Since the College Football Playoff (CFP) system began in the 2014 season, there has been a lot of speculation as to the fairness of the four-team playoff. The bowl season has always been one of the biggest highlights for America’s biggest sport and the CFP has been no exception to that since its beginning.
The ten conferences in college football’s Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) are not all created equal and this is certainly noted by what teams make the CFP. The Power Five conferences of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten, Big Twelve (Big XII), Pac-12, and Southeastern Conference (SEC) cannot all possibly be represented with the four-team playoff system. In some cases, only three are represented when an independent team like Notre Dame (2018) or two teams from one conference like Alabama and Georgia (2017) take a spot away from a conference that otherwise would not play against worthy opponents.
The arguments surrounding college football have pivoted the spotlight to increasing the playoff to eight teams. However, the bigger problem comes from the conferences and scheduling of teams being geographically and unequally imbalanced.
Before a push for an eight-team playoff can occur, a new system that its proponents say would be more fair for allowing new conferences to join the race for a national title, there needs to be a push for conference realignment. To achieve equal balance in college football, geography and rivalries need to be preserved.
Fairness, above all else, has to be at the forefront.
Here is an updated picture of a more fair way for the ten FBS college football conferences to be aligned, with explanation behind the shifting of different teams to different conferences.
Conference Re-Alignment for the Power Six
One of the main reasons for the move from a Power Five system to a Power Six system is due to the number of teams that deserve to be considered a Power Five school in football. Currently, there are 64 Power Five schools. By rearranging the conferences so that there are six conferences with 12 teams each, that would only move eight teams to Power Five status.
Teams like Brigham Young (BYU), Central Florida (UCF), Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, Notre Dame, Temple, and UConn are schools with a rich enough history in football and athletic status in other sports that they deserve the position to succeed in the new Power Six.
American Athletic Conference (The American)
Boston College (from ACC)
Maryland (from Big Ten)
Rutgers (from Big Ten)
Syracuse (from ACC)
Louisville (from ACC)
Notre Dame (from FBS Independents)
Pittsburgh (Pitt) (from ACC)
West Virginia (from Big XII)
The first step in the process of creating equality in college football is moving Notre Dame to an actual conference. By adding teams like Maryland and Rutgers out of the Big Ten along with some other ACC teams and West Virginia, the conference that claims to be a “Power Six” can develop into a stronghold among mid-majors and the northeastern United States. West Virginia’s move to The American is based upon their rivalry with Pitt and an escape from the extremely long travel that exists for them as a member of the Big XII, a conference dominated by central American teams. In an eight-team playoff scenario, they would also be an automatic bid.
Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)
North Carolina (UNC)
North Carolina State
Central Florida (UCF) (from The American)
South Carolina (from SEC)
For the most part, the ACC stays pretty consistent aside from the loss of teams to the AAC. The new ACC is split between North and South, rather than Coastal and Atlantic. With the removal of teams like Boston College, Louisville, Pitt, and Syracuse, the conference is able to become more coastal and more southern geographically. UCF is also a strong fit based on their school enrollment, increasing popularity, and location. The addition of South Carolina is based off their rivalry with Clemson along with the fact that they are not historically bounded to the SEC.
Big Ten Conference (B1G)
Iowa State (from Big XII)
Like the ACC, the Big Ten stays intact for the most part. Although the East Division pulls four of college football’s historic programs, the rivals and geographic locations allow for them to stay in the same division they are already in now. The big change is in the West Division with the addition of Iowa State. Iowa State is not historically bounded to the Big XII, has a rivalry with Iowa, and can compete on a recruiting and on-the-field standpoint.
Big Twelve Conference (Big XII)
Colorado (from Pac-12)
Nebraska (from Big Ten)
Houston (from The American)
Texas A&M (from SEC)
Texas Christian (TCU)
Moving Colorado into the conference was actually a tough decision, but one that saw the potential for a renewed rivalry with Nebraska coming from the Big Ten. Houston was an easy move from The American as was Texas A&M back from the SEC, creating an all-Texas South Division.
Brigham Young (BYU) (from FBS Independents)
Central Los Angeles (UCLA)
Southern California (USC)
The Pac-12 remains mostly unchanged aside from the addition of BYU. Although BYU is not a major powerhouse, their Holy War rivalry with Utah and historical relevance played a part in them being the equalizer in the new conference alignment.
