EXPANSIONAPALOOZA 2010™ and Four-Year F/+ Averages

A week or so ago, we took a look at four-year F/+ averages.  As mentioned then, the four-year average gives us the best impression of a program's overall health and direction.  It also tells us interesting thing about conferences.  It confirms that the SEC is and has been the best conference in the country for a while; that we knew.  But it also tells us interesting things about the Big 12's depth (or lack thereof) and the Big East's consistency (no truly great teams, no truly excremental ones).

It can also help shed some light on the effects of the last 12 months of conference realignment drama.  Below are the FBS conferences and their F/+ averages.  The first column shows us the data for conferences as they existed in 2010, the second shows us how they will look in 2011 (with Colorado and Utah in the Pac-12, Boise State in the Mountain West, and Nebraska in the Big Ten -- assuming the Big Ten doesn't have second thoughts, ahem), and the third shows how they will look in 2012 and beyond (with TCU joining the Big East and Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada joining the Mountain West -- assuming the WAC doesn't have second thoughts about Nevada).  As with the original post, I remove each conference's best and worst team from the equation (so we don't get an inflated view of the 2010 WAC with Boise State, for instance).

Conference 4YR F/+ Avg
(Before)
4YR F/+ Avg
(2011)
4YR F/+ Avg
(2012+)
Change
SEC 11.3% 11.3% 11.3%
Pac-10 / Pac-12
7.0% 6.2% 6.2% -0.8%
Big East 6.4% 6.4% 7.7% +1.3%
ACC 6.3% 6.3% 6.3%
Big Ten 5.4% 5.7% 5.7% +0.3%
Big 12 4.4% 5.0% 5.0% +0.6%
Mountain West -3.7% -4.4% -6.7% -3.0%
Conference USA -7.1% -7.1% -7.1%
WAC -9.7% -11.2% -16.7% -7.0%
MAC -10.8% -10.8% -10.8%
Sun Belt -13.2% -13.2% -13.2%

Really, the one true homerun 'get' during these last 12 months was the Big East's procurement of TCU.  That alone results in a strong improvement for the conference overall.  Now they're the "max" team, and West Virginia's averages get included into an equation that already thought more highly of the conference than most humans do.

In all, though Nebraska removes a Top 30 team from their portion of the ledger, the Big 12 improves because of the loss of Colorado more than they regress because of the loss of Nebraska.  The Big Ten improves slightly, the Pac-12 actually regresses (again, because of Colorado and their recent terrible string of football), the Mountain West regresses with the losses of TCU, Utah and BYU, and the WAC is decimated.

Since we've already talked about the pluses and minuses of using a pure, straight average for evaluating conferences, and since we typically evaluate conferences based more on their best teams than any other teams, let's take a look at each conference's top five teams in the "2012+" arrangement.  Teams new to their conference are in bold.

Top Five Teams:

  • SEC: Florida (1), Alabama (4), LSU (10), Auburn (14), Georgia (16)
  • Big East: TCU (5), West Virginia (12), Pittsburgh (22), Cincinnati (27), South Florida (31)
  • ACC: Virginia Tech (8), Clemson (15), Florida State (23), Miami (32), Boston College (33)
  • Pac-12: USC (6), Oregon (7), Oregon State (25), Utah (26), Stanford (28)
  • Big Ten: Ohio State (2), Penn State (13), Iowa (20), Wisconsin (21), Nebraska (30)
  • Big 12: Oklahoma (3), Texas (11), Missouri (17), Oklahoma State (24), Texas Tech (29)
  • Mountain West: Boise State (9), Air Force (49), Nevada (63), Fresno State (70), Hawaii (74)
  • Conference USA: East Carolina (55), UCF (57), Tulsa (60), Houston (64), Southern Miss (67)
  • MAC: Central Michigan (71), Northern Illinois (78), Temple (83), Western Michigan (85), Bowling Green (86)
  • Sun Belt: Troy (61), Middle Tennessee (90), Arkansas State (92), Florida Atlantic (97), Florida International (101)
  • WAC: Louisiana Tech (88), Utah State (107), San Jose State (113), Idaho (117), New Mexico State (120)

Four conferences place five teams in the F/+ Top 30 -- the SEC, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and the Big 12.  Two others, of course, come awfully close.

It really is a shame that we couldn't see what might have played out had the Mountain West added Boise State and retained everybody else.  They'd have still been a step below these other conferences, but a top five of TCU (6), Boise State (9), Utah (26), BYU (35) and Air Force (49) is still solid.

Looking at the aftermath of conference realignment is only part of the fun, of course.  With so many scenarios in play last June, it's also fun to look at what might have happened had certain teams or conferences moved in slightly different directions.  There are too many scenarios to lay out here, but let's peruse a few.

