The Big 12 Conference is again talking about expansion, and this time, it's for real. WVU was smack-dab in the middle of the last conference realignment, something that Big 12 expansion would induce for the Group of 5 conference.
Here's a fun hypothetical situation: What if the Big East had kept the major football schools and created an actual Power 5 football conference? Well, a couple things would have needed to happen.
Firstly, Notre Dame would have HAD to join. I still blame Notre Dame for killing the original Big East and will never ever be convinced that their insistence to be independent in football was the major blow that eventually felled the Big East.
Secondly, the Big East would have needed to find three more schools to play football to make 12 teams and have a conference championship. One would have been in the form of Connecticut, which had an FBS team starting in 2005. Also in 2005, the Big East added three football schools, albeit to replace the three that left. Let's assume Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College stayed and Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida were added. That equals 13 teams.
So, I guess, thirdly, to make even divisions, the Big East would have had to add a 14th team. I would argue that Navy would have been the best option. The Midshipmen were offered membership in 2012, but this could have been extended earlier.
This bring us to 14 schools, all of which would bring more than just football to the table and would also add depth to the basketball conference.
Now, the problem with 14 teams is that you can't have them all play each other. We'd need divisions and competition formats. I would propose a geographical alignment similar to the Pac 12 or SEC, as opposed to the somewhat random alignment the ACC has and the Big 10 tried.
Obviously, the two options are East and West or North and South. Here's how each would look:
Drawbacks to the North-South split are the obviously superior (at the time) South division, including Miami, Virginia Tech and West Virginia (Notre Dame, Pitt and Syracuse would be the three big names in the North). The East-West split is a little more fair competition wise, but still pits two (at the time) powerhouse programs together, as Notre Dame and Virginia Tech are in the same division.
The question then becomes scheduling. I would say the Big 10 and SEC have it right. Each team plays the other teams in its divisions, plus two cross-over games (eight conference games). This means, for WVU, we could maintain rivalries with Pitt, Virginia Tech or Syracuse, depending on divisional structure.
The six-plus-two set-up mirrors the SEC's strategy to keep cross-over rivalries while also forcing its teams to play all conference foes eventually. For the Big East, this would help keep the rivalries from the old days while also integrating the new teams to the fold.
The Championship Game
A conference title game seems to be the best way to get a team in the College Football Playoff consistently. For the Big East, this would very much be true. So where could they play this?
The SEC has claimed Atlanta, the ACC is in Charlotte and the Big 10 is in Indianapolis. The Big East would span from Indiana to Massachusetts, New York to Florida. That's a lot of area with a lot of big cities. Why not rotate the host site?
Cincinnati - Ohio would be pretty far removed from most teams, but it would put the conference footprint in that state.
Washington, D.C. - why not play in the nation's capital, pretty centrally situated among all the campuses.
New York City - the Big East basketball tournament is played there, it makes sense to also have the football championship there. Except it's cold in New York in December.
Jacksonville - a warm-weather location with a great fan atmosphere for college football.
Orlando - another warm-weather site that is a huge tourist attraction
Baltimore - though I don't want to play too many games in the state of Maryland, this location is also central to the schools.
Philadelphia - a city that needs some love, but is also no stranger to hosting major sporting events and isn't far from the majority of the schools.
I'd err on the side of warmer sites, as a December football game in a neutral site doesn't seem to draw the greatest attendance numbers. I think a title game in D.C. or Baltimore would be best in terms of geographic proximity.
Wouldn't this have been fun? The Big East Football Championship Game could have been a possibility, but the ACC had to poach and Notre Dame has to play just-the-tip.