Southeastern Conference (SEC)
Louisiana State (LSU)
Mississippi (Ole Miss)
The SEC is the only conference that does not add teams from other conferences. Geographically, everyone is a perfect fit and the realignment of divisions comes from the exit of South Carolina and Texas A&M.
Scheduling for the Power Six
The Power Six conferences have 12 teams each, which creates a set of 3 rivalries in each division of every conference. As far as scheduling goes, a more balanced system needs to be created so that every conference is not only playing a balanced divisional and cross-divisional schedule, but also a fair out-of-conference schedule.
The conference scheduling for the Power Six conferences, as a suggestion, would go as follows:
Every team plays their five divisional opponents every year.
Every team plays half (three) cross-divisional opponents every year, rotating on a year-to-year basis. For example, Ohio State would play at home against Wisconsin one season, play a different cross-divisional game the following year (say, Minnesota at home), and play at Wisconsin the year after.
This is where things get competitive. Every year, out-of-conference scheduling would be determined by how a team does the year prior. The top two teams from a Power Six conference would play the 3rd and 4th best teams from another conference. The conference that each conference plays every year would be on a constant rotation.
For example, if Oklahoma and Texas play in the Big XII Championship game like they did in 2018, they would play the 3rd and 4th best teams from another conference the following year (say, the Big Ten). One game would be at home, one game would be away. The 4th best team from the Big Ten would play at home against the Big XII champ and on the road against the Big XII runner-up and the 3rd place team from the Big Ten would play at home against the Big XII runner-up and on the road against the Big XII champ.
If Ohio State and Northwestern play in the Big Ten Championship game like they did in 2018, they would play a different conference’s 3rd and 4th best teams.
This system would continue down the line with the 5th and 6th place teams of conferences playing the 7th and 8th and the 9th and 10th playing against the 11th and 12th.
With two games left on the 12-game schedule, this leaves room for two mid-major opponents. The top Power Six team from the final CFP rankings would be granted the privilege of playing the lowest ranked team from the new “Group of Four” conferences. There would also be room in the schedule for all 72 Power Six teams to play a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponent.
The reasoning behind keeping FCS opponents in the schedule is because these games are a major funding boost for smaller Division I opponents. These are the types of games that allow for a FCS opponent to grow their program.
Conference Re-Alignment for the Group of Four
Outside of the new Power Six conferences, the alignment of the remaining four groupings gets interesting. As the Power Six conferences each have 12 teams each, the Group of Four each have 16. These 16-team conferences will ensure that every conference champion from a mid-major conference will be deserving of a bigger bowl game and, if there were to be an expansion, possible a spot in the CFP.
Conference USA (C-USA)
Appalachian State (from Sun Belt)
Army (from FBS Independents)
Eastern California (from The American)
James Madison (from FCS)
Liberty (from FBS Independents)
Massachusetts (UMass) (from FBS Independents)
Navy (from The American)
Coastal Carolina (from Sun Belt)
Georgia Southern (from Sun Belt)
Georgia State (from Sun Belt)
South Florida (USF) (from The American)
The new Conference USA would consist of teams that were formerly in the Sun Belt, but rearranged so that geography and competitiveness can play a factor. Rivalries such as Liberty and James Madison and Army and Navy in the North Division will highlight the conference as a whole. The addition of South Florida in the South is also a big step forward.
Mid-American Conference (MAC)
Marshall (from C-USA)
Youngstown State (from FCS)
Eastern Kentucky (from FCS)
Western Kentucky (from C-USA)
The MAC is a staple of Big Ten country mid-major football. The addition of Youngstown State, a traditional FCS powerhouse, and Eastern Kentucky would be beneficial for the conference. Western Kentucky coming over from C-USA would also be a good geographical fit.
Mountain West Conference
Eastern Washington (from FCS)
Idaho (from FCS)
Montana (from FCS)
Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV)
New Mexico State (from FBS Independents)
San Diego State
San Jose State
The Mountain West would be split into Northeast and Southwest Divisions based upon the location of the schools. The addition of higher-level FCS teams will expand the conference and the rivalry of New Mexico and New Mexico State would be reignited, as it should.