Scenario 1a - The Pac-16 Happens, But Forces Stave Off Armageddon

When Chip Brown dutifully reported that Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott was throwing down the gauntlet and going after six Big 12 teams (or five and Utah), EXPANSIONAPALOOZA 2010™ went nuclear.  Suddenly the discussion went from "Is the Big Ten adding one, three or five teams?" to "Holy crap, the Big 12 is done! We're going to have a bunch of 16-team conferences! What is the SEC going to do??"  Naturally, like most of what Brown reported, it didn't actually come about, but it certainly made some heads spin.

This first scenario stops short of complete Armageddon.

How This Scenario Plays Out:
* The Pac-10 adds Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech from Big 12; adds Utah from Mountain West.  Texas A&M resists and goes its own direction.

* The SEC adds Texas A&M and Clemson, but stops there.  (I will use Clemson for these examples -- it could have been Clemson, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech or any number of teams and had approximately the same effect.)  The ACC responds by grabbing ... who, exactly?  I'm leaving them at 11 teams here because I honestly have no idea.  Central Florida?  South Florida?  West Virginia?  UNC-Greensboro?

* The Big Ten adds Nebraska and stops there.  Maybe Notre Dame gets enticed scared by the Pac-16's formation and doesn't want to get left behind, leading to the Big Ten adding them and a 14th team.  But again, for this scenario, we stop short of that.

* With the Big 12 suddenly down to five teams, the Big East, for their own safety, pounces.  They acquire Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri, moving to 12 teams and creating the most amazing basketball conference of all existence.

* The Mountain West adds Baylor and Boise State.  With Notre Dame holding steady, BYU still goes independent.

Conference 4YR F/+ Avg
(Before)
4YR F/+ Avg
(After)
Change
SEC 11.3% 10.6% -0.7%
Pac-10 / Pac-12
7.0% 8.5% +1.5%
Big East 6.4% 3.8% -2.6%
ACC 6.3% 5.5% -0.8%
Big Ten 5.4% 5.7% +0.3%
Big 12 4.4% BOOM
Mountain West -3.7% -4.5% -0.8%
Conference USA -7.1% -7.1%
WAC -9.7% -11.2% -1.5%
MAC -10.8% -10.8%
Sun Belt -13.2% -13.2%

This was the more conservative path the Pac-16's creation could have created.  It still results in the Big 12's destruction, but seven conferences still see teams change hands.  (And if Notre Dame jumps to the Big Ten and a 14th team follows, that means the Big East could have plumbed the Conference USA's ranks, bringing an eighth conference into play ... and the Conference USA responded by raiding the Sun Belt, we'd have almost had the full set.  And this still would have been the "conservative" option.)

The first thing we notice here is that there really is a pretty clear rationale for why the SEC was not aggressive in the whole realignment saga.  There was simply almost no way for them to improve.  Sure, there were rumors about them chatting up Texas A&M, and if A&M got in the door, that would have opened up another slot for anyone between Miami and Missouri, but there were almost no teams the SEC could have added that would have resulted in a net gain for their four-year F/+.

In fact, here is the complete list of teams they could have have added whose four-year average is above that of the SEC's 11.3%: Ohio State, Oklahoma, TCU, USC, Oregon, Virginia Tech, Boise State, Texas, West Virginia, Penn State, Clemson, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh and Florida State.

Remove the "too far away" or "no way in hell" teams from that list, and you get the following: Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Texas, West Virginia, Clemson, Missouri and Florida State.  In the scenario above, the SEC adds Clemson but also adds A&M, and their averages sink.

Meanwhile, the Pac-16's averages only go up a tick.  Larry Scott took a home run swing at the issue because it was the only way his conference could truly improve in terms of overall quality.

Also, the Big East sinks considerably despite adding a Missouri team that becomes their second-best.  Why?  Because of the albatross that is Iowa State and the mini-albatross that has recently been Kansas State.  (Kansas, of course, is still propped up by their great 2007 season; otherwise, they'd be right there with ISU.)

Top Five Teams:

  • SEC: Florida (1), Alabama (4), LSU (10), Auburn (14), Clemson (15)
  • Pac-16: Oklahoma (3), USC (6), Oregon (7), Texas (11), Oklahoma State (24)
  • Big T12n: Ohio State (2), Penn State (13), Iowa (20), Wisconsin (21), Nebraska (30)
  • ACC: Virginia Tech (8), Florida State (23), Miami (32), Boston College (33), North Carolina (38)
  • Big East: West Virginia (12), Missouri (17), Pittsburgh (22), Cincinnati (27), South Florida (31)
  • Mountain West: TCU (5), Boise State (9), Utah (26), Air Force (49), Baylor (76)

Scenario 1b - The Pac-16 Happens, and the Big Ten and Mountain West Get Aggressive

With the downfall of the Big 12 came rumors of what exactly might happen to the "Forgotten Four" of the Big 12, especially if Missouri didn't end up punching a Big Ten ticket.  Big East higher-ups later said that they would have almost certainly added the Forgotten Four if given the opportunity, but what would have happened had the Big East also been blown up in the process?

