College football conference realignment draft: Part 4

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<p> College football conference realignment draft: Part 4</p>

As we enter the final day of our conference realignment draft, all four commissioners elected to use the entire allotment of picks to build 16-team superconferences.

Through the first 12 rounds, each league established its identity. Some are focused on particular regions, some are focused on being well-rounded among football, basketball and baseball programs.

Previous rounds: Rounds 1-4 | Rounds 5-8 | Rounds 9-12

On the final day, some key programs remain in play -- teams like Boise State, TCU and Utah, which have all gone undefeated in non-Big Six conferences in recent years, in addition to basketball powers Connecticut, Indiana and Syracuse.

A refresher on our ground rules of this four-team, 16-round draft: Each commissioner drafts the entire package -- the program’s history, current performance and personnel and long-term potential. Each commissioner will take on an entire athletic program, from football to men’s basketball to lacrosse and gymnastics, the program’s academic reputation, and any NCAA baggage.

After selecting Purdue with the final pick of the 12th round, Light begins the 13th round on the turn.

ROUND 13

49. Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Indiana
Conference so far: Arkansas, Duke, Georgia, Illinois, LSU, Miami, Michigan State, NC State, Oklahoma, Purdue, Texas, Virginia Tech
The Hoosiers’ struggles in football continue — IU went 1–11 in 2011 and was the only team in a BCS conference that failed to beat an FBS team — but Tom Crean has the basketball program in position to compete for a national championship in the 2012-13. With Duke and NC State along with Purdue and Indiana, my league now has two outstanding basketball rivalries to hang its hat on. With my pick of Purdue to wrap up the 12th round, I add a rival for the Boilermakers.

50. Braden Gall (@BradenGall): TCU
Conference so far: Alabama, Auburn, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Tennessee, USF
I had a distinct and orchestrated plan in place for my final four picks and it involved the state of Texas. TCU was easily the best current football program left on the board. With plans coming to upgrade facilities and a coach who appears entrenched, the Horned Frogs felt like an easy pick. Getting into the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex was crucial for my Lone Star strategy.

51. Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Syracuse
Conference so far: Cal, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC, Virginia
The Orange have won only 43 games over the last 10 years, so it’s important to my football product for this university to return to its 1990s performance. While the football product has slipped, Syracuse is solid in basketball and helps to get my conference into New York.

52. David Fox (@DavidFox615): Utah
Conference so far: Arizona, BYU, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Stanford, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Pairing Utah with rival BYