*Shameless Plug: Ideal College Basketball is on the horizon. If you think what we're doing here is audacious, ICBB is gonna blow your eyeballs right outta their sockets. (Yikes - don't go for the visual on that. I just did and threw up in my mouth.)

                                                          The Conference Structure

For those of you who have been diligently following along, I thank you. Nay, I salute you. This has been a labor of love, and I'm grateful to have you along on this journey. By now you know that setting up an Ideal world of college football requires reimagining several aspects of the current landscape: scheduling, postseason and conference alignments. 

The third of these issues concerns the nature of present-day conference alignments. Can we be frank? (Frank is saying "who else am I supposed to be?" Sit down, Frank, and put away that flowchart.) Look, the current conference alignments are a hot mess. In the money grab for television revenue, the fans have been left holding the bag as conferences morph into barely-recognizable entities. Let's start with a few illustrative examples: Oklahoma and Nebraska, no longer in the same conference. Kansas and Missouri, no longer in the same conference. Texas and Arkansas, or Texas and Texas A&M? Nope. Utah and BYU? Nada. Louisville and Cincinnati? Nah. SMU and TCU? Ditto. How on this blessed green earth is Maryland in the Big 10 with Midwestern schools rather than its rightful place in the ACC? How is Navy in a conference at all while Army still plays as an independent? And can we talk about a system in which a league calling itself the Big 10 has 14 schools, and another called the Big 12 has 10 schools? This is college, math should be easy. Can anyone tell me how CUSA, the American and the Sun Belt differentiate themselves from each other? How many fans are emotionally tied into conferences that have little geographic identity and even fewer natural rivalries? (I told you there'd be a lot of rhetorical questions.) Take a tour through Ideal's conference membership here. Methinks you'll say "Wow". Or perhaps something more expansive, it's up to you, no pressure.

Furthermore (I really need a soapbox -- somebody grab me a soapbox), these mega-conferences only serve to dilute the product. Again, illustrative examples: How can Florida not play Alabama every year, or Alabama not play Georgia every year? How can Michigan not play Iowa every year, or Michigan State not play Indiana every year? How much longer are fans going to remain engaged and loyal to conferences when many of their natural rivalries are played only a couple times a decade? It's this simple: You cannot determine a true conference champion unless every team plays every other team. Once in football, twice in basketball*. Ideal College Football returns us to that format. All of the traditional conference rivalries are intact, and they will play each other every season, and we will determine true conference pecking order on the field of play, where it belongs.

So let's talk infrastructure. We can always use a good infrastructure week. In order to best facilitate the scheduling and playoff format, it makes sense to organize conferences into specific configurations. This is the engine that makes the entire system work. In this first season there are 1,034 schools in 90 conferences, arranged into 30 groups, which in turn are arrayed into 10 divisions. Here is the general framework:

Division 1:     Group I              Group II               Group III            (FBS/I-A)

Division 2:     Group IV            Group V              Group VI           (FCS/I-AA)

Division 3:     Group VII           Group VIII           Group IX            (FCS/I-AA)

Division 4:     Group X             Group XI             Group XII           (D2)

Division 5:     Group XIII          Group XIV           Group XV           (D2)

Division 6:     Group XVI          Group XVII          Group XVIII        (D3)

Division 7:     Group XIX          Group XX            Group XXI          (D3)

Division 8:     Group XXII         Group XXIII         Group XXIV        (D3)

Division 9:     Group XXV         Group XXVI        Group XXVII       (NAIA)

Division 10:   Group XXVIII      Group XXIX        Group XXX         (FCS, D2, D3, NAIA)


And here is the more specific outline:

Division 1:      Group I: Southeastern (SEC), Southwest (SWC), Atlantic Coast (ACC)

                        Group II: Big 10, Pac-10, Big East

                        Group III: Mountain West, American South, Mid-American (MAC)

Division 2:      Group IV: Southern, Sun Belt, Big Sky

                        Group V: Southland, Big West, North Atlantic

                        Group VI: Ohio Valley (OVC), Missouri Valley (MVC), Ivy

Division 3:      Group VII: East Coast, Mid-Eastern (MEAC), Southwestern (SWAC)

                        Group VIII: Big South, Atlantic-10, Midwestern Collegiate

                        Group IX: Western, Metro Atlantic (MAAC), Northeast (NEC)

Division 4:      Group X: Big North, Southern Plains, Mid-America Intercollegiate (MIAA)

                        Group XI: Gulf South, Mountain North, Great Lakes Intercollegiate (GLIAC)

                        Group XII: South Atlantic, Southern Sun, Rocky Mountain

Division 5:      Group XIII: Northeast-12, Northern Sun, Appalachian Mountain

                        Group XIV: Southern Intercollegiate (SIAC), Central Intercollegiate (CIAA), Pacific Coast (PCAA)

                        Group XV: Eastern Mountain, Great Lakes Valley (GLVAC), Hudson Valley

Division 6:      Group XVI: North Bay, Northern, Northern Lakes

                        Group XVII: Northwest, Adirondack, Middle Atlantic States

                        Group XVIII: Upper Plains, Northern Athletic, American Southwest

Division 7:      Group XIX: Foothill, Heartland, Chesapeake Bay

                        Group XX: North Coast, Tidewater, Allegheny Mountain

                        Group XXI: New England Small College (NESCAC), Northern Woods, Midwest

Division 8:      Group XXII: Skyline, Mississippi Valley, Mountain South

                        Group XXIII: Northland, Little East, Commonwealth Coast

                        Group XXIV: New England Collegiate, Big River, Upper Midwest (UMAC)

Division 9:      Group XXV: Mid-States (MSFA), Pacific Sun, Northern Plains

                        Group XXVI: Eastern Plains, Prairie, Tennessee Valley

                        Group XXVII: Heart of America, Great Plains (GPAC), Central States (CSFL)

Division 10:    Group XXVIII: Trans America (TAAC), Deep South, Piedmont

                        Group XXIX: South Coast, Blue Ridge, American North

                        Group XXX: Atlantic Sun, Metro North, Eastern

Don’t be concerned if you don’t recognize all of these conferences. Many have been renamed and reconfigured, while others are brand spankin' new. All will become clear in the next section as we get into individual school affiliations.

Note: conferences have been placed within divisions in descending order, i.e. from strongest to weakest within each division. Therefore, Group I is stronger than Group II; Group II is stronger than Group III; Group XI is stronger than Group XII, etc. I have made it a requirement that all conferences contain at least 10 schools, and no more than 12. Thus, the landscape that you may be familiar with has changed, though – I think – for the better.

Now let’s look at all of these conferences in detail:  
The color schematic indicates divisions that play one another



Like what we've done with the place? -- Become an Idealist on Patreon


Diggin' the infrastructure? -- Help us build more scaffolding by supporting Ideal on Patreon