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):
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.
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.
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.
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.