Cooper's Conference Column

Alex Cooper's Take on NCAA Conference Affairs

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College Football Conference Supremacy Using a Cross-Country Scoring Model – An Update

It’s here! The AP preseason college football top 25 poll is out. Temperatures may not be cooling a bit yet, but this is another indication that the seasons are a-changing. We are one step closer to college football, and fans and media now have another high-profile season prediction over which to argue. Part of this argument for several years now has been over which conference in the country is the best. This is a very difficult argument to actually win on anything other than hot air. Do you count bowl victories? National championships won? Non-conference records?

Four years ago, I made an argument on this blog for the efficacy of using a cross-country scoring system as a means by which we can evaluate empirically the old, fun, and ever-present debate of fandoms across college football: which conference is truly the best? Now that I am four seasons wiser, I am still convinced that this scoring method remains a valid measurement of collective success. I won’t rehash it all now (feel free to refresh you memory by reading it here), but the basic idea is that the sport of cross country evaluates both individual performance and group performance in a single competition. We can appropriate that for assessing college football conferences. Continue reading

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The Race for Supremacy; College Football Conferences Evaluated by a Cross-Country Scoring System

The objective of competitive sport is to determine the best member of any group. Every sport known to mankind has a way of determining this on a single-competition level (a single game, match, or meet). For instance, the best team of the two soccer teams on the pitch is determined by which one scores the most goals. The best ping-pong player is determined by who gets to 21 points first. The best golfer is the one who tallies the lowest number of strokes. But a single competition has not been able to satiate competitive sports’ desire to truly find the best. So on top of the complicated rules of the games themselves, leagues comprised of multiple parties and multiple competitions are instituted. The best baseball team in the MLB is determined by the team that can navigate the October playoffs the best where their regular season records give them the opportunity to compete for this title. In college football, a committee determines the most worthy teams to then weave through a bracket. NCAA basketball has an ever-increasing number of teams a committee allows into its final tournament.

The point of this examination is to show that sports have devised system after system to determine who the best is. But what happens when an arbitrary sports concept is debated? What happens when the best member of a group is not specifically determined by the system in place? Continue reading

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XII=10 | The New Big 12 Conference

New LogoBYU





Earlier this month, ESPN reported that BYU’s head coach, Bronco Mendenhall, had stated his support for a move by his school’s athletic department to join the Big XII Conference. BYU went independent in football in 2011 after 11 years in the Mountain West as a charter member. The Cougars were conference champions four times in those eleven years, and they made eight bowl appearances. An individual TV deal with ESPN looked to be more lucrative for BYU at the turn of the decade, however, and the Cougars have been independent ever since. Now, in 2014, just as the dust of the massive conference realignment that started in 2010 has started to settle, BYU is making moves to become a part of the 10-team Big 12 Conference. Mendenhall mentioned many reasons for this move:

“We would love to be in the Big 12, I would love to be a member of that conference. I think that would make a lot of sense. Our attendance is high enough, and our winning percentage is high enough. We have the entire Salt Lake City and Utah market as well as a worldwide following because of the [Mormon] church. There’d be a ton to offer the Big 12 because it’s a money-generated world right now. You’re talking about an amazing kind of brand.”

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The Double Bye: College Basketball’s Wealth Disparity

It is about that time again that all sports fans love: March Madness. What do we love about March and college basketball? Tournaments. The NCAA Tournament is the 2nd most watched sporting event in the United States behind only the Super Bowl. America loves filling out the 68 team bracket after the Sunday selection show reveals who goes where in the national seeding. The NCAA Tournament’s less popular and underrated predecessor are the conference tournaments that serve to crown a champion for each league and send that team to the Big Dance. Continue reading

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Simplifying the Conference Realignment

Imagine a Rip Van Winkle situation in which you, a college sports fan, went to sleep in 2009. Five years have gone by, and you just woke up today in 2014. Suddenly, you are very confused as to why Syracuse just beat Pittsburgh in an ACC basketball game and Missouri lost in the SEC Championship Game. You are probably wondering as well what on earth the American Athletic Conference is at all.

It does not take a complete blind eye to be confused by the realignments that have rocked collegiate athletics from 2010 to 2014. Here is the simplest possible written explanation of who went where and left from where.

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9+1 ACC-SEC Deal Optimal

This article is in response to the ACC’s proposed 8+1 schedule with the SEC which is illustrated in these links:

In light of the conference carousel that has been turning for the past few years, leagues have had to reorganize the way they schedule games between their teams. I firmly believe that the more teams a conference adds, the more conference games a team needs to play in order to make a conference champion valid. Of course, I love the idea of a closer tie between the ACC and SEC because 1) it often makes sense geographically, 2) the conferences share an enormous amount of history together (for example, Georgia Tech and South Carolina used to be flip-flopped between the leagues, and earlier this decade, there were serious rumors about the two conferences combining to create a southeast superconference),  and 3) it leaves a door wide open for a Virginia Tech-Tennessee annual rivalry. What would the other schools do, though? Would it be on a rotating system of playing a different team from the other league every year or a set rival in the other league? People will have a hard time believing Texas A&M-Boston College rivalry would hit it off. I don’t think that’s always the point, though. Continue reading