While working on Friday night manning the College Football Talk virtual news desk, things got slow. This usually happens on a Friday evening in the offseason, but even when things are moving slowly it is my responsibility to seek out news, commentary or anything else that might be worth sharing. That often leads me to checking the Reddit college football board, where I am sure many of my counterparts at other outlets frequently visit for the same reason. On this evening I came across a discussion about the falling apart of the old Southwest Conference. It got me thinking about how cool it would be to see these old conference foes work out some way to continue playing each other in non-conference play.
The Southwest Conference — consisting of Arkansas, Baylor, Houston, Rice, SMU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, TCU — disbanded in 1996 when the Big 8 added Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech to form the Big 12. Arkansas already left to join the SEC, perhaps the first move in what would turn out to be a significant chain reaction of events in the realignment game. Rice, SMU and TCU joined the WAC and Houston found a spot with the brand new Conference USA, the result of a merger between the Metro Conference and the Great Midwest Conference. Today Texas A&M is in the SEC, Houston and SMU are in the American Athletic Conference. The WAC has since disbanded in football as well, leaving Rice to join Conference USA and TCU has been all over the place (Conference USA to Mountain West Conference to Big East) before finally filling the vacancy left by Texas A&M in the Big 12 (Missouri’s spot was filled by West Virginia).
It took some time to figure things out, and I am positive more time could be spent attempting to craft a solid working model, but I put together a seven-year schedule that would basically rotate through the old Southwest Conference line-up for each school. The catch would be that every school would have one spot in the non-conference schedule set aside specifically for the Southwest Conference game.
Aside from getting nine schools from four different conferences to agree to a non-conference scheduling agreement in the first place, there are plenty of issues standing in the way that would need to be addressed. The biggest hurdle is there are four schools in one conference, two in two others and one standing alone in a fourth conference. That means the non-conference scheduling is going to be very complex to organize, and with nine schools it looks as though at least school could be left out of the fun every season.
The way things are now, we already get a guaranteed eight Southwest Conference games each season due to conference games in the American Athletic Conference, Big 12 and SEC. They are:
- Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (SEC West division rivals)
- Baylor vs. Texas (Big 12 round-robin)
- Baylor vs. Texas Tech (Big 12 round-robin)
- Baylor vs. TCU (Big 12 round-robin)
- Texas vs. Texas Tech (Big 12 round-robin)
- Texas vs. TCU (Big 12 round-robin)
- Texas Tech vs. TCU (Big 12 round-robin)
- Houston vs. SMU (American conference, and future division, rivals)
Because there are nine schools to map out and four are in the Big 12, I figured I had to sit out at least one Big 12 school each year on this seven-year plan. There is one year where I started to run out of wiggle room and ended up giving two Big 12 schools a “bye.” I also ran into an issue in the final year trying to squeeze a match-up between Houston and Rice into the mix. Of course, nothing would be preventing these schools from setting up their own games to add to the non-conference schedule.
The SEC will soon be requiring all members to schedule one game per year against a team from another power conference. For Arkansas and Texas A&M, this Southwest Conference scheduling would satisfy that requirement four out of seven years, not including any other games the schools choose to schedule. The way I have this lined up, either Arkansas or Texas A&M would have that non-conference scheduling requirement fulfilled each season. There is no such requirement of teams in the Big 12, American Athletic Conference or Conference USA.
Here is how my seven-year schedule looks…
I realize this is a far from a perfect solution, of course. There are still some match-ups that are missing, but there would be noting preventing those match-ups from being scheduled outside of this schedule format when openings are available. It would certainly help if schools like Texas and Texas A&M would agree to play each other annually too, but that is an entirely different story for another day that has been exhausted already.
It is also very unlikely this ever develops and happens. One can dream, right?
Feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments.
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