A decade ago (and for some years thereafter), conference realignment talk was the best way to have some offseason fun, drive pageviews and indulge in some fantasy while ultimately annoying at least half of your readers in the process. Since Power Five league membership shifts have cooled down lately, that’s not so true anymore without manufacturing ideas out of thin air. Still, it’s feasible. And SI.com’s Pat Forde tried it out on Monday.
His idea stems from the economic and public health requirements that could be necessitated for college football to occur. He opts for the FBS to contract to 120 teams and split into 10 conferences, largely along geographic lines. This idea basically burns everything you know about current conferences and rivalries, and starts over, so keep that in mind when you see the “Yankee Conference” which encapsulates the 12 Northeast-ish programs including the Syracuse Orange.
For those on mobile who may find it hard to see that image, here’s the full list:
- Army Black Knights
- Boston College Eagles
- Buffalo Bulls
- Connecticut Huskies
- Maryland Terrapins
- UMass Minutemen
- Navy Midshipmen
- Penn State Nittany Lions
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- Pittsburgh Panthers
- Syracuse Orange
- Temple Owls
On the one hand, that’s a list of potential non-conference opponents many Syracuse fans would be fine with right now, plus annual BC and Pitt. On the other, one could argue this would be the least-relevant league of Forde’s proposed 10, especially given the struggling programs like UMass and UConn and the lack of enthusiasm the Northeast usually has toward college football overall.
Competitively, it’s shallow, clearly. Penn State is the only consistent top-25 team in this group, and then after that, it’s a toss-up for who’s finishing second on a year-to-year basis. Syracuse is one of numerous programs along with Pitt, Temple, Navy, Maryland and Rutgers (when they’re respectable) with a real shot to finish near the top of the league. But this ultimately does become “Penn State Plus Everyone Else.”
Now you have to ask yourself if — for football, at least — that’s fine. We want SU to be competitive and this helps make that happen, I think. In a given year, there’s at least three wins on the schedule (out of 11) and you can easily find your way to six depending on how good Syracuse is vs. the other teams in that muddled middle band (also, would be interesting to see how Navy and Army can compete every week vs. P5-caliber teams). The opportunities to jump up to around 8 to 10 wins are there too, depending on the year. Things get interesting if you can beat Penn State (not banking on it at this moment, but you never know).
Where things get tougher for Syracuse, and the whole conference, really, is when it comes to other sports — and specifically, men’s basketball. Looking historically, Syracuse, Maryland and UConn provide a solid ruling class but Navy and Army are poised to struggle here, and UMass and Buffalo have only had fleeting moments of success. The rest have decent credentials but some potential. It’s questionable, though, if many want to watch these games aside from the fans involved.
If revenue’s shared equally across all 10 leagues, then sure, this is fine. But if not, it puts Syracuse and the rest of the Yankee Conference at a distinct disadvantage. This will never happen, of course, so the point’s moot. I guess we can just remain happy we had the seat at the table we did the last time actual realignment wheels starting spinning.