Commentary

Remapping the NCAA (Part 2)

A breakdown of our proposed Division I alignment and what it means

Updated: September 16, 2011, 3:28 PM ET
By Joe Lunardi | ESPN Insider
Joe PaternoAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarOur new alignment has Joe Paterno and Penn State Big East-bound.

Editor's note: With the potential for massive realignment among college sports programs following the announcement of Texas A&M's intent to join the SEC, we wanted to cut to the chase. Since the purpose of realignment is to maximize potential revenue for each athletic program, we're exploring the optimal alignment for college athletics to supply the best product to its national audience. Given his ample experience creating regional groupings based on the strength of certain programs, we turned to our resident bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, to analyze what every school offers in football and men's basketball and shuffle the NCAA sports landscape based on team strength and geographical considerations. The following is Part 2 of a two-part series exploring what this optimized NCAA world would look like.

Yesterday we began the process of realigning -- oops, "aligning" -- college athletics. Today, in Part 2 of the series, we will finish it.

Starting with FBS football, we've got 119 schools competing for 96 spots across eight power conferences. Each 12-team league would qualify under existing standards to end its season with a lucrative conference title game. This would lead to an even more lucrative eight-team national playoff of those champions in place of the current BCS. So yes, it can be argued that we've already made a substantial improvement upon the current system without even breaking a sweat.

That's because it wasn't as hard to configure these groups as I originally thought it would be. A combination of the Football/Basketball Power Index, which debuted in Part 1 of this series, a nod to geography and the nation's most storied rivalries, plus a healthy dose of common sense -- which seems to have been abandoned by too many of today's higher-education "leaders" -- suggests a national landscape that is more evolution than revolution.

We hereby propose the following eight Division I football conferences (with the average Power Index of each grouping in parentheses):

Joe Lunardi | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com