Let’s see here. Where to begin? Some prominent schools, KU amongst them, have been under some FBI and NCAA scrutiny in recent months. As many have stated before, the NCAA and the powers that be at the various TV consortiums need teams like KU, Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky far more than these schools need the NCAA.
The status quo of ignoring payments (or making the member schools look like “victims”) keeps the NCAA engine running, and the idea of “amateur” status keeps lining the pockets of the executives in Indianapolis and the various media outlets that benefit from the awful inequality that permeates college basketball. If teams like KU, Duke, UNC, UK and others had enough teams willing to break off with them (or even the corporate backing to achieve “independence” from the NCAA), many would do so.
These universities already skirt the antiquated NCAA rulebook anyway, why not make their own?
This post tries to examine a way to recreate leagues for the benefit of the schools involved, not the money grabbing hypocrites in the NCAA offices. It is modeled after the English soccer model of promotion and relegation, and I will admit, it might not fit everyone’s bill as a solution. For one, there is no playoff (although one could easily be added) and because I wanted to keep the original schedule parameters (November through April), each team will play everyone once and trade off which game is at home on a year-by-year basis.
Here’s how it sets up:
· Four Divisions, 31 teams in each division, 124 total.
· Each team plays everyone, 15 at home and 15 away determining a true champion
· Promotion/Relegation between tiers and NCAA
The biggest issue was how to determine which 124 teams made the field in the first place. As it turns out, I simply took the Power 5 schools, traditional basketball schools, and when we got down to determining the final grouping, name recognition took precedent.
The next issue was how to group the teams, which teams made it into the “top flight” and which started in the lower tiers (remember that every team has the ability to reach the top division). Here’s how it played out:
Automatic Invitees (won NCAA National Title in the last 31 Years) 2018-1988
- North Carolina
- Michigan State
Invited (Legacy teams- listed alphabetically)
- Ohio State
- West Virginia
- Wichita State
Sure, this might include some non-deserving teams initially (UNLV and Arkansas come to mind), but they will soon be weeded out if their performances don’t improve immediately.
After 30 home and away games (rotated yearly) a true champion is crowned. Arguably this is more difficult than the NCAA tournament, but it also completely rewards your regular season. If you can’t cut it here, you can’t win a title. There is no “NCAA Tournament anxiety” that so many of us experience on a yearly basis where great regular season accomplishments can be derailed by an opponent that drills a school-record amount of three pointers. Simply put, this model is objective and rewards your regular season.
After the season, the Bottom 5 are relegated to Division II automatically. Team #26 will play team #6 of Division II in a playoff game for the right to play/stay in Division I. The loser is sent/stays in D-II. This relegation/promotion playoff can be played at a neutral site and all divisons can play at that site much like a traditional Final Four or conference tournament.
Invited for Season One (Power 5/Basketball History- Listed alphabetically)
- Arizona State
- Florida State
- Georgia Tech
- Iowa State
- Kansas State
- NC State
- Notre Dame
- Oklahoma State
- Texas A&M
- Texas Tech
- Virginia Tech
- Wake Forest
This league is going to be tough. But it gives teams like Missouri and K-State a chance to celebrate. They can either win the league (major banner raising event) or finish anywhere in the top 6 to have a chance at promotion to play the big boys. Either way, there is no “night off” for these teams and winning this league will prove just as hard as winning Division I. It is a well-deserved trophy.
The top 5 are promoted to Division I, while #6 battles it out with the #26 from Division I for the coveted sixth spot in the top tier. The loser is placed in DII. The Bottom 5 are relegated to Division III automatically while #26 of Division II and #6 of Division III play a neutral site playoff to determine their status (D-II or D-III).
Invited for Season One (Remaining Power 5/Historically or recently good basketball teams-Listed alphabetically)
- Boston College
- Long Beach State
- Mississippi State
- New Mexico
- Oregon State
- Penn State
- San Diego State
- Seton Hall
- South Carolina
- St. Mary’s
- Washington State
- Western Kentucky
Again, this is a very difficult task, especially after a few years when this group gets even more diverse thanks to promotion/relegation. We’d really get to see what teams like Loyola-Chicago and St. Mary’s are all about.
The same Promotion/Relegation principles apply to Division III.
· Top 5 promoted to Division II automatically
· Bottom 5 relegated to Division IV automatically
· #6 will battle #26 of Division II to determine status (D-II or D-III)
· #26 and #6 of Division IV will play in a neutral site playoff to determine their status. (D-III or D-IV)
Division IV was the hardest for me to create, so these could possibly change going into the inaugural season. They could also be determined by a committee of the previous 93 teams. Here is a rough guess:
Division IV (Listed alphabetically)
- Air Force
- Boise State
- Central Michigan
- Central Florida
- Detroit Mercy
- East Carolina
- Florida Gulf Coast
- Fresno State
- Miami (Ohio)
- Northern Iowa
- Northern Illinois
- Santa Clara
- South Florida
- Southern Miss
- St. John’s
- St. Joseph’s
- Western Michigan
The same promotion situation applies here as well.
· Top 5 promoted to Division III automatically
· #6 plays #26 of Division III in the neutral site game mentioned above to determine status (DIII or DIV)
· Bottom 4 are relegated to NCAA
This is where it gets tough. Relegation. Does the NCAA allow teams back in? Will teams want to play by different rules if they finish in the bottom 4? If so, the “Final Four” from an extremely watered down NCAA tournament can be promoted into Division IV while the bottom 4 can rejoin the NCAA. This is obviously a sticking point and the biggest problem to this plan.
But overall, this model provides four difficult leagues with lots of incentive throughout the year. Just like in English soccer (especially in the lower divisions), there will be meaningful games up until the very end, and there will likely be congestion throughout the league tables. And imagine if Kentucky or UNC has one of those weird seasons where they only win 8 games or have a record that would traditionally get them into the NIT and they get relegated. Watching them battle back up to Division I status would be riveting. Just as exciting would be watching the ascent of a team like Marshall (or someone similar).
One glaring issue that rarely comes up in European soccer but would more likely come up here is the idea of tiebreakers. There, goals scored and goal differential are key components. Here, head to head would be the first tie breaker followed by some metric to be determined later (perhaps something equivalent to margin of victory). This would have to be investigated further and agreed upon by the teams involved.
Obviously, this model won’t happen any time soon, and it won’t happen at all as long as the NCAA plays victim to shoe companies and rakes in money from the NCAA Tournament (which small teams and neutrals like, but big teams and their fans are mortified for a good week and half until the first two rounds are over). But, it is fun to think of these super leagues and the exciting games and scenarios that we’d see within them.