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College Football Relegation In Action: 2005

Let's take a look at how relegation would actually work in college football, with years of simulations ready to go. Monday: Why CFB needs relegation. Tuesday: How does relegation work? Wednesday: The CFB relegation system. Thursday: CFB after seven years of relegation.

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So college football is dragged, kicking and screaming, into a promotion-and-relegation system heading into the 2005 season. As we will see, this does almost nothing to impact the FBS national title race (unless you subscribe to the potential playoff idea at the bottom of the post), but it adds an entirely new level of intrigue.

Intro | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012

Tier I


  • Membership: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, N.C. State, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
  • Champion: Florida State
  • Demoted to Big East: Duke

The ACC was, to say the least, not very good in 2005. There is quite a bit of dead weight that can be dropped from this conference, but in one-per-year fashion, Duke is predictably the first one to fall.

Big 12

  • Membership: Baylor, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech
  • Champion: Texas
  • Demoted to Conference USA: Oklahoma State

It is easy to forget now, but Oklahoma State was not very good when Mike Gundy first took over. They drop past Baylor and earn the Big 12's first relegation. Does Mike Gundy return for a second season if this is the case?

Big Ten

  • Membership: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame*, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
  • Champion: Penn State
  • Demoted to MAC: Illinois

One of my biggest questions heading into this exercise was how promotion-and-relegation would work in the Big Ten and SEC, which, in this structure, are affiliated with by far the weakest Tier II conferences. In Alternate 2005, the biggest complaints would probably come from, in order, Pac-10 Country (Stanford facing relegation in favor of a BYU or Boise State would cause outrage in the school president's office), B1G Country ("We're above this") and SEC Country ("We'll hurt those poor little Sun Belt teams").


  • Membership: Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State
  • Champion: USC
  • Demoted to Mountain West: Washington

It is probably poetic that a Ty Willingham team is one of the first to ever get demoted. The Apple Cup emerges as one of two major rivalry games to determine which team gets sent down.


  • Membership: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
  • Champion: Georgia
  • Demoted to Sun Belt: Ole Miss

And here's the other. As mentioned in the intro, an Ole Miss demotion sends us down quite the rabbit hole. Especially when they don't immediately get promoted back. [Spoiler alert!]

Tier II

Big East

  • Membership: Army*, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Navy*, Pittsburgh, South Florida, Syracuse, Temple, West Virginia
  • Promoted to ACC: West Virginia
  • Demoted to Atlantic 10: Temple

While the Big East has long been a relative punch line, sometimes fairly and sometimes unfairly, it probably goes without saying that the conference has produced plenty of quality teams that could immediately compete in the ACC, as we will soon see.

Also: Temple was really, really bad in 2005. And they got worse in 2006, even without relegation on the table.

Conference USA

  • Membership: Central Florida, East Carolina, Houston, Marshall, Memphis, Rice, SMU, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UTEP
  • Promoted to Big 12: Tulsa
  • Demoted to Southland: Rice

The saga of Tulsa as we move through these seasons is an interesting one. They immediately get promoted to the Big 12 and carve out a living in the middle, never good enough to threaten for a conference title and never bad enough to get relegated. Maybe they occasionally go 3-5 in conference and squeak out a bowl bid. We'll say they are the Wigan of this exercise.


  • Membership: Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Ohio, Toledo, Western Michigan
  • Promoted to Big Ten: Akron
  • Demoted to Missouri Valley: Kent State

If Tulsa is Wigan, we'll say Akron is Watford, surprising many by squeezing out a surprise promotion ... and then falling pretty far later on.

Mountain West

  • Membership: Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV, Utah, Wyoming
  • Promoted to Pac-10: TCU
  • Demoted to WAC: UNLV

While the connection between MAC and Big Ten or SEC and Sun Belt gets awkward and mismatched sometimes, it is pretty seamless when it comes to the Pac-10 and Mountain West. And as we will see, it makes the Pac-10 a really, really strong conference.

Sun Belt

  • Membership: Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Troy, UL-Lafayette, UL-Monroe
  • Promoted to SEC: Arkansas State
  • Demoted to Southern: North Texas

Good luck, Arkansas State.

Tier III

Atlantic 10

  • Membership: Delaware, Hofstra, James Madison, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Northeastern, Rhode Island, Richmond, Towson, Villanova, William & Mary
  • Promoted to Big East: New Hampshire
  • Demoted to Patriot: Villanova

Villanova will become a frequent mover, in both directions, through the years. Meanwhile, New Hampshire fares quite a bit better in this exercise than you may have anticipated.


  • Membership: McNeese State, Nicholls State, Northwestern State, Sam Houston State, SE Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin, Texas State
  • Promoted to Conference USA: Texas State
  • Demoted to Pioneer / Great West: Stephen F. Austin

The difference between Conference USA and Southland will also be proven rather stark.

Missouri Valley

  • Membership: Illinois State, Indiana State, Missouri State, Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, Western Illinois, Western Kentucky, Youngstown State
  • Promoted to MAC: Northern Iowa
  • Demoted to Ohio Valley / Northeast: Indiana State

And Northern Iowa gets a promotion they probably should have received in real life a while ago.


  • Membership: Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, Nevada, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Utah State
  • Promoted to Mountain West: Boise State
  • Demoted to Big Sky: New Mexico State

And New Mexico State gets a demotion they maybe should have volunteered for in real life a while ago.


  • Membership: Appalachian State, Chattanooga, Elon, Furman, Georgia Southern, The Citadel, Western Carolina, Wofford
  • Promoted to Sun Belt: Appalachian State
  • Demoted to Big South: Elon

Appalachian State's promotion was almost as predictable as Boise State's.

Tier IV


  • Membership: Bucknell, Colgate, Fordham, Georgetown, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh
  • Promoted to Atlantic 10: Colgate

Pioneer / Great West

  • Membership (Pioneer): Austin Peay, Butler, Davidson, Dayton, Drake, Jacksonville, Morehead State, San Diego, Valparaiso
  • Membership (Great West): Cal Poly, North Dakota State, Northern Colorado, South Dakota State, Southern Utah, UC Davis
  • Promoted to Southland: UC Davis

Ohio Valley / Northeast

  • Membership (Ohio Valley): Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, Murray State, Samford, SE Missouri State, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, UT-Martin
  • Membership (Northeast): Albany, Central Connecticut State, Monmouth, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis (PA), Stony Brook, Wagner
  • Promoted to Missouri Valley: Stony Brook

Big Sky

  • Membership: Eastern Washington, Idaho State, Montana, Montana State, Northern Arizona, Portland State, Sacramento State, Weber State
  • Promoted to WAC: Eastern Washington

Big South

  • Membership: Coastal Carolina, Charleston Southern, Gardner-Webb, Liberty, VMI
  • Promoted to Southern: Charleston Southern

If you were to combine the current push for a playoff with a promotion-and-relegation concept, you do get a potentially easy playoff setup. For each season here, I will show you what a five-team playoff (each champion from the top tier of conferences gets a bid) would look like, for grins if nothing else.

Your Potential Four-Team Tier 1 Playoff: No. 1 USC vs. No. 7 Georgia / No. 22 Florida State, No. 2 Texas vs. No. 3 Penn State

Intro | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012