The ultimate college football relegation setup, from FBS to NAIA

Gainesville FL, USA; Appalachian State Mountaineers quarterback DeAndre Presley (2) throws the ball as Florida Gators safety Ahmad Black (35) defends during the first half of their game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Here's every college football conference in the country arranged to preserve geography, rivalries and competition while making it possible for teams to rise and fall as they deserve. Monday: CFB needs relegation. Tuesday: How does relegation work?

Nobody knows how it happened, but there's someone actually in charge of college football now. Probably something to do with a reanimated Teddy Roosevelt.

First things first, players are now to be paid. We're installing a playoff right now, instead of in 2014. The Rose Bowl's really mad about it. A 16-team event, with a whole lot of that extra money going to pay the people doing the most important work. Two problems solved!

Also, conference realignment is no more. All schools that currently play football are frozen right where they are, and all independents and startups have been assigned new homes (they're marked with asterisks below). It was a busy night! The TV-orchestrated realignment black market has been replaced with a success-rewarding relegation system, similar to most world pro sports leagues. You may want to head here for Kevin McCauley with more on how relegation works and here for Spencer Hall on why it will be so great for college football.

The MAC's best team replaces the Big Ten's worst team, but we're thinking about going even further. With teams in every conference now both battling for titles and to keep from tumbling to a lesser league, conference championship week could mean something for pretty much everybody. The SEC Championship Game could have an official undercard now -- the Sun Belt runner-up could get to play the second-worst SEC team for the right to take its spot. We could do that all around the country, at every level. Let's circle back to that one. Also, what to do about scholarship allotments at each level. I don't know yet. We'll think of something.

Here's a look at the five columns, seven tiers each, that are replacing the current BCS-FBS-FCS-D2-D3 setup. It's similar to the excellent version done by Dawg Sports last year, but all the way down to NAIA.

We'll start with the one that was easiest to wrangle into a tidy stack. The Pac-12's column, headed by all 12 current Pac-12 teams and with a WAC that doesn't have to disappear (this one has the toughest third tier in the country):

Tier 1 Pac-12

Arizona Colorado Stanford Utah

Arizona State Oregon UCLA Washington

California Oregon State USC Washington St.

Tier 2 Mountain West

Air Force Fresno State New Mexico Wyoming

Boise State Hawaii San Diego State

Colorado State Nevada UNLV

Tier 3 WAC Big Sky

Idaho Utah State E. Washington N. Colorado

Louisiana Tech UT-San Antonio Idaho State Portland State

New Mexico St. Montana Sacramento St.

San Jose State Montana State Weber State

Texas State N. Arizona

Tier 4 Great West

Cal Poly South Dakota UC Davis

North Dakota Southern Utah

Tier 5 Rocky Mountain Great Northwest

Adams State CSU-Pueblo Azusa Pacific Western Oregon

Black Hills Fort Lewis Central Washington

Chadron State NM Highlands Dixie State

Colorado Mesa W. New Mexico Humboldt State

Colorado Mines Western State Simon Fraser

Tier 6 Northwest SCIAC

Lewis & Clark Puget Sound Cal Lutheran Occidental

Linfield Whitworth Chapman Pomona-Pitzer

Pacific Williamette Claremont-Mudd Redlands

Pacific Lutheran La Verne Whittier

Tier 7 Frontier Dakota

Carroll College *George Fox MT St.-N. Lights *Dakota State

*College of Idaho *Menlo Rocky Mt. College Jamestown

Dickinson St. Montana Tech Mayville St.

Eastern Oregon Montana Western Valley City St.


The SEC has an orderly arrangement as well, but a lack of Southern-only leagues at certain lower levels gives us a longshot daydream of small schools in Big Ten country one day entering the SEC. Small-school stars here include Glenville State, where Rich Rodriguez accidentally invented the zone read. As for the mid levels, we saw last year how much of a headache Southern Conference teams can be for the SEC, and Thursday's relegation simulation by Bill Connelly has one SoCon team in particular establishing itself among the big boys. Teaser! It's at the expense of an Egg Bowl team, too.

