Long before the Big Ten had 14 teams, and the Pac-8 had grown to the Pac-12, there were folks in college sports tossing around the idea of a national football conference. In the 1950s, Pittsburgh athletic director Tom Hamilton proposed Southern California, UCLA, Stanford, California, and Washington join up with Army, Navy, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Penn State, and Air Force to form an Airplane Conference.
Nowadays, there is constant speculation about the Power Five conferences and their 65 member schools breaking away from the NCAA. Despite all the chatter and threats, the chances of that happening soon are slim. Though a broad restructuring of Division I and r e-imagining of the way schools align their sports programs is probably a good idea. But what if college football’s most powerful programs tried to do what is happening now in European soccer, where a group of the wealthiest and most successful clubs are in the process of forming a 15-team Super League?
When decades of conference allegiance go out the window for the all mighty dollar, which schools would make the of cut? “You’d want to architect a product with broad national appeal,” said Chris Bevilacqua, CEO of SimpleBet, who was a longtime media rights consultant to college conferences and pro sports leagues. “I think you’d want big-name brands, and you’d want also to look at it over a long period of time. You wouldn’t look through the lens of the last five years, you’d look through the lens of the last 50 years.”
Bevilacqua made clear he didn’t think this type of breakaway would be possible in college sports. Nor would it be good for the game. But it is a fun exercise with spring practice winding down around the country and the season still about five month way. So let’s form a 15-team college football Super League.
There are a few obvious picks, powerhouse programs with long histories of success and enormous followings. Come on down, Alabama (1), Notre Dame (2), Ohio State (3), Oklahoma (4) and Southern California (5).
Those schools have combined for 37 AP college football national championships, dating back to when the poll first began in 1934. They each have at least five, a number only Miami can match. Ohio State in particular is a television ratings monster. Thanks to a considerable alumni base, the Buckeyes routinely play in some of the most-watched games of each season. According to the school, there are more than 500,000 Ohio State alumni worldwide.