Sun Belt Conference
Alabama Birmingham (UAB) (from C-USA)
Louisiana Tech (from C-USA)
Southern Mississippi (from C-USA)
Tulane (from The American)
North Texas (from C-USA)
Rice (from C-USA)
Southern Methodist (SMU) (from The American)
Texas El Paso (UTEP) (from C-USA)
Texas San Antonio (UTSA) (from C-USA)
Tulsa (from The American)
Many of the teams that would form the new Sun Belt would be coming from C-USA and vise versa, along with SMU, Tulane, and Tulsa from The American. The East Division consists of many schools in Alabama and Louisiana while the West Division will be mostly mid-major schools in Texas.
Scheduling for the Group of Four
The Group of Four conferences have 16 teams each, which creates a set of 4 rivalries in each division of every conference. Scheduling for the Group of Four would be balanced throughout, with the majority of the games being played to be divisional.
The conference scheduling for the Group of Four conferences, as a suggestion, would go as follows:
Every team plays their seven divisional opponents every year.
Every team plays three cross-divisional opponents every year.
Every year, out-of-conference scheduling would again be determined by how a team does the year prior. The top team from a Group of Four conference would play the best team from another Group of Four conference. The conference that each conference plays every year would be on a constant rotation, just like the Power Six.
For example, if Tulsa wins the Sun Belt Championship game, they would play the Mountain West Conference champ the following season.
This system would continue down the line, where teams that finished in the same position from different Group of Four conferences would play the following season.
With one game left on the 12-game schedule, this leaves room for the single Power Six opponent. The top Group of Four team from the final CFP rankings would be granted the privilege of playing the lowest ranked team from the new Power Six conferences.
This new system would allow for the conference champ from a Group of Four school to prove that they are above the other schools they play.
The growing need to expand upon a CFP system cannot be done without an equal balance within the college football conferences themselves. If there is to be an expansion from four to eight teams making the playoff, there needs to be an even playing field for all teams. With that comes the importance of set scheduling that can prove how other conferences compare to others. A more balanced playing field to ensure a more even playoff at the conclusion of the season can be achieved if scheduling and geographical considerations are taken into account.
For International people, the acclamation to a new home can be a lonely road
A 7-year-old boy sent a letter written in pencil to Alan Hausman, Vice President of the Tree of Life Synagogue, after the October 27, 2018 shooting.
“The letter said, ‘when I’m sad my mom gets me a Beyblade. I know it won’t make you happy, but I hope it will make you less sad,” said Hausman at the Love Thy Neighbor event in downtown Pittsburgh in February.
Hausman’s message was a resounding echo of acceptance, the same messages offered to others present, like Hello Neighbor and Pittsburgh Region International Student Ministries (PRISM); these places are where international students, immigrants, and refugees could gain access to resources and get accustomed to living in America.
“You can make a difference” – Hausman
Fayezeh Haji Hassan, a Board Member for Hello Neighbor, was also a speaker at the event. Hello Neighbor is a local nonprofit organization that is dedicated to supporting recently resettled refugee families.
“It’s an organization that helps connect refugees and immigrants to American families here in Pittsburgh,” she said.
The nonprofit, which began in 2017, has been an advocate for the trials of immigrants in America. After President Trump’s Executive Order 13769, otherwise known as the “Trump travel ban”, which closed off a lot of international travel to Middle Eastern countries. The organization saw an opening to connect immigrants to American families due to the inaccessibility of returning to their home countries.
Hassan, who started a girl’s school in an Afghanistan neighborhood after immigrating from Iran, had to move to Pakistan after the U.S. invasion of 2003 and eventually moved to Pittsburgh for law school. She moved to the United States because it was a safe option from her home overseas. For her, the U.S. and Pittsburgh was an eye-opening experience for what life for immigrants is really like.
She explained that Hello Neighbor is important for Pittsburgh because of the connections that could be made, especially for people coming from war-torn areas of the world.
“Don’t think or don’t assume anything about immigrants,” she added.
PRISM is another organization that is trying to showcase that for immigrants.
“At some points I felt so isolated and lonely because I don’t speak English as well as the native people,” said Rongkun Xu, a University of Pittsburgh student from China.
