In college football there are the haves. And the have-nots. It's a class system and unfortunately for me I happen to cheer for a team (BYU) that's been left out (a whole series of posts in and of itself).
Assuming none of the "haves" are going to invite you to join the party, the best thing one can do is to try and change your own situation. This is what my proposal would be and it all starts with the best of the current "have-not" conferences the AAC.
- South Florida
- Central Florida
- East Carolina
The first thing you have to do is get the best available schools from the other have-nots to join. You immediately invite:
- San Diego State
- Colorado State
Now that's an interesting 16 team league. If you wanted to be really smart about it, you could dump Tulane and Tulsa and get UNLV and Air Force. Better markets. But that's not 100% necessary.
Now we have a 16 team conference and those are kind of tricky. We also have the problem of trying to convince Boise and especially BYU to join and take a pay cut. That's a tough sell. Money is everything to have-nots. So we have to get creative with conference money distribution. You can solve that by essentially incentivizing teams to be better (and an easy way to pay your best brands more all the time while sounding even). And maybe even toss them some guarantees but more on that later.
The first thing we need to tackle is how to arrange and manage such a league. 16 teams is too much for a single season of football. There aren't enough games. So what we do is use the "pod" idea, except we don't call them pods because that's a crappy name. We call them "divisions" What's better than competing for a conference championship? A division championship. Man. Now we have something to play for.
This is what the divisions look like. Mostly geography and competitive split when possible.
WEST - Football power heavy for sure. Good division games and the division race is going to be competitive most years.
EAST - The Florida schools are in Florida so they could threaten anytime they have a good coach for a couple of years. A good rivalry between the two top programs makes things very interesting.
- East Carolina
SOUTH - This is the Texas division. Houston is a huge market, smu is usually alright, and Memphis has been competitive the past few years. I like the balance here.
NORTH - The weakest of the football divisions is my guess. But Navy has been good for about 8 years, Cincinnati has potential. And temple and uconn have both had decent seasons in the past few years.
So now we have our divisions. It's a true "American" conference. And undeniably the strongest of all the have-nots. With that lineup there should always be at least a few teams ranked every week. It's missing the blue bloods (USC, Texas, Alabama) ETC that the other conferences has. But, on average it's as good as the rest of those conferences lower teams (Oregon State, Kansas, Vanderbilt, Rutgers (I could go on).
The biggest thing this alignment has to accomplish is a much better TV contract. The big boys get 30 million a year for each team. The goal for this would be to get at least 8 million per team. Enough to scrape by. 3-4 million is not enough. It's a really bad time for TV contracts but you have to hit that number. 10 million would be the dream number.
Now, to hit that number you are going to have to do things differently. You have to do something that other conferences with less that 16 can do. And that's to have a dynamic semi-final week.
That's the big win.. Right there.
So the way the football schedule would work is that two divisions would be appointed "Home" divisions for that year and two would be "Away" divisions. For the sake of the argument think of it like this.
- West - Home 1
- East - Home 2
- South - Away 1
- North - Away 2
The rest of the schedule would play out as follows. 4 games out of conference (with by-laws to encourage playing as many p5 teams as possible, more on that later). Then you would have 7 scheduled conference games. You play everyone in your division, and then you play an entire other division.
So Home 1 would play all the teams in Home 1 and all the teams in Away 1. And Home 2 would play all the teams in Home 2 and Away 2.
Then on the 7th week you have a semi-final playoff. The way it works is the "seeds" from each division would then play the seeds from another division. The Home Teams get to play at home (so they can build their schedules to get the right amount of home games every year. Works perfectly, you just don't know who the opponent is until the week before).
So Home 1 first place, would go up against Away 2 first place. That means it's a team they haven't played that season. Home 1 second place, would play Away 2 second place. That creates a really dynamic set of games for the TV agreement. 2 conference semi-finals. THAT'S GENIUS. And hopefully worth a few million each for the TV contract as well as lots of buzz.
The winners of the first place matchup would then play a championship game on championship week at the highest AP ranked home team (As to give them the best chance). That is an automatic strength of schedule boost. And will bring in more money AND will hopefully guarantee that the winner of the new AAC will always be the top ranked Little-guys team and will get a place in the big bowl games. That is important for money reasons. It's all about money.
This is doable. That is the path to scheduling that makes a splash, brings in more money, and adds so much more intrigue to the schedule. So this is what a sample BYU schedule would like every year.
- Eastern Washington (FCS tune up school)
- Utah (P5 rivalry game)
- Tennessee (Marque game)
- BYE WEEK
- Utah State (first weekend of October).
- Colorado State
- Boise State (The big division rivalry week. BYU vs. Boise, UCF vs. USF, Houston vs. Memphis)
- Navy ( Sem-final vs the North's best team)
- UCF (Championship game hosted at the top ranked school)
- Stanford (BOWL GAME, hopefully the bowl tie-ins will be better with a more intriguing conference.)
