Building the Group of Four (G4)

This is Part VII of an eight-part article. The other parts are linked below:
Part I: Intro
Part II: Why G5 schools will be included in Division IV
Part III: Why Larger Conferences is the Way to Go
Part IV: Building the Big Ten
Part V: Building the SEC
Part VI: Independence Based Conference Scheduling (IBCS)
Part VII: Building the Group of Four (G4)
Part VIII: Loose Ends

SP #6 Group of Four Picture
Click on image for larger version.

I had three goals for the G4:

1. Make the competitive balance between the four Group of Four conferences equal.

2. Build the conferences along geographical lines with one conference per time zone.

3. Preserve as many rivalries as possible while turning preexisting out-of-conference (OOC) rivalries into in-conference rivalries

The big advantage in building the Group of Four was that unlike the other FBS conferences, the divisions for the Mountain West (MWC) and America Athletic (AAC) were incredibly well built and catered as best as possible to the preexisting rivalries of their membership. They also had the added bonus of being geographically compact. Of the 24 schools from these conferences, I only had to move a single school (Boise State) to a different division. I used these four divisions as the template for the four new conferences. Then I added in the left over Power-Five schools that did not receive a bid to the SEC and Big Ten. This left seven open spots which I backfilled from the FBS independents, C-USA, and Sun Belt.

SP #7 USA Map AAC
Click on image for larger version.

American Athletic Conference (AAC)

Historical conference based off:
AAC Eastern Division

This conference is essentially the AAC East plus Kansas State and Iowa State. The reason why I added these two schools into the AAC but not the SWC was for competitive balance. The SWC was already stacked as things were and adding two more schools from the P5 would have been unfair. The next school was Army in the #9 spot because they have extensive history at the Division I (DI) level and are an historical rival of numerous schools already in D4. For the last school there were only two that I gave serious consideration to. These were Buffalo and Massachusetts (UMASS). I ended up taking UMASS despite the extremely weak state of their program because they are a historic rival of Connecticut.

SP #9 USA Map SWC
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Southwest Conference (SWC)

Historical conferences based off:
AAC Western Division
SWC

For this conference I simply took the AAC West and added the three Texas teams from the Big 12 that did not get an SEC invite (Texas Tech, Baylor, & TCU). This made it a nine-team conference with five teams that hail from the SWC. With one more team needed there was only one obvious choice. That was Rice from Conference-USA, which is also a Texas school/former SWC member.

This big question mark for a lot of readers here is going to be Navy. On a map it looks insane to put them in the SWC, however looking at the current AAC setup Navy is currently in the AAC West with most of these schools already. This isn’t a division balancing measure. As a service academy, Navy enjoys tremendous support from the state of Texas hence the reason I kept them in a Texas based conference. I did not move Army into this division because their annual matchup with Navy is traditionally played in December. This would make incorporating that matchup into conference play nearly impossible.

If this were to be a real conference it would be one of the most unusual conferences at the highest level of football. This version of the SWC has six private schools, one service academy, and just three public schools. There has never been a big name football conference with a public/private ratio like that before in the modern era. The advantage to this is a terrific cultural fit for the conference, the disadvantage to this is it means a smaller fanbase for the conference.

SP #8 USA Map MWC
Click on image for larger version.

Mountain West Conference (MWC)

Historical conferences based off:
Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC)
Border Conference
Mountain States Conference (MSC)
Mountain Division from the MWC
Western Athletic Conference (WAC)

This was by far my favorite conference to make in this G4 alignment. This setup turns back the clock to the Great Depression era of college conferences for the region. The RMAC and Border conference are two little known conferences from back in the day that a number of G5 and P5 schools can trace their roots to.
Current FBS programs with RMAC/Border Conference history:

RMAC
Colorado (1909-1937)
Colorado State (1909-1937)
Utah (1910-1937)
Utah State (1914-1937)
BYU (1918-1937)
Wyoming (1924-1937)

All of these schools left the RMAC to form the seven-team MSC, which existed from 1938-1962.

Border Conference
Arizona (1931-1961)
Arizona State (1931-1961)
New Mexico (1931-1951)*
New Mexico State (1931-1961)
Texas Tech (1932-1956)
UTEP (1935-1961)
*New Mexico left for the MSC in 1951

Eventually conference realignment took its course which resulted in Colorado and Texas Tech leaving for the Big 7 (later known as the Big 8) and SWC respectively. Those two conferences are the forerunners to the Big 12 conference. Of the ten remaining schools from this group, six would charter the WAC in 1962 and two more would join by 1967.

The rest is history. The Arizona schools would later join the Pac-8 and the WAC over expanded resulting in the “Gang of Five” (BYU, Utah, Colorado State, Wyoming, & Air Force) initiating a breakaway from the WAC to form the MWC with New Mexico and two other schools.

Like my new SEC which was built to be a modernized version of the old Southern Conference, my MWC is a modernized version of the old Border and RMAC/MSC conferences. I didn’t include Texas Tech because I felt they had a stronger historical connection with the SWC instead. This conference also has five of the six members from the Eastern division of the MWC, which is officially named the Mountain Division.

SP #10 USA Map WAC
Click on image for larger version.

Western Athletic Conference (WAC)

Historical conference based off:
MWC West Division

I started with the West Division of the current MWC, which consists of Hawaii, Fresno State, San Jose State, San Diego State, Nevada, and UNLV. Next I added Boise State which was the one member from the Mountain Division that did not get into the new ten team MWC. The only other obvious additions were Oregon State and Washington State. This left one last open spot, which went to Idaho, the only FBS school in the region. As weak as Idaho’s athletic program is, a big positive for adding them is their historical rivalry with Washington State and an inactive in-state rivalry with Boise State. So I felt that while they have some serious problems given the current state of their athletic program, they did add something of value to the WAC by providing two rivalries.


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© sportspolitico™ August 14, 2014

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