Tier 1 SEC

Alabama Georgia Missouri Texas A&M

Arkansas Kentucky Ole Miss Vanderbilt

Auburn LSU South Carolina

Florida Mississippi State Tennessee

Tier 2 Sun Belt

Arkansas State MTSU Troy WKU

Florida Atlantic North Texas UL-Lafayette

FIU South Alabama UL-Monroe

Tier 3 SoCon

App. State Elon *Kennesaw State W. Carolina

*Charlotte Furman Samford Wofford

Chattanooga GA Southern The Citadel

Tier 4 Big South

Charleston So. Gardner-Webb Presbyterian VMI

Coastal Carolina Liberty Stony Brook


Alabama A&M Ark.-Pine Bluff Miss. Valley St. Texas Southern

Alabama State Grambling St. Prarie View A&M

Alcorn State Jackson State Southern

Tier 5 SIAC

Albany Ft. Valley St. Miles College Tuskegee

Benedict Kentucky State Morehouse

Clark Atlanta Lane College Stillman

South Atlantic

Brevard Catawba Mars Hill Tusculum

Carson-Newman Lenior-Rhyne Newberry Wingate

Gulf South WV Intercol.

Delta State West Alabama Charleston Shepherd

*Houston Baptist West Georgia Concord W. Liberty State

New Orleans Fairmont State W.V. State

North Alabama Glenville State W.V. Wesleyan

Valdosta State Seton Hill

Tier 6 Old Dominion Presidents' SCAC USA South

Bridgewater Bethany Austin Averitt

Catholic Geneva Birmingham-So. Chris. Newport

Emory and Henry Grove City Centre Ferrum

Guilford St. Vincent *Huntingdon Greensboro

Hampden-Sydney Thiel Millsaps Maryville

Randolph-Macon Thomas More Rhodes Methodist

Washington & Lee Wash. & Jeff. Sewanee NC Wesleyan

Waynesburg Trinity Shenandoah


Tier 7 Mid-South

*Atlanta Christian Cumberlands Lindsey Wilson *Webber Int'l

*Ave Maria *Edward Waters Pikeville WV Tech

Belhaven Faulkner *Reinhardt

Bethel *Florida Tech Shorter

*Bluefield Georgetown Col. *So. Virginia

Campbellsville *Hendrix Union

Cumberland Kentucky Christian Virginia's Col. Wise


Here's a messy one. The Big 12! By adding West Virginia, they went national. So national independents BYU and Notre Dame have a new home, and any lower-tier conference with either a Texas-y theme or no clear home base found itself attached to the Longhorn Conference. As for how relegation plays out in the Big 12 ... just keep hoping Robert Griffin III comes back, Baylor fans. Last year's Division II title winner Pittsburg State plays here.

Tier 1 Big 12

Baylor Kansas Oklahoma Texas

BYU* Kansas State Oklahoma State Texas Tech

Iowa State Notre Dame* TCU West Virginia

Tier 2 Conference USA

Central Florida Marshall SMU Tulsa

East Carolina Memphis Southern Miss UAB

Houston Rice Tulane UTEP

Tier 3 Southland

Cent. Arkansas McNeese State N'western St. SE Louisiana

Lamar Nicholls State Sam Houston St. S. F. Austin

Tier 4 Pioneer

Butler Dayton Marist San Diego

Campbell Drake Mercer Stetson

Davidson Jacksonville Morehead State Valparaiso

Tier 5 Lone Star Great American

Abilene Christian Tarleton St. Arkansas Tech Ouachita Baptist

Angelo State TA&M-Commerce Ark.-Monticello SE Oklahoma

E. New Mexico TA&M-Kingsville East Central So. Arkansas

Incarnate Word West Texas A&M Harding SW Oklahoma

M'western St. Henderston St.

