NCAA Football 12's Ultimate Conference Call

In NCAA Football 12 players have an extraordinary amount of control over the college football landscape. Last year, many diehards and purists pursed their lips and grumbled over a wave of conference realignments that forsake traditions and regional sensibilities for television contracts. NCAA 12 is their chance to put things right in the world. Their world.

Under previous versions you could swap conference memberships but the size of their ranks could neither increase nor decrease. Now, you may expand or shrink conferences anywhere from 16 to four members. You may not delete or rename conferences or give them new logos. Theoretically, I think, you could have 11 four-team conferences and a pool of 76 independents.

Once you set your conference memberships, the game allows you to designate whether the league is an automatic BCS qualifier and, if so, to which of the four games it sends its conference champion (or second choice, assuming its champion is a BCS No. 1 or 2.) You may even control for days of the week in which that league plays (Saturday only, Thursdays permitted, or any day), and whether night games in November are permitted, two scheduling rules peculiar to the Big Ten.

Finally, if you have 12 or more teams, you then sort the divisional membership, rename the divisions, and then set aside interdivisional matchups that the schedule will guarantee every year, to protect rivalries such as Alabama and Tennesse, or Auburn and Georgia.

When my review copy arrived, and after I first plunged into Dynasty and began altering the conferences, I figured I would just restore the ACC to its original membership and have a charming what-if trip back to Tobacco Road. I spent the next five hours completely remaking each conference, puzzling out which protected matchups had the most tradition, whose bowl tie-ins made the most sense, and where title games in my new mega-conferences should be played. It was a perfectly hallucinated reality, one I'm delighted to share with you below.

I really want to create a 16-team Land Grant Superconference, with divisions named the Farmers and the Mechanics, but maybe I'll do that for Online Dynasty. For now, in my perfect model-railroad world of college football, here's who plays where:

Atlantic Coast Conference

Members: Clemson, South Carolina, North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke, Wake Forest, Maryland and Virginia.
BCS Automatic? Yes, the champion gets an automatic BCS berth, but it is not tied to a specific bowl.
Scheduling: Saturday games only, with night games permissible in November.
In my game, the ACC is essentially unchanged over its entire lifespan. (Though Virginia joined the league in 1953, it was not a charter member and did not play the first football season).

The final Saturday sees the great rivalries in full bloom: Clemson and South Carolina's all-out warfare; Maryland and Virginia's border skirmish, Duke and North Carolina's classic private-public rivalry, and State vs. Wake Forest, the farmers and the Baptists, forming the allegory of this conference's home state.

NCAA Football 12's Ultimate Conference Call

Big XVI

Big Eight Division: Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Southwest Division: Arkansas, Baylor, Houston, Rice, Texas Christian, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech
BCS Automatic? Yes, the champion gets a bid to the Orange Bowl, the Big Eight's original tie-in. The conference title game is played between the champions of each division and is held at Mile High Stadium, Denver.
Protected Matchups: Texas-Oklahoma; Arkansas-Missouri; Texas A&M-Nebraska; Baylor-Colorado; TCU-Kansas; Rice-Iowa State; Texas Tech-Oklahoma State; Houston-Kansas State.
Scheduling: Thursday games permitted; night games in November permitted.

I acknowledge that there is no way two major conferences from the early 1990s would just merge, especially as it means the entire membership of one could miss out on being a conference champion in a given year, and all the prerogatives that flow from it. The power struggle that dissolved the Big XII last year also makes anything like this ever happening extremely farfetched. But if I'm given the opportunity to create a 16-team megaconference, I'm going to take it, and the Big XVI was the most fun option.

In our story, following Southern Methodist's death penalty in 1986 the Big Eight and Southwest Conference (keeping Arkansas) join forces to create a visionary television superconference that ushers in the era of conference title games and the Bowl Championship Series. Though you can't set secondary bowl tie-ins in NCAA 12, in my fiction the league runner-up is bidded to the Cotton, the Southwest's old prize.

One note, Kansas and TCU sounds like a weird rivalry; they have actually met 23 times. Missouri and Arkansas was chosen for proximity; Kansas State and Houston is the only pairing with no history (zero meetings).

Big East

North Division: Boston College, Connecticut, Miami, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple
South Division: Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh, South Florida, Virginia Tech, West Virginia
BCS Automatic? Yes, the champion gets an automatic bid but is not tied to a specific bowl. The conference championship is played at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia.
Protected Matchups: Temple-Cincinnati, Rutgers-Louisville, Syracuse-Virginia Tech, Connecticut-South Florida, Boston College-Pittsburgh.
Scheduling: Thursday games permitted; night games in November permitted.

Big East football began in 1991 and it essentially formed from the old eastern independents who didn't have the heft to go it alone nationally as television revenue took on additional importance. Here, the original membership is joined by the 2005 expansion teams, with Temple remaining in the league throughout. The protected matchups may look strange, but this divisional arrangement assures the permanence of the West Virginia-Pitt Backyard Brawl and Boston College's rivalry game with Miami, while allowing marquee games between WVU and VPI, VPI and Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Miami and Syracuse and Pittsburgh every year.