PRISM is an organization that centers around connecting foreign students at local universities to American culture. They are located around Carnegie Mellon and Pitt in Oakland, where they hold events for students from the universities that help them learn English and American culture.
“It’s a welcoming,” said key PRISM volunteer Ken Wagoner, “an opportunity to meet people from other countries and introduce them to other Americans and other internationals as well. It’s a place for them to practice their English speaking skills and listening skills.”
Some of the skills they learn include speech tense, community dialogue, and the practice of religious differences.
Wagoner mainly works with students from China because that is where the majority of the students come from, but says that the organization does things specifically for different ethnic groups. However, their main focus is getting students connected to learning English and getting acclimated to the U.S.
“We take groups to Washington, D.C. and Niagara Falls and we stay with American families when we do that. We do a lot of local one day events throughout the year, just to kind of get them out of the city and see a different part of the U.S. that they may never see,” said Wagoner. For many international students, going to the capital of a country to learn more about the culture was just a dream before PRISM.
The organization was founded by a Baptist pastor in Washington, PA in the late 1960s. Being that there are Christian roots, PRISM offers Bible study to its members.
“If they are interested, we are more than willing to sit down and talk with them and if they want to read the Bible and discuss it, we are happy to do that one-on-one or in a group,” said Wagoner.
People like Xu were not accustomed to Christianity coming from China. He was an atheist that became so interested to learn about Christianity that he decided to Google places that offered Bible study, where he eventually found PRISM. Xu’s interest came from his previous agnostic views towards Christianity and God, but he wanted to learn more.
“I think I made a couple friends here and expanded my view. (PRISM) also helps me spiritually by teaching me the Bible,” Xu said.
Arisa Koide, a Duquesne University student from Tokyo, says it was hard for her to get adjusted to living in Pittsburgh before finding PRISM. The main struggle for her and a lot of students in the organization was meeting people coming from similar situations of wanting to gain a higher education in a different setting.
“The first thing that surprised me was that people don’t use trains; people use cars,” she said, “People are much more open here.”
Scott Boyd, the Executive Director of PRISM, has been leading the organization for 17 years. He says he is only the third director in the organization’s half-century history.
“We were Christian workers in Slovenia for ten years prior to coming back to lead PRISM,” Boyd said of he and his team.
Over the years, the organization added English classes, weekend trips, and celebrations of various ethnic holidays.
Boyd says that they try and give students a positive experience of living in Pittsburgh, but continuing to connect them to their roots.
“Most of our staff have lived in foreign countries, so we know what it feels like to be isolated in a new culture and feel somewhat lonely,” said Boyd.
A lot of the current staff are volunteers from around the are who come and help teach English or chaperone weekend trips, like the one to Washington, D.C.
Rong Wang, a University of Pittsburgh foreign exchange student from China, enjoys the comradery she gets from attending the weekly events at PRISM. She heard about it from one of her friends when she first moved for college and decided to attend to make more friends.
“I make a lot of friends from different countries and they have different backgrounds and different characteristics,” Wang added, referring to the array of students from Middle Eastern and Asian countries.
The blending of different characteristics is one of the reasons that PRISM has been successful. For foreign students coming to the country, it can be a huge sacrifice.
Boyd says he knows a lot of situations in which the foreign exchange students are making huge sacrifices, leaving their current lives behind in Asia.
“I know a girl from Pakistan who had been married for ten days before she came here. So she had been married ten days and was now going to be away from her husband for almost two years,” said Boyd.
“They make huge sacrifices to pursue higher education. It can be a really lonely time for them” – Boyd
Wang adds that the time change is also a challenge for her adjustment to the U.S.
“Sometimes I call my mother and she had just gone to sleep, so that is a big problem,” Wang said laughing about the 12-hour difference.
Boyd says that most students who come to the U.S. are graduate-level or higher in their pursuit of education, which means that student housing is not always an option. One of the biggest initiatives that PRISM tackles is housing security due to how difficult it is for even American students to find housing in the city.
“They have to set up a lot of apartments in Pittsburgh and a lot of these apartments are empty when they move in so we give away furniture and household items,” said Boyd.
This past year, Boyd’s team helped around 500 international students, most of them from Asian countries, obtain items for off-campus living in Oakland. They also have access to rent two student houses, one men’s and one women’s.
