How to Schedule a 16 Team Conference

Filed under: Sports — admin @ 10:06 am

With all the talk about the possibilities of so called 16 team super conferences, along with the possible break up of the Big 12 conference, there has been discussion about how to schedule a 16 team conference. Here is a ESPN take on basketball and a NewsOK take on football.

So what is my solution?

Currently (Big 12) teams play 12 games (plus the possibility of a conference championship game along with a post season bowl game), four of which are non-conference.  To make things work we will have to increase the number of conference games to nine, and reduce the number of non-conference games to three. Before we go too far let’s look at how to align the schools.

Pac-16 West Pac 16 East
Northwest Pod California Pod Intermountain Pod Red River Pod
Oregon California Arizona Oklahoma
Oregon State Stanford Arizona State Oklahoma State
Washington UCLA Colorado Texas
Washington State USC Texas Tech Texas A&M

In this example, using the rumored Big 12 schools joining the current Pac-10 we would create for pods  and then the divisions would be aligned into a pair of divisions.  So then for football scheduling the rubric would be as follows:

  • A school plays all the teams in it’s pod every year (3 games)
  • A school plays plays all the teams in the other divisional pod every year (4 games)
  • A school plays one team from the remaining two pods each year, rotating every year. (2 games)
    • Evey four years a school would have played all the opposite division schools once
  • No school may play five home conference games in back-to-back years.
  • The two divisional winners would meet in a conference championship game

This would preserve all the current Pac-10 rivalries and the Big 12 rivalries (with two exceptions)

  • Oklahoma would need to schedule Nebraska as one it’s three non-conference games to preserve that rivalry
  • Texas A&M would need to schedule Baylor as one of it’s three non-conference games to preserve the Battle of the Brazos rivalry
  • Scheduling these games for Oklahoma and Texas A&M would be no different than USC always using a non-conference game to play Notre Dame.

This scheduling formula would produce a conference championship game in which there would be a 75% chance that the two teams did not otherwise play that season. This creates hype for the game, should attract lots of media attention, and all of that equates to revenue generated.  Playing through a nine game conference schedule, and some schools would also include a 10th game against another BCS school (Oklahoma, USC, and Texas A&M – assuming Baylor maintains BCS affiliation) and would undoubtedly leverage the strength of schedule component of the BCS formula to include a perennial chance to have it’s champion play in the BCS national championship game (bowl). The other schools benefit from playing in more prestigious bowl games. Once again more bowl games, and increasing the prestige of the bowls played in only adds to the revenue generated and then distributed to all the schools.

Shifting gears now to basketball.

Currently schools play about 30 regular season games (not counting conference championship and NCAA tournament games), and sometimes one or two more, of which 16 (Big 12) or 18 (Pac-10) are conference games. So then in the new Pac-16, using the same alignment as previously listed the conference scheduling rubric would be as follows.

  • A school plays each team in their pod twice – a home and home series (6 games)
  • A school plays all the other 12 schools  once – half at home and half away  (12 games)

The scheduling system ensures that during the regular season every pair of schools meets once, and this can also work well for the conference tournament too. For the conference tournament, each of the four pod winners would, by rule, always be seated 1,2,3,4 in order of best conference record and the tournament would then proceed using a standard 16 team bracket, with the reaming twelve teams  seated 5-12 by conference record.

Now onto a possible Big 10 expansion (Big 16) alignment. All the aforementioned rules would still apply.

Big-16 West Big-16 East
Prairie Pod Midwest Pod Central Pod Eastern Pod
Illinois Indiana Purdue Maryland
Missouri Minnesota Michigan Notre Dame
Nebraska Iowa Michigan State Penn State
Northwestern Wisconsin Ohio State Rutgers

Yes, this is slightly circuitous, but it would preserve most existing rivalries, with the following exceptions (for football) which would then be played every fourth year.

  • Indiana – Michigan State (Old Spittoon)
  • Indiana – Purdue (Oaken Bucket)
  • Ohio State – Illinois (Illibuck)
  • Illinois – Purdue (Purdue Cannon)
  • Michigan – Minnesota (Little Brown Jug)
  • Minnesota – Penn State (Victory Bell)

It would also restore the Missouri – Illinois rivalry to national prominence, at the expense of the Missouri – Kansas rivalry (Border War). However the Border War could still be continued as a non-conference game just like the Missouri – Illinois match up has been for years. This also maintains the Missouri – Nebraska rivalry, though Nebraska would need to use a non-conference game to rebuild the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry. Notre Dame’s rivalries would remain intact along with those of Rutgers and Maryland as long as Rutgers schedules a non-conference basketball game against  Seton Hall, and Notre Dame schedules non-conference games against USC, Navy, and rotation among Pittsburgh, Boston College, Miami, Army, and Georgia Tech. Notre Dame, having a mostly fixed football schedule,  might not be to their independent minded liking, but it would not be unreasonably difficult

The only real losers from conference realignment would be the non-BCS schools, and I-AA Football Championship Subdivision that often get tapped for the non-conference football games (and often get paid very nicely to play them too). This might widen the gaps between the BCS and non BCS schools (the haves vs. the have nots).

Voila! Scheduling a 16 team conference would not be that difficult at all.

P.S. You’re welcome Pac-16 and Big-16

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