The European Super League caused an uproar in the soccer community when it announced that it would be gathering the top 20 clubs to begin a new competition, before imploding less than 48 hours later. The widespread negative reception following the announcement led to many of the league’s “founding” clubs withdrawing and the project is now “suspended.” Many fans argued that the league was not created to have “The best clubs. The best players. Every week.” as it claimed, but rather to make more money for the clubs’ owners. The idea of the top teams in the sport ignoring traditional competition to play each other every week reminded me of conference realignment in college football, and college athletics as a whole. College conferences have always been changing and as the years have gone on, the conferences have gotten further away from traditional and geographically based leagues. But what would happen if the top teams in college football decided to make their own “Super Conference?” Let’s take a look at what that hypothetical conference would like, and which programs would make the cut.
To decide which programs would be invited, we narrowed the parameters down to three major factors: number of championships, winning percentage, and football revenue. Revenue would probably be the most important parameter to the athletic departments of the schools, so it served as the tiebreaker as needed. To avoid the discrepancies in national championship claims and focus on programs that have been more successful in recent decades, the championship counts and winning percentages included everything since 2003 and the revenue data was taken from 2003 to 2018. We only considered teams that are currently in Power Five conferences, because it is extremely unlikely that any Group of Five schools would be invited to a “Super Conference.” The European Super League started by announcing 12 of its initial 15 “founding” teams and planned on adding five annual qualifiers. For this college football “Super Conference,” we named the top 12 teams and then added eight more.
The Top 12
2. Ohio State
11. Notre Dame
Alabama being the top team is no surprise. The program has the most national championships since 2003, the second-best winning percentage, and ranks third in football revenue during the given time period. Ohio State, Georgia, and LSU are right behind Alabama. The Buckeyes have the best winning percentage since 2003 and are in the top six in championships and revenue. The Bulldogs have not won a championship in recent years, but their high revenue numbers pulled them into the “Super Conference.” LSU was helped by its three national titles and high winning percentage.
Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma were all close together in the rankings. The Longhorns had the highest football revenue, despite having a weaker winning percentage, while the Gators relied on their 2006 and 2008 championships. OU boasted a high winning percentage, but zero championships slid it further down the list. Auburn was next and its championship in 2010 helped it make up for a weaker winning percentage. Clemson and USC followed, after a slight drop off in the rankings. Both teams had championships and high winning percentages, but fell behind in revenue. Notre Dame and Michigan were the opposite, with high revenue numbers, but no championships and lower winning percentages.
It is safe to say that none of these programs are surprising. All 12 are traditional, blue-blood football schools that their opponents love to hate. It was also no surprise that the SEC dominated this top 12, providing five of the 12 teams. The Big 12, Big Ten, and ACC followed with two each, if Notre Dame is counted with the ACC. And USC was the lone Pac-12 program. If the “Super Conference” was to play with just these 12 programs in two geographic divisions, it is possible that the SEC teams would stay together and add Clemson, while the remaining schools would make up the other division.
The Next Eight
14. Florida State
15. Penn State
18. Virginia Tech
20. Michigan State
Wisconsin, Florida State, and Penn State closed out the top 15. The Badgers had a top 10 winning percentage during the given time period, but lost the football revenue tiebreaker with Michigan. The Seminoles won the national title in 2013 and have a good winning percentage. Penn State is in the top 10 revenue-wise, but hasn’t won a championship since the 1980’s. Oregon was right behind them, thanks to solid winning percentage.
There was a significant drop off to get to the last four. Iowa, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, and Michigan State all sit outside of the top 10 in winning percentage and revenue, and none of these teams have won a title since 2003, but they still made the cut. Nebraska and Michigan State also won the revenue tiebreaker over TCU, leaving the Horned Frogs on the outside looking in, to round out the “Super Conference.”
If this conference were to split into two groups of 10 teams, like the European Super League planned on doing, the divisions would likely have Ohio State, USC, Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State, Oregon, Iowa, Nebraska, and Michigan State in the “North,” and Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, and Virginia Tech in the “South.” But it is very possible that a league like this would throw geography and tradition aside when forming the divisions.
Outside Looking In
What about West Virginia? Well, the Mountaineers ranked 37th overall based on the parameters. WVU’s winning percentage since 2003 would have put the team in the “Super Conference,” but the lack of a national championship and having one of the lowest revenue totals held the Mountaineers back. If it’s any consolation, WVU was closer than Pitt.
A “Super Conference” in college football could throw fans over the edge and fall apart before it even starts, like the European Super League did, but it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. Let us know what you think of this college football “Super Conference,” and be on the lookout for a potential college basketball edition!