* The Pac-10 adds Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech from the Big 12.

* The Big Ten adds Nebraska and a freaked out Notre Dame, then moves to conquer new TV markets to the east.  They pick up Rutgers and Syracuse, then round out the new 16-team league with Pittsburgh.  Personally, I think this almost certainly wouldn't have happened -- if TV markets were the key to adding anybody beyond Nebraska or Notre Dame, then Rutgers, Missouri and Maryland would have gone to the top of the wish list.  But we'll go with it.

* The Mountain West swoops in.  With the Big East reeling, the MWC adds the Forgotten Four and Baylor (the Forgotten Fifth), then wheels over to kneecap the WAC, taking Boise State and Fresno State to get to 16 teams themselves.

* Before the ACC can move to 16, the Big East adds Central Florida, Memphis and East Carolina to at least get back to eight teams and maintain their BCS conference status ... barely.  Conference USA responds by adding Army, Navy and Louisiana Tech, but with the SEC unmotivated to join the fray, all else stays the same.  Hawaii potentially goes independent, but for now we'll say this scenario ends with the WAC teetering at six teams.

Conference 4YR F/+ Avg
(Before)
4YR F/+ Avg
(After)
Change
SEC 11.3% 11.3%
Pac-10 / Pac-12
7.0% 7.8% +0.8%
Big East 6.4% 4.3% -2.1%
ACC 6.3% 6.3%
Big Ten 5.4% 4.9% -0.5%
Big 12 4.4% BOOM
Mountain West -3.7% -1.3% +2.4%
Conference USA -7.1% -7.9% -0.8%
WAC -9.7% -13.6% -5.9%
MAC -10.8% -10.8%
Sun Belt -13.2% -13.2%

Top Five Teams:

  • SEC: Florida (1), Alabama (4), LSU (10), Auburn (14), Georgia (16)
  • Pac-16: Oklahoma (3), USC (6), Oregon (7), Texas (11), Oklahoma State (24)
  • ACC: Virginia Tech (8), Clemson (15), Florida State (23), Miami (32), Boston College (33)
  • Big Ten: Ohio State (2), Penn State (13), Iowa (20), Wisconsin (21), Nebraska (30)
  • Big East: West Virginia (12), Cincinnati (27), South Florida (31), UConn (40), East Carolina (55)
  • Mountain West: TCU (5), Boise State (9), Missouri (17), Utah (26), BYU (35)

The dream scenario for the Mountain West -- in which they obtain Boise State, keep Utah and BYU, AND add MIssouri -- still can't bump it into the top five because ... well, that's just how bad the floor of the conference is.  UNLV's four-year rank: 109th.  New Mexico: 100th.  Wyoming: 99th.  San Diego State: 94th (despite their great 2010 season).  Colorado: 94th.  Adding Missouri is just balanced out by adding Iowa State (91st) and Baylor (76th).

Scenario 2 - Everybody Goes All-In

Alright, so what happens if true Armageddon strikes?

* The Pac-10 adds Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech from the Big 12.

* The Big Ten adds Nebraska, Notre Dame, Missouri, Maryland and Rutgers.  They get history Nebraska and Notre Dame, and they get TV sets with the other three.  (And in Missouri, they get the 17th-best team of the last four years).

* The SEC says 'screw it!" and snatches up Florida State, Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech.  You can change Georgia Tech to Virginia Tech, and it's a better move.

* The Mountain West snatches up Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State from the Big 12 pile, then adds Boise State, Nevada and Fresno State.

* The remnants of the ACC and Big East merge and add UCF and East Carolina.

* Conference USA adds Army, Navy, Louisiana Tech and Temple.

Six conferences with 16 teams each.  Pretty.

Conference 4YR F/+ Avg
(Before)
4YR F/+ Avg
(After)
Change
SEC 11.3% 11.0%
-0.3%
Pac-10 / Pac-12
7.0% 7.8%
+0.8%
Big East 6.4% BOOM
ACC 6.3% 4.7%
-1.6%
Big Ten 5.4% 5.7%
+0.3%
Big 12 4.4% BOOM
Mountain West -3.7% -2.2%
-1.5%
Conference USA -7.1% -8.6%
-1.5%
WAC -9.7% -16.7%
-7.0%
MAC -10.8% -11.1%
-0.3%
Sun Belt -13.2% -13.2%

The SEC almost improves here -- they actually do improve by substituting VT for GT, two conferences go bye-bye, and even the MAC is affected in some way.  The WAC is still on life support, but the Big Ten actually improves overall, the Pac-16 does too, and the ACC at last doesn't completely fall apart by absorbing the Big East.

