Confused? confounded by the constant reconfiguring of college football conferences? Consider: Northern Illinois is in the Big West. The Big Ten has 11 teams. The Big Eight will have 12 members come 1996, at which time Houston will be the only school in the Southwest Conference. Convoluted, no?
Every conference, it seems, is being reconstituted—beefed up or balkanized for no apparent reason of natural rivalry, geography or competitive balance. So we, too, have tried our cartographic hand at remaking the ridiculous map of college football, remaking it into something altogether...more ridiculous.
As you can see by this map, the Big Ten retains its 11 teams under our new system, but the Big Eight is reduced to seven members. Those former conferences consolidate into a two-division, super-sponsored, middle-American mondo-conference called the 7-Eleven. (Or, alternatively, the Big Gulp.) To accommodate this change, Iowa State is forced to leave the Big Eight and is absorbed by the Big Six (formerly the Big Eight) accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche.
The new Tele-Conference consists of schools in those Western states that are so vast and sparsely populated that each has a single area code. The schools are Arizona, Arizona State, Brigham Young, Nevada, UNLV, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, Utah State and Wyoming. Because distances are just too damn far to travel out there, the conference champion will be determined in a preseason conference call.
The remaining members of the WAC, MAC and Pac-10 and all but one team in the ACC, Florida State, form a 28-team national alliance, the WACMACACCPAC-10.
We would not presume to judge the Seminoles of Florida State until we've walked a mile in their shoes. Nonetheless, they are in our inaugural Big House, a floating penal colony of a conference whose membership changes each season. This year: Florida State locks horns with Texas A&M eight times, with all games played at a neutral site—Alcatraz Island.
The Big West remains the Big West, the Big East remains the Big East (minus Miami), but finally the twain shall meet, playing annually for supremacy in the Big Deal, one colossal conference contested by those two leagues, countless schools from the Lone Star State, plus members of the SEC West, the SEC East and a team of bureaucrats from the actual SEC in Washington, D.C.
None of which matters. Because upon release from the Big House, Florida State will join Alabama, Miami and Notre Dame in the Big Nasty, a conference whose standings annually determine the national champion, runner-up and third- and fourth-place finishers.
This leaves only the former Southwest Conference to account for. Houston remains the lone member—and perennial favorite—of what we will now call the Big Easy.