NCAA Football 12's Ultimate Conference Call

Big Ten

Members: Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota.
BCS Automatic? Yes, the champion plays in the Rose Bowl
Scheduling: Saturday games only, no night games, the reason these rules exist in the game.

The Big Ten can count again. It's back to a membership of 10, which dates to 1950. That means it avoids the ridiculous "Leaders" and "Legends" divisional names, and also the travesty of playing its championship game in a dome.

Conference USA

Members: Central Florida, Tulsa, East Carolina, Southern Methodist, Southern Mississippi, Marshall, UTEP, Memphis and Alabama-Birmingham.
BCS Automatic? No.
Scheduling: Games any day of the week permitted; night games in November permitted.

This conference emerged as a Thursday-night staple on ESPN in the 1990s.

NCAA Football 12's Ultimate Conference Call

Independents

Florida State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Navy, Army, Brigham Young
BCS Automatic? The BCS's single wild-card bid was created should any unaffiliated school finish in the ranking's top 10.

The bravest of the brave, these programs with national followings and strong traditions are the last to go it alone.

Mid-American Conference

East Division: Miami, Ohio, Bowling Green, Kent State, Buffalo, Akron
West Division: Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Toledo, Ball State
BCS Automatic? No. The title game is played at Ford Field, Detroit.
Protected Matchups: None. (None are necessary given the current divisional layout).
Scheduling: Games any day of the week permitted; night games in November permitted.

The MAC is largely unchanged with the exception of Temple reverting back to the Big East.

Mountain West

Northeast Division: Boise State, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force and the University of Denver (a created school).
Southwest Division:Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, Utah State, New Mexico, New Mexico State.
BCS Automatic? Yes, the conference champion plays in the Fiesta Bowl, which was originally created when the old WAC's champion couldn't get a bowl bid. The tie-in ended when Arizona and Arizona State left for the Pac-10; here, they took the relationship with them.
Protected Matchups:Utah-Colorado State, New Mexico-Wyoming, Idaho-Utah State, Denver-Arizona State, Arizona-Boise State, Air Force-New Mexico State
Scheduling: Thursday games and night games in November permitted.

Denver, a former member of the Skyline Conference (led by Johnny Karamigios, the famed Galloping Greek of Cherry Creek) mothballed its football team in 1961. I've created this school in NCAA Football every year since 2003 and have to include them. It's where my created coach begins his career.

In this reality, Arizona and Arizona State, instead of joining the Pac-10, split off from the WAC in 1977, taking with them New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Denver, Brigham Young and Colorado State to form the Mountain West. BYU went independent after the league acquired Idaho and Boise State when both schools ascended to Division I.

I had the most fun making this one. The divisional pairings are natural and strongly evocative of the Pac-10.

Pac-8

Members: Washington, Washington State; Oregon, Oregon State; Cal, Stanford; UCLA, USC
BCS Automatic? Of course. The champion plays in the Rose Bowl.
Scheduling Saturday only. Night games permitted.

One of the grandest traditions in college football, the Pac-8 has played the same conference schedule since 1962.

NCAA Football 12's Ultimate Conference Call

Southeastern Conference

East Dvision: Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida
West Division: Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, Tulane
BCS Automatic? Yes, the champion plays in the Sugar Bowl. The conference championship is played in the Georgia Dome, Atlanta.
Protected Matchups: Tennessee-Alabama, Georgia-Auburn, Georgia Tech-Ole Miss; Florida-LSU, Kentucky-Mississippi State, Vanderbilt-Tulane
Scheduling: Saturday games only; Night games in November permitted

Tulane left the conference in 1966, Georgia Tech in 1962. In this reality, the SEC's 12-team membership has remained intact since 1932, cementing the league's status as the elite tradition of college football.

Sun Belt

Members: Troy, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette, North Texas and Western Kentucky.
BCS Automatic? No.
Scheduling: Games any day of the week permitted; night games in November permitted.

As the Sun Belt has nine members I thought about putting Louisiana Tech in the WAC, but the regional makeup both here, and there, makes too much sense. Besides, I'm not going to be coaching in the Sun Belt or the WAC.

Note: Florida Atlantic was removed to bring in Denver, which was then shifted to the MWC.

Western Athletic Conference

Members: Hawaii, Nevada, San Diego State, Fresno State, UNLV, San Jose State
BCS Automatic? No.
Scheduling: Like Pat Hill at Fresno, "Any Day, Any Time, Anywhere"

We have one conference with the maximum number of members and another with two above the minimum. Gutted by the loss of Boise State, everyone expects the WAC either to merge later with the Sun Belt or disperse altogether. For now, the concentration of schools in California and Nevada makes travel to and from Hawaii a little more reasonable.

NCAA Football 12's Ultimate Conference Call
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