Top Five Teams:

  • SEC: Florida (1), Alabama (4), LSU (10), Auburn (14), Clemson (15)
  • Pac-16: Oklahoma (3), USC (6), Oregon (7), Texas (11), Oklahoma State (24)
  • Big T16n: Ohio State (2), Penn State (13), Missouri (17), Iowa (20), Wisconsin (21)
  • ACC/Big East: Virginia Tech (8), West Virginia (12), Pittsburgh (22), Cincinnati (27), S. Florida (31)
  • Mountain West: TCU (5), Boise State (9), Utah (26), BYU (35), Air Force (49)

Now you've got four conferences with their top five teams represented among the Top 31 overall, along with a reasonably robust Mountain West.  Actually, this is almost somewhat close to...

Scenario 3 - Andy Staples' Dream Scenario

Use whatever number and organizational structure you want, but it seems most sensible to take the 64 highest earning athletic programs and split them into four regional, 16-team superconferences. Play all the sports you've been playing, but keep the competition within those 64 programs and let the remaining NCAA teams play one another. There's a ton of money in postseason men's basketball, and you'll need plenty of women's sports to keep you Title IX compliant. Plus, the non-revenue sports make great tax write-offs, which you'll need now that you no longer enjoy the NCAA's tax-exempt status. (Sorry about that, but you'll still come out ahead.)

Form your own governing body and write whatever rules you want. You can call the new group whatever you want. I suggest the Collegiate Athletic Select Hegemony.

So here's how the CASH would work. Since the SEC and Big Ten, the two strongest conferences, will want to keep their regular-season television deals, allow each conference to cut its own regular-season deals while centralizing control of the postseason rights. The Pac-10 has its Rose Bowl connection, making it powerful enough to make the cut. Meanwhile, the ACC offers some attractive football programs and roundball legitimacy. Using the data schools supplied to the U.S. Department of Education after the 2008-09 school year, I compiled a list of the 64 biggest earners. As coincidence would have it, only one member of the four surviving conferences (Mississippi State) fell below the Delany line. Since the SEC's new multibillion-dollar TV deals kicked in during the current school year, it's safe to assume the Bulldogs will vault into the top 64. So sorry, Iowa State. You just missed the cut.

The only school from the current crop of mid-majors to win a golden ticket would be TCU, which brought in $46.5 million in revenue in 2008-09. If a program from a conference that receives a negatively disproportionate share of the postseason pot can rake in that kind of dough, it's welcome in this new millionaires' club. The Horned Frogs would join Baylor, Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech in the new Pac-16.

So here's how Staples' CASH plan plays out:

  • The Big Ten adds Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska and Notre Dame.
  • The SEC adds Louisville, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.
  • The Pac-10 doesn't add Utah, choosing Baylor, Colorado, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech instead.
  • The ACC adds UConn, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse.

Just for grins, we'll say the mid-major conferences stay intact in some regard, setting up the following moves:

  • Conference USA adds Army, Navy, and the newly screwed Cincinnati and South Florida.
  • The Mountain West, having lost TCU, adds Boise State and Iowa State to the fold.

The result:

Conference 4YR F/+ Avg
(Before)
4YR F/+ Avg
(After)
Change
SEC 11.3% 11.6% +0.3%
Pac-10 / Pac-12
7.0% 6.6% -0.4%
Big East 6.4% BOOM
ACC 6.3% 5.4% -0.9%
Big Ten 5.4% 5.0% -0.4%
Big 12 4.4% BOOM
Mountain West -3.7% -4.5% -0.8%
Conference USA -7.1% -5.3% +1.8%
WAC -9.7% -11.2% -1.5%
MAC -10.8% -10.8%
Sun Belt -13.2% -13.2%

The SEC actually increases its overall grip over the college football landscape with the addition of Oklahoma and West Virginia (balancing out the Louisville addition) and the dilution of their nearest rivals.  The Pac-16 gets Texas and TCU ... but also Baylor.  The Big Ten gets Missouri and Nebraska ... and Kansas and Kansas State.  The ACC gets Pittsburgh ... and Syracuse.  And, of course, Boise State gets screwed 16 different ways.

Top Five Teams:

  • SEC: Florida (1), Oklahoma (3), Alabama (4), LSU (10), West Virginia (12)
  • Pac-16: TCU (5), Oregon (6), USC (7), Texas (11), Oregon State
  • ACC: Virginia Tech (8), Clemson (15), Pittsburgh (22), Florida State (23), Miami (32)
  • Big T16n: Ohio State (2), Penn State (13), Missouri (17), Iowa (20), Wisconsin (21)
  • Mountain West: Boise State (9), Utah (26), BYU (35), Air Force (49), Iowa State (91)
  • Conference USA: Cincinnati (27), South Florida (31), Navy (53), East Carolina (55), Central Florida (57)

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