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
South– Florida State, Florida, Miami, Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi, Kentucky
North– Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Boston College, Connecticut, Navy, Cincinnati, Louisville
Midwest– Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Notre Dame, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State
Southwest– Texas, 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.