option this side of Hawaii: San Diego State.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Aztecs are a fine program in both football and basketball (invite for that sport unlikely, but humor me) — a real rising power the likes of which would’ve been an enterprising addition under better circumstances, honestly. But logistically, think about this one for a second: schools traveling from Florida to Idaho, Cincinnati to San Diego, New Jersey to Colorado. If invited for basketball, you’d potentially have to watch Providence head to Southern California every other year (a 3,039-mile trip according to Google Maps). Regardless though, the travel costs associated with a conference of this size and breadth would be downright staggering, and unfair to anyone involved with the program, from fans to athletes.

We’re still in wait-and-see mode at the moment, but if this happens, the Big “East” may as well be a conglomerate of independents who happen to schedule each other for convenience purposes. If the league decides to go to 16 teams in football, I’ve heard Warsaw Tech is available.