Mid-America Northern Sun

Central Missouri Nebraska-Kearney Augustana MSU Moorhead

Central Oklahoma N'eastern State Bemidji State Northern St.

Emporia State Northwest Missouri Concordia-St. Paul Sioux Falls

Fort Hays Pittsburgh St. Mary SW Minnesota

Lincoln Southwest Baptist Minnesota Duluth St. Cloud

Lindenwood Truman State Minnesota St. Upper Iowa

Missouri Southern Washburn MN-Crookston Wayne State

Missouri Western Minot State Winona State

Tier 6 American SW Heartland Midwest Iowa Intercol.

E. Texas Baptist Anderson Beloit Buena Vista

Hardin-Simmons Bluffton Carroll Central

Howard Payne Defiance Grinnell Coe

Louisiana College Earlham Illinois College Cornell

Mary Hardin-Baylor Franklin Knox Dubuque

McMurry Hanover Lake Forest Loras

Mississippi Col. Manchester Lawrence Luther

Sul Ross St. Mt. St. Joseph Monmouth Simpson

Texas Lutheran Rose-Hulman Ripon Wartburg

St. Norbert


Carnegie Mellon Case Western Chicago Washington U.

Tier 7 KCAC Central States

Bethany Ottawa Bacone So. Nazarene

Bethel St. Mary *Haskell Indian SW Assemblies

Friends Southwestern Col. Langston Texas Col.

Kansas Wesleyan Sterling Northwestern Wayland Baptist

McPherson Tabor OK Panhandle St.

*Oklahoma Baptist


Another easy one: the Big Ten. As Black Heart Gold Pants discovered by surveying the last decade's worth of standings data, Indiana would be moving down a lot. The geography still isn't perfect, but getting an Alabama school into the Rose Bowl via the Big Ten is something we can all shoot for. The B1G could own Division III, with Wisconsin-Whitewater and Mount Union having faced each other for seven title games in a row now.

Tier 1 Big Ten

Illinois Michigan Nebraska Penn State

Indiana Michigan State Northwestern Purdue

Iowa Minnesota Ohio State Wisconsin

Tier 2 MAC

Akron Central Michigan Northern Illinois W. Michigan

Ball State Eastern Michigan Ohio

Bowling Green Kent State Toledo

Buffalo Miami-OH UMass

Tier 3 Missouri Valley

Illinois State North Dakota St. So. Illinois

Indiana State Northern Iowa W. Illinois

Missouri State S. Dakota St. Youngstown St.

Tier 4 Ohio Valley

Austin Peay Jacksonville St. Tennessee State

Eastern Illinois Murray State Tennessee Tech

E. Kentucky SE Missouri St. UT-Martin

Tier 5 Northeast Pennsylvania Great Lakes GLVC

American Int'l Bloomsburg Ashland Central State

Assumption California Ferris State Indianapolis

Bentley Cheyney Findlay KY Wesleyan

Merrimack Clarion Grand Valley McKendree

New Haven E. Stroudsburg Hillsdale Missouri S&T

Pace Edinboro Lake Erie Quincy

St. Anselm Gannon Malone St. Joseph's

So. Connecticut IUP Michigan Tech Urbana

Stonehill Kutztown No. Michigan William Jewell

LIU Post Northwood

Lock Haven Notre Dame Col.