That is a pretty darn compelling schedule if you ask me. Tough. But winnable. The semi-final, division championship games, and the conference championship game has to bring in more money. Also, the way that's set up makes it very unlikely the championship game will be a rematch which is great for intrigue purposes.
Any conference that does equal shares is silly. The Pac-12 TV contracts aren't for Oregon State vs Arizona State, they are for USC. That's it. USC should be making way more than the other schools. I believe more schools are going to start to see that (like Texas does already) and that's going to cause lots of changes.
This new American Conference would need to do something similar to make sure the big brands ( BYU, Boise, ETC) were incentivized to join and stay in the league. And the way you do that is with commission sales. You pay people for being better. That gives the worse schools even more incentive to invest and try to better themselves.
The way it works is that 50% of the TV contract is distributed equally. So everyone gets at least a minimum pay day. After that the remaining 50% of divided based on a "point system". At the end of the year the you take the remaining 50% of money and divided that by how many total points there are, and that's the percentage that the schools earn. Simple enough.
My proposal for points would look something like this:
- 10 points for beating p5 school (this is to grow the conference's perception. Huge)
- 3 points each ooc FBs win (beating the other little-guy conferences is important)
- 1 point FCS win (not losing to a FCS is key)
- 2 points ranked in ap in single week (If you're good, you're driving value, you deserve to be paid)
- 5 points for national tv ( if you're on TV you're making the contract money. Not other schools)
- ?? For academic success ( can throw out some token something here to make it look like academics matter. They don't. )
- ?? Attendance (another possibility. If you sell out or something you earn some extra points)
- 3 points for each game that you are better than last year's record. (incentivize people to win)
- 5 points for a bowl win (can be combined with upper points)
- 15 points for major bowl appearance (Cotton, Fiesta, Rose, ETC)
Something like that. So you can see, if you're on TV and you're good you are going to get the lion share of those remaining dollars. Pretty powerful incentive to be better. AND a great way to pay the better brands you have more money while being "fair". Ideally this would push BYU from 8 million a year to something like 10-12 million. That's interesting enough to leave independence behind.
Third tier rights would be available to each school to do whatever they would like with. Sell them to a group network. Have your own station (BYU TV). Or sell them to Facebook for like $50. Whatever you want to do. This is another great way to help the big brands make more money.
You'd also likely have to include a clause for BYU and BOISE that they will always make at least as much money as they are making on their current contracts. Basically de-risk the jump for them. Should be easy to do with the new contract and innovative payout system. this guarantee only needs to last through the first contract. After that, the guarantees can go away.
And minimum standards of membership would need to be installed. People have to invest in facilities, recruiting, coaching, ETC. Everyone has to elevate their game to separate themselves from the other lower conferences. This is very important. Maybe you go as far as you have clauses that schools that don't invest to the minimum, or are perennial losers could be kicked out of the conference and replaced with a better school (UNLV, New Mexico, Army, Air Force, ETC). Another way to keep more intrigue.
The only other sport that matters. This is pretty easy to work with. Essentially you pair the divisions again (Home 1 with Away 1) and you play all of those teams Home and Home. Then you play the other two divisions only once. 4 away and 4 home. Then you have a big conference tournament and hopefully get a bunch of schools into the big dance.
Things get a little more complicated with the affiliate members (witicha state) and Navy not playing all sports. I think you leverage this though. And maybe add a couple more all-star basketball schools as non-football members.
Add Gonzaga in the West and have Navy play all sports, or grab another school out East that is great at basketball. This makes a really compelling basketball league. With a number of schools that are always very good. UCONN, Gonzaga, Witchita State, SDSU, SMU, Cincinnati, fringe BYU. We're talking about 5-6 bid league potentially. That's pretty great.
Basketball revenue would likely need to be distributed with it's own point system that makes sure the blue-blood basketball programs are getting more money for their efforts. Mirror football for all I care. With a little bit of tournament success this could be a big revenue generator for the conference.
They don't matter. OK. They do matter a little bit in that you have to make sure they don't spend too much money on travel ETC. I'm open to any solution here. Join your division for other sports with another nearby conference. WAC or MWC for the West. OR, just have them play HOME 1 and AWAY 1 and you only see the other half of the conference at the end of year tournament or something. People try to make this an obstacle all the time. It's not. Plenty of ways to fix this issue. And once again, they don't really matter.
I'm a genius and should be made commissioner. I'll do it on the cheap side too! (500k). I absolutely hate the idea of BYU going back to the MWC, or even joining the AAC as presently constituted. However, assuming that the Big 12 isn't going to call this is the best way forward. I loved the MWC back in the day when it felt like it was fighting for inclusion. I think this new AAC would have a very similar feel and would make the case to be considered a P6. It might never be the top ranked football conference, but I think there's a real chance it could be 4-5 on any given year depending on what the other conferences are doing.
Admittedly, it all depends on that TV contract though. If you take this proposal to the networks and they say no, then you don't do it. It's that simple. If BYU can make more money in the new AAC and get a conference with bowl tie-ins, ETC. There's no down side, especially if there is a valid P6 push (lawyer up if you have to).