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The Conference of Champions is Dead, or is it? A look at Promotion/Relegation in College Basketball!

Let’s talk crazy hypothetical realignment ideas for a minute. Realignment has been a whirlwind this week and there’s still more to come. However, I’ve seen several tweets comparing this to promotion/relegation, or saying we should adopt pro/rel into college. Let’s look at how pro/rel would look in the college landscape. Is this a realistic possibility? Absolutely not, the benefit would only be felt at the very top and I’m not sure it would really help the lower conferences, although depending on TV deals, it could be better than current deals. Travel is still an issue, I’ve tried to keep teams regionally close, but that’s not always possible. This will impact the smaller schools more than the bigger schools.

Realignment is more related to CFB and the money that those TV contracts bring, but I’m using college basketball because it includes all the D1 programs, and honestly, it’s more fun.

To do this, I dissolved the Pac-12 and the MWC became the 6th power conference for two reasons:

1. It makes more sense to have a western geographical conference

2. They were one of the top 6 conferences in basketball last year and have earned it IMO

3. They’re the likely landing spot for the remaining 4 pac-12 teams.

Breaking down further, there are now 31 remaining conferences, which works perfectly for what I wanted. I wanted to keep the conferences at least kind of realistic and I didn’t want to make one conference the top flight conference and the others to be behind, so for this exercise, I dissolved the NEC and created the “conference of champions” to pay homage to the Pac-12 (RIP), this is the “top flight” comparable to the UEFA champions league. This league is made up of the top two teams from the power 6 conferences. There would need to be a couple more waves of realignment once Texas, UCLA, and Arizona were relegated out of this conference, but I’m not going that into detail about that here.

For this exercise, qualifying for or staying in the the conference of champions would come with the most lucrative TV deal, all games on national TV, and a yearly bonus from the NCAA.

Also, we’re getting rid of the grant of rights, each school keeps their NCAAT money for themselves.

Now for the conferences, there are 5 divisions (referred to as tiers for this article) in each conference, this is where things start getting more difficult with realignment and balancing the conferences out. I tried to keep the conference names and most of their members intact, but the teams had to be balanced into even conferences. In this scenario, each conference would play a true round robin, so to make it more feasible, I capped each league at 12 teams. Tier D, along with a couple conferences in tier E have 11 teams. Ideally, to balance this out, we would add 9 more D1 teams to get us to 372 teams and each conference would have 12 in them. In this exercise, each lower (tier B-E) conference would be paired into a grouping with 1 tier A conference from each of the to provide a linear projection for promotion or relegation, and hopefully keep some regional rivalries alive.

Tier A

Big 12

Big 10

Big East




Tier B






Sun Belt

Tier C





Big West


Tier D




Big South

Big Sky

American East

Tier E







So, basically, the power 6 are the actual conferences, and the other conferences are really just the lower divisions within the conference. The P6 conference would own the other conferences in this for TV/apparel deals and such. TV deals would be based off of your tier and will vary season to season. Yes, this will make recruiting difficult, and that’s one of the many reasons that this wouldn’t be realistic.

In this scenario, each conference would be paired with another conference each year for scheduling (i.e. Big 12/SEC, Big East/MWC, and Big 10/ACC) which would fall down all 5 of the tiers allowing scheduling of buy games, solid neutral site games and home/homes. Each school must play 1 team from each of the tiers. When a team plays a team from the same tier (i.e. tier B teams playing each other,) over 2 years, they must go on the road and host a game within that tier, exceptions will be made to assist with pro/rel imbalances as they arise.

At this point, we’ve taken care of all 22 conference games, and 5 non-conference games. In this exercise, the regular season is updated so that it’s 30 games. So, after these mandatory 27 games, that leaves 3 games; these could be buy games, they could be rivalry games, or they could be MTE’s. A heavy emphasis would be placed on keeping traditional rivalries alive even though there would be differences in tiers. For the conference of champions, scheduling would require a minimum of 1 team from each tier, and no more than 2 additional games from tier D/E. The emphasis on scheduling rules is to help keep out of conference games even and eliminate some of the blowouts we see in the early season.

The season structure would stay roughly the same as it is now. Non-con from Nov - mid Dec and conference season running mid-Dec to March and conference tournaments/NCAA tournament timelines remain unchanged. Regular season and tournament champions would get an AQ from tiers COC/A/B, and below that, it’s the conference tournament champ. In the case the conf regular season champ wins the conf tournament, that bid would shift to an at-large spot.

Now, on to Promotion/Relegation:

  • For the COC, the top 6 teams stay up, the bottom 6 are relegated.

  • Unfortunately, this means there will be slight conference realignment year after year depending on who goes down and who stays up. The focus will be on getting teams back to their original conference if possible, if not, geographical preference is the determining factor.

  • The bottom 2 teams from each tier are relegated down while the top 2 are promoted.

  • For Tier A, only the regular season champion is promoted to the COC.

  • The only caveat to this is that the national champion gets AQ’d into the COC, and would bump the team from their conference.

Promotion/relegation tiebreaker is whichever team advances further in the NCAA tournament, in the event neither team plays in NCAA tournament, there would be a one game winner take all playoff at a neutral site.

Promotion/relegation is a simple concept that could create some crazy parity and a lot of transition in CBB. It would give schools like Gonzaga or St. Mary’s the opportunity to show their worth, while really punishing teams like Louisville who after a historically bad season would have been relegated down a league with less money and exposure.

A brief touch on NIL: I would like to see regulation and loose rules placed on NIL to keep teams competitive but making sure theirs an advantages for being in the top conferences and disadvantages for being in the lower conferences. Not a true cap, but some loose regulations to keep teams on similar playing fields, but also letting schools keep some freedom for fundraising where NIL budgets will be different for each school.

I put the teams into conferences and they’re all mapped out below, I believe I hit every team, but if there are any incidental errors or omissions, please let me know. Also, just because I moved your team from its conference doesn’t mean I think that happens, it was solely done to try and balance the conference #’s out while trying not to put a team at a regional disadvantage with travel.

I know this isn’t going to happen, but it’s so much fun it is be sit on my couch in late March stressing over the bubble, who’s getting an AQ, or who’s going to win the regular season championship. Now, you add pro/rel into the picture, 90% of the games in February and March nationally would be high intensity affairs which should elevate the level of the game that is played and make it more enjoyable for both player and fan. There would need to be a lot more logistics and planning of things that are for people with a lot more experience in planning than I have, but I would wholeheartedly support a pro/rel system right now.

Conference of Champions:

Tier A:

Tier B:

Tier C:

Tier D:

Tier E:

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