How to end conference realignment: the conference draft …. Another ACC revenue problem? … and QB mobility might determine Saturday’s outcome

NORTHWESTERN COMMAND – Even I, someone who has been fascinated by the conference realignment machinations (while appalled at what it’s meant to tradition and conference identity), even I am beginning to tire of the conference realignment stories.

So I have an idea: instead of waiting on the next domino to fall in this conference realignment game, let’s just have a conference draft.

Four conference commissioners select 16-program conference rosters. Snake draft. Three minutes to pick. We can get this over in a couple hours and move on with our lives.

With the first pick in the 2012 college conference selection draft …

While this would only happen in my imagination – even though it would make for great TV – what is constructive about a conference selection mock draft is how it value the prestige and value of schools.

So I’m going to take a stab at ranking the top 24 most prestigious college programs (including all sports, though football is king) in a mock draft.

My factors: revenue generation, fan support, football brand, basketball brand, historical success, recruiting football, market size and  growth potential. (Forbes’ 2011 program value rankings are noted in parentheses.)

The four conferences are generic so they are not tied to geographical footprints allowing the top teams to simply be selected.


1 – Texas (1)  – Richest program in the country. Huge alumni and state population. Fertile recruiting.

2 – Notre Dame (2) – Rare program with national market, rare history. Can it be elite again? ’12 says yes

3 –  Alabama (6)– Rabid fan base fills 100,000-seat stadium, in the middle of the country’s richest recruiting ground, rich history

4 – Florida (11) –  Very similar to Alabama but with a better home state to recruit from.


5 – Georgia (7) – Should be more than what it is. It should be Alabama.  There’s more upside. ATL market.

6 – LSU (4) – Another SEC powerhouse. One of the great home venues and brands in the game.

7 – Ohio State (13) – Perhaps the best stadium in college football, certainly the best band. Midwest population decline dings Buckeyes.

8 – Southern Cal (18) – King of the West Coast. I question brand loyalty, elite talent base


9 –  Florida State – Not ranked by Forbes, but this is a program that once had 13 straight top 5 finishes. Buy-low candidate.

10  – Arkansas (8) – Having Wal-Mart HQ in your backyard doesn’t hurt. Rising commitment. Rising program. Good recruiting footprint.

11 – Michigan (5) – Big Ten has demographic problem but Michigan has elite facilities, support and a strong AD.

12 – Oklahoma (10) – Rising Texas A & M program could hurt Texas recruiting.


13 –  Texas A &M (12) – Did we mention we like Texas A&M’s market, footprint and fan support?

14 – Nebraska – Where will it recruit?

15 – Penn St (3) – Number three in value per Forbes, but that was before the scandal and probation

16 – Wisconsin – See: Nebraska


17 – North Carolina – The first basketball-first property off of the board. N.C. market is pretty attractive

18 – Stanford – Excellent, booming location

19 – Auburn – No. 2 school in state with 4 million population holds it back

20 – Clemson – Tenth in the country in total fans according to Nate Silver study, solid recruiting footprint, has won national title. Strong brand.


21 – Tennessee – I worry about recruiting footprint and cash reserves but support and infrastructure are elite

22 – Oregon – Cutting-edge program partnered with Nike is an intriguing combo. Lacks monster stadium and fan base

23 – South Carolina – Program is on the upswing, has elevated status

24 – Michigan State – No. 2 power in declining state

Final results of teams selected: SEC (9), Big Ten (6), Pac-12 (3), ACC (3), Big 12 (2), IND (1)

How would you rank ‘em?


The Big Ten has one of the most interesting television agreements of the major networks where its second- and third-tier rights are owned by the Big Ten Network. It is the only major conference not have signed away its second-tier rights to ESPN or FOX. Games selected after first-tier premium games are picked for prime television slots.

The Big Ten Network receives a reported $1.25 per month for every household that receives the channel.  That means the conference’s television has incredible growth potential as it latches on to more basic cable platforms and in more markets. That’s behind the additions of Maryland and Rutgers this week. Those markets alone could generate $100 million plus per year in subscriber fees down the road.

Are subscriber fees the future of sports on TV? I think so. Just look around at NFL Network, MLB Network, etc. More leagues and conference’s want to cut out the middle man and broadcast and profit from live events directly.

We know the Pac 12, SEC and Texas have all explored or are in the process of creating their own networks. An SEC Network could be a major cash cow.

The ACC’s problem?

Even if it has the desire, wherewithal and markets to create its own subscriber-fee network it has packaged all of its rights (first, second, third-tier) to ESPN so it would have little live football or basketball programming to sell  on its network over the course of this agreement.

Clemson owning its third-tier rights was never going to be a huge revenue creator. But bundling second- and third-tier rights together as a conference could be the future of television revenue.

This isn’t a big problem today. But by the time the ACC’s 15-year deal is up with ESPN it could be considerably further behind the revenue curve.


Clemson coach Dabo Swinney called Connor Shaw the “key” to South Carolina’s win last season. (I’d argue it was the USC defensive front but both were critical).

Clemson has been burned by mobile quarterbacks for years. Remember C.J. Brown? The Tigers have not seen as many mobile QBs this year but they were gashed by Florida State’s E.J. Manuel.

“We better throw out that gameplan,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said of how the Tigers defended Manuel, who rolled up 500 total yards against Clemson.

Needless to say, Clemson faces a major test and must be much better “containing” Shaw as Spencer Shuey said today.
But Clemson also has something it didn’t have a year ago: a mobile QB in Tajh Boyd, who is coming off his first 100-yard game, and is 25 pounds lighter than last season, when OC Chad Morris dubbed him as mobile as a  “concrete deer” when he was sacked five times against the Gamecocks.

Chad Morris compared Tajh Boyd’s speed last year to that of a “concrete deer” in what was perhaps the sound bite of the year

Boyd has already double his rushing output of last season.

And it might be the better rushing quarterback whose team prevails on Saturday.

Clemson has many of the same faces returning, but Boyd’s dual-threat ability makes Clemson a different offense.

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