Mercyhurst Ohio Dominican

Millersville Saginaw Valley

Shippensburg Tiffin

Slippery Rock Walsh

West Chester Wayne State

Tier 6 Centennial CCIW Ohio MIAC

Dickinson Augustana Baldwin-Wallace Augsburg

*Finlandia Carthage Capital Bethel

Franklin & Marshall Elmhurst Heidelberg Carleton

Gettysburg Illinois Wesleyan John Carroll Con.-Moorhead

Johns Hopkins Milikin Marietta Gus. Adolphus

Juniata North Central IL Mount Union Hamline

McDaniel North Park Muskingum St. John's MN

Moravian Wheaton Ohio Northern St. Olaf

Muhlenberg UMAC Otterbein St. Thomas

Susquehanna Crown Wilmington WIAC

Ursinus Eureka NATHC UW-Eau Claire

MIAA Greenville Aurora UW-La Cross

Adrian MacMurray Benedictine UW-Oshkosh

Albion Martin Luther Concordia IL UW-Platteville

Alma MN-Morris Concordia WI UW-River Falls

Hope N'Western MN Lakeland UW-Stevens Pt.

Kalamazoo Presentation Maranatha Baptist UW-Stout

Olivet St. Scholastica Rockford UW-Whitewater

Trine Westminster MO WI Lutheran


Allegheney Hiram Ohio Wesleyan Wooster

Denison Kenyon Wabash

DePauw Oberlin Wittenberg

Tier 7 Great Plains Heart of America

Briar Cliff Midland Avila Graceland

Concordia NE Morningside Baker MidAmerica Naz.

Dakota Wesleyan Mount Marty Benedictine Missouri Valley

Doane NE Wesleyan Central Methodist Peru State

Dordt N'western Col. Culver-Stockton

Hastings Evangel


The ACC looks like kind of a mess, but at the lowest levels there really isn't a defined East Coast conference. And, yes, the Big East is a tier below the ACC now, but it was only a formality anyway. The ACC now contains the Ivy, which prefers not to play postseason games beyond its own walls, and that's fine! It's the ACC anyway! ACC jokes. We've also saved the CAA by doing this -- the CAA, the sudden supposed FCS power conference that sprang from the A-10 less than a decade ago.

Tier 1 ACC

Boston College Florida State Miami Virginia

Clemson Georgia Tech N.C. State Virginia Tech

Duke Maryland North Carolina Wake Forest

Tier 2 Big East

*Army Louisville Rutgers Temple

Cincinnati *Navy South Florida

Connecticut Pittsburgh Syracuse

Tier 3 CAA

Delaware Maine Rhode Island Villanova

Georgia State New Hampshire Richmond William & Mary

James Madison Old Dominion Towson

Tier 4 Ivy Patriot

Brown Harvard Bucknell Holy Cross

Columbua Penn Colgate Lafayette

Cornell Princeton Fordham Lehigh

Dartmouth Yale Georgetown


Bethune-Cookman Hampton N.C. A&T S.C. State

Delaware State Howard N.C. Central Savannah State

Florida A&M Morgan State Norfolk State

Tier 5 CIAA Northeast 10

Bowie State Shaw AIU So. Connecticutt

Chowan St. Augustine Assumption St. Anselm

Elizabeth City St. Paul's Bentley Stonehill

Fayetteville St. Virginia St. Merrimack

Johnson C. Smith Virginia Union New Haven

Livingstone Pace

Tier 6 New England NESCAC Empire 8 New Jersey

Bridgewater St. Amherst Alfred Brockport

Coast Guard Bates Elmira Buffalo State

Curry Bowdoin Hartwick Cortland St.

Endicott Colby Ithaca Kean

Fitchburg St. Hamilton Nazareth Montclair St.

Framingham St. Middlebury St. John Fisher Morrisville

Maine Maritime Trinity Stevens Tech Richard Stockton

Mass-Dartmouth Tufts Utica Rowan

Mass. Maritime Wesleyan Liberty TCNJ

MIT Williams Hobart WCSU

Nichols East Coast F'ball Merchant Marine William Paterson

Plymouth St. Anna Maria Rochester

Salve Regina Becker RPI

WNEU Castleton St. St. Lawrence

Westfield St. Gallaudet *Stevenson

Worcester St. Husson Union

Mount Ida *Wesley

Norwich WPI


Middle Atlantic

Albright King's Stevenson