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Conference Realignment- A New Division 4 Reality?

Let’s talk Division 4 football.

By now you’ve heard of it. It’s everywhere. We’ve even talked about it here. The “Power 5” conferences break away to form their own division within the NCAA structure, or even break away from the NCAA entirely (for football). But this isn’t about whether it’s a good idea, or a bad idea. It’s not about whether the players deserved to be paid, or deserve to earn more. It’s about the next step if it does happen.

Division 4 football is all about cooperation, at least in theory. All of the “Power 5” conference commissioners have said this over the last few weeks, plainly, or at least in their own way. It’s about shared ideals. It’s about working together. So let’s assume that due to this, Division 4 Football can more or less be considered a single entity. Sure, the schools have different affiliations for their other sports (ACC, SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, etc.), but they’re all members of Division 4. They compete, yet they work together.  They look out for themselves, but they need each other. Kind of like a mini-NFL, which is essentially what this new structure would be.

Now for simplicity’s sake, let’s give in to some of the rumors that are currently out there- simply that many small private schools like Duke, Wake Forest and Vanderbilt won’t be able to afford this new “free-for-all” structure, or that some “non-football focused” schools will choose to opt out (Purdue). Let’s remove them from the equation. Then, let’s assume that a handful of schools currently outside of the power structure are able to handle this new reality- Notre Dame for example.

Which gets us to the fun part. If Division 4 is really a single entity, and the television package is sold as one, it makes all the sense in the world to realign. After all, some schools will be dropping out. Others will be joining. And after all, it never made sense to have more than 10 schools in a league anyway.

Division 4 understands this. It wants to maintain regional rivalries and easy travel for fans. It wants to have regional sub-networks. It knows that all of these factors are important to building a brand. Division 4 play would feature 9 league games and an 8-team play-off. Six division winners and two wildcards. No polls, no nonsense.

I’ve taken the liberty of realigning the “league.” You can find my divisions below-


East- Georgia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, South Carolina, NC State, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Tennessee

SouthFlorida State, Florida, Miami, Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi, Kentucky

NorthMaryland, Rutgers, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Boston College, Connecticut, Navy, Cincinnati, Louisville

MidwestOhio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Notre Dame, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State

SouthwestTexas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado

West– UCLA, Southern California, Stanford, California, Arizona, Arizona St., Oregon, Oregon St., Washington, Washington St.


A lot of the divisions look like the current leagues did a few years ago, don’t they? I’ve listed the casualties of Division 4 below and some of the possible reasons why they might be left out-

Duke (small private school/lack of fan support or tradition)

Wake Forest (small private school/lack of resources/desire to focus on basketball)

Vanderbilt  (small private school/lack of a football tradition/desire to focus on basketball)

Northwestern (small private school/lack of a football tradition)

Purdue (lack of fan support or tradition)

TCU (small private school, religiously-affiliated, recent addition to the Power 5)

Baylor (small private school, religiously-affiliated)

BYU (private school, religiously-affiliated, not currently in Power 5)

Utah (recent addition to Power 5)

But these are just a few of the schools that didn’t make the cut. Others such as Houston, SMU, South Florida, and much of the American, could make a good case for inclusion as well. But the whole point of Division 4 is its exclusivity. It’s more or less about the “haves” breaking away from the “have-nots.” A line has to be drawn somewhere. Plus, these conferences just make for nice, contiguous groups. But what do you think? Who was left in that should have been left out? Who was left out that should have been left in? As a fan, would you like these divisions? Let us know in the comments below.

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9 thoughts on “Conference Realignment- A New Division 4 Reality?

  1. The North should be tougher, give us Ohio St or something.

  2. Having read this I believed it was rather enlightening.
    I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this
    short article together. I once again find myself spending
    way too much time both reading and posting comments.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  3. Allen on said:

    I’ve never gotten the perception from anything the conference commissioners have said to indicate that they would be willing to leave any of their schools behind in the Division 4 scenario. I’m not saying they have not said that, only that I have not seen it in what I have read. Is it relatively certain that this is part of the proposal, or is it just educated guesswork at this point?

  4. Terry on said:

    Wake Forest focused on basketball? Have you seen our coach in action?

  5. not going to be okay for ND…it does not want to be in a midwest division..think either North or east division for ND…..

  6. haha you all have good points. The North is a little easy, but I see Ohio State preferring the Midwest schedule. And unfortunately, they can really do what they want…Notre Dame may not want to be in the Midwest, but they would be so horribly out of place in the East it would be ridiculous. I think they would only get excited about half the North teams.

    As far as leaving schools behind, it’s all rumors at this point- just like the whole discussion. Sure, the commissioners have mentioned this idea, but until it happens it’s nothing more than message board material.

    Terry, I feel you. All of us on Tobacco Road want Wake to be relevant again. It’s amazing how some of the “flavor of the month” schools claim to have a better tradition than you guys when Tim Duncan could beat their best starting five alone. I don’t think the situation will last forever. Something has to give.

    Personally though, I really like how these shake up. They maintain important rivalries and are probably how conferences should be anyway if the schools had some sense and money played a different role. UNC could still play Wake and Duke every year under this model. That would be a dream schedule that I could get behind…

  7. Take West Virginia to the North, they have more in common plus they have played most of them in the past. Put Louisville to the Midwest as they played the north schools very little, and ND to the East or just trade Louisville for ND. ND will want to play either in the north or east for recruiting reasons. You also dropped Tennessee also, Vanderbilt has done well in football in the SEC, and moving out of the heavy SEC school south would still be able to hold their own with like minded academic schools in the East which only has 9 schools anyway.

  8. Haha the reason the East has 9 schools is because I actually meant to put Tennessee in there. No reason UNC and NC State shouldn’t play TN, it’s a bordering state….

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