“It’s more of a home atmosphere,” said Wagoner, “Anywhere between five and seven people live there.”
Wagoner asks that they have a meal together at least once a week. These meals are prepared in the student houses and are usually cuisines that are from one of the resident’s home countries.
“The Bible talks about three vulnerable people: orphans, widows, and the alien, or foreigner” – Boyd
Boyd is also a pastor.
He says that people in the area have been so generous with their giving – from furniture to kitchen supplies to food. He says that students are blown away by the kindness of Pittsburgh people.
The connection between bringing international students to a place they can call home, teaching them English, and getting them accustomed to a new city’s culture is one that the people working at PRISM enjoy, which is why they continue to come back.
“It is really special when you go to another country and make friends with a national from that other country,” said Boyd.
One of the biggest issues the employees at PRISM face is teaching students English. Wagoner says that the majority of students coming to the U.S. speak English as a second language to Chinese or Hiragana, one of the main three Japanese languages.
“We don’t do a lot of work where we are speaking to a large number of people because the listening comprehension is the most difficult one,” said Wagoner.
Because of this, Wagoner likes to teach English in small groups rather than all at once. Boyd adds that most of the students come from China, with India being second. South Korea, Japan, and other Asian countries make up the majority of the represented nationalities.
Wagoner said the language barrier between the foreign students and the languages used in the classrooms at Pitt and CMU are a difficult transition.
“You can’t reach 100 people by addressing 100 people in the room together” – Wagoner
One of the most exciting things Boyd enjoys from being involved with PRISM is the stories he hears from his students after they go back to their home countries. He says that when they do positive things for their own people, it adds to the positive impact that this type of organization can have on the world.
“We met a guy here who was a psychiatrist and he and his wife went back to Brazil where they went to help their church start a ministry for street children,” said Boyd.
The part of Brazil is extremely poor, adds Boyd. When the students involved in PRISM returned to their home, they stayed connected to the organization and even used the knowledge they learned in Pittsburgh to begin a similar organization.
Whether it be hearing about former students starting a Sunday school program in Bangkok or helping his current students enjoy their learning experience in America, it is clear that Boyd and Wagoner enjoy what they do.
Their students feel the same way.
Xu, who felt stressed coming to Pittsburgh for school from Shanghai, admits he felt isolated and lonely when he first arrived. His shyness and lack of knowledge on American culture played a role in his isolated feeling.
“After I joined PRISM, I made a couple friends and things got better” – Xu
Wagoner and Boyd add that they are always looking for continued support from community members, whether it be hosting foreign students or being involved in developing a cross-cultural relationship at their annual Connect Events.
“We are always looking for volunteers, people from the area, local churches,” said Wagoner.
“Those relationships are a blessing for both,” said Boyd of the bond between Americans and foreign students in the program.
Gisele Fetterman, wife of Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor and former Braddock mayor John Fetterman, says that local organizations are opportunities to have open conversations with different people.
Fetterman was one of the people behind the start of the Braddock Free Store, a food pantry and distributor of free material goods.
“We wanted to be 100% volunteer-ran and create something magical and fun,” she said.
Braddock is a town that is not known for its immigrants and has lost 90% of its total population since its peak in the 1920s. Fetterman, who came to U.S. as an undocumented Brazilian immigrant when she was only 7, says that the area has a lot of people who are not used to immigrants.
Fetterman said she was recently talking to a veteran who couldn’t find work in the area. She explained how he didn’t like immigrants coming to the U.S.
“I might have been the only immigrant he’s ever met,” she said regarding the conversations that need to be had.
Like everyone else, she said,
“We are just someone who wants to be loved” – Fetterman
Organizations like PRISM and Hello Neighbor are examples of how a city can connect when not everyone feels welcomed, or in an unfortunate sense, after an act of terror like the one at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
Hausman says that the Tree of Life Congregation received hundreds of messages after the shooting in October. The messages came from many different religious and ethnic groups, local mosques, Catholic churches, and people who otherwise would never know of the connection that can be formed from people who simply live in the same city.
“Over 14,000 pieces of mail and art were sent to us,” Hausman said, “I’m here to tell you they make a big difference.”