I miss the simpler times of college football. When conferences were about dominating a part of the country, not expanding into new recruiting grounds. When rivalries were formed, not named by a committee. Now don't get me wrong, I love college football, but I roll my eyes every time I see Maryland vs Nebraska or TCU vs West Virginia as a conference game. Also full disclosure, I think there are A LOT of things broke with college football and the NCAA in general...but let's take a moment to hit a reset button for a second. Melt away all of the TV deals that control conference allegiance and put things back the way they should be.
Some things won't be that different from the way they are, some will turn things on their head.
This first section will just cover one of the hottest topics every time realignment comes around, will Notre Dame ever join a conference?
We start with biggest discussion point when realignment rolls around, will Notre Dame ever join a conference? Probably not, but if they did:
Number of conference games- 8
Protected inter-division rivalries- Notre Dame vs Pitt, Navy vs Maryland, Syracuse vs West Virginia, Rutgers vs UConn, maybe Army vs Temple as they have played 8 of the last 10 years
Championship game- Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ is probably the correct answer here due to the 80,000 person seating capacity...but part of me just thinks a conference with this much northeast history needs to play in Yankee Stadium.
This conference could also be named the "friends of Notre Dame" conference. There are two main reason Notre Dame doesn't join a conference in football: the TV money is too good and it would throw off the scheduling with traditional rivals too much. As I said earlier, I don't know much about TV contracts and whatnot but what if you filled a conference full of teams that would be happy to ride Notre Dame's coattails letting the Irish get a huge share of TV dollars, possibly even keep your team agreement as opposed to a conference agreement, that just so happened to be traditional Notre Dame rivals?
Believe it or not Navy has the longest standing rivalry with Notre Dame of any school. The two programs will meet for the 90th time in 2018. Add in Army, Boston College, and Pittsburgh this conference encompasses all of Notre Dame's traditional rivals from the Northeast. This also gives Notre Dame a foothold into what has traditionally been a strong foothold of recruiting for them in the New York/New Jersey and Pennsylvania territory.
What about Notre Dame's rivals that aren't on the eastern seaboard? Well those rivalries are already suffering with the current weird agreement between Notre Dame and the ACC where they play 5 games against the conference and have rights to their bowl bids but aren't "a member". The solution would be to put them on a rotation. Have one rotating game between USC and Stanford and one rotating game between Michigan, Purdue, and/or Michigan State. This still leaves two open games (this is the one Power 6 conference that has 8 games for this exact reason). You could have these games as just a free-for-all of scheduling, but I like the idea of the Fighting Irish returning to their old ways of playing one of the toughest schedules in the country. Use one of these games to rotate between frequently scheduled ACC rivals such as Georgia Tech, Miami, Florida State, and North Carolina and the other an at-large opponent. Possibly revive and continue traditional games such as Air Force, Northwestern, and Indiana. So in this conference a Notre Dame Schedule may look something like this:
vs Boston College
vs Air Force (in San Antonio)
Conference Championship (let's just imagine vs West Virginia)
Sorry Irish, no more Ball State or Miami, Ohio. Let's be honest though, much of the ease come's in conference. Which brings us too...
Rest of conference
Yes the conference is pretty football weak. But it is still absolutely a "Power conference" by today's standard. It consists of Notre Dame, 4 ACC schools (BC, Syracuse, Pitt, Louisville), 2 Big 10 schools (Maryland, Rutgers), 1 Big 12 school (West Virginia), 3 American schools (Navy, UConn, Temple), and Army is an Independent. However, both the Big 10 and Big 12 have permitted the scheduling of Army as their mandatory out of conference "Power 5" game.
The teams in the northeast haven't been very nationally prominent lately, but that hasn't always been the case. However, when the the original Big East was in it's infancy in the early/mid 90's Syracuse, Boston College, and West Virginia were fixtures in the top 25 and could easily return there if they unite instead of becoming gateways for recruiting to southern and midwestern conferences.
At a glance the one school that may look like it doesn't fit is Louisville. They belong here more than you may think though. Louisville has a history of scheduling the likes of Pitt, Boston College, and Syracuse dating back to their days as an Independent before they joined the modern ACC where they play almost annually now. They even have a more recent competitive rivalry with West Virginia.
I know it would never happen, but it is fun to imagine the Notre Dame competing for a conference championship against some of the most historical football programs in the country.
Coming soon, the rest of the Power 6 (yes Power 6) gets realigned.