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The Confidential

The ACC Sports Blog

Conference Realignment: A League of their Own

The Confidential has had some fun recently exploring different topics for hypothetical realignment scenarios such as relegation and team trading. While the tectonic shifts of conference realignment have settled since the ACC added a Grant-of-Rights, and the Big XII seems to have resolved their Conference Championship Game dilemma, there has been chatter among some of the private schools that changes could still be on the horizon.

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Specifically, there were rumblings that if players are allowed to unionize at private universities, and are to be treated like employees, then some of the private schools may respond by down-grading their athletics programs to a lower division – or eliminate their big time sports programs altogether.

Notre Dame’s athletic director and Northwestern’s president emeritus said Tuesday that if college athletes ultimately are ruled to be employees of their respective schools, they foresee their universities withdrawing from the current setup of big-time sports.

The argument largely stems from the belief that removing the amateur status will somehow diminish the charm and tradition of college sports.

It seems highly unlikely that this will actually occur and that this is just an idle threat, and if anything, the private schools could use this as a way to level the playing field against large public schools: the potential to pay athletes more. In the college-sports arms race, we’ve seen at least one school announce that they could pay their athletes up to $10k per year, however most schools have indicated that $5k/year seems about right. By contrast, private schools could determine that paying a minimum wage of $7.25/hr. for 40 hrs. per week would equate to over $15k per year. In reality, most schools would likely only pay their athletes up-to the maximum number of hours for practice permitted by the NCAA, and would would not pay during summer sessions, which would likely bring the amount paid to student-athletes much closer to $5k.

Never-the-less, this could actually be an opportunity for the private schools to finally break-away from the NCAA-cartel, stop being forced to compete with public and land grant schools with seemingly unlimited coffers, and form a new league for private schools.

Sounds crazy, sure…but consider a completely autonomous sports league, outside of the confines of the NCAA, comprising of the following teams organized in regional pods:

Private League – All Sports
East Midwest South West
Syracuse Northwestern TCU Notre Dame
Boston College Duke Rice USC
Wake Forest Tulane SMU Stanford
Miami Vanderbilt Baylor BYU
As Hokie Mark pointed out, private universities have accounted for 54 National Football Championships.
Obviously, there are a few glaring challenges with this league:
1) Notre Dame and BYU are not giving up their independence any time soon, but the Irish would be able to keep their traditional rivalries with USC, Stanford, Miami, and Boston College and would get national exposure, including Texas.
2) Conference Grant of Rights would make it prohibitive for any team to leave a P5 conference and would require the NCAA to nullify their membership.
3) Teams from the P5 would be unlikely to leave the comfort and safety of $20+ conference deals for a new venture unless they determined that it would be more expensive to stay in the conference and pay their employees.
So, it would require a network/networks to pony-up some serious money for a mixed-bag of teams; would ESPN, Comcast/NBC, an/or FoxSports shell out an average of $25M for a league with Notre Dame, Stanford, USC, and Miami? Given the broad appeal of teams and markets, it could also make for a great conference network comparable to the BTN.
In the spirit of the Big East/AAC, this football league would spread across all four time-zones, and offer schools in 7 of the top 10 media markets (need: Philadelphia, PA; Washington DC; and Atlanta, GA).
Basketball & Lacrosse
East Midwest South West
Syracuse Northwestern TCU Notre Dame
Boston College Duke Rice USC
Wake Forest Tulane SMU Stanford
Miami Vanderbilt Baylor BYU
Georgetown Villanova Tulsa (Baskbetball), Johns Hopkins (Lacrosse) Denver (Lacrosse)
Adding Georgetown and Villanova for Basketball would make this an elite basketball conference as well, while also adding 2 more top-10 media markets to the fold. There is also the potential for Villanova, Georgetown, and Tulsa for football membership.
One very intriguing factor would be the impact on lacrosse. The Confidential is very bullish on the future of lacrosse in the United States, so a league that could potentially offer: Duke, Syracuse, Notre Dame, and possibly Denver and/or Johns Hopkins could have a very nice upside in the sport.
And who knows…this type of league could also attract the rest of the Big East members and the Ivy League either as future conference-mates, or as potential cross-conference opponents.
Lastly, there is also the potential attraction for other defectors from the NCAA. Would North Carolina escape the upcoming sanctions against them by leaving the NCAA for an independent league?
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2 thoughts on “Conference Realignment: A League of their Own

  1. Looks good to me–whether under the NCAA umbrella, adjacent to it, or completely separate.

  2. I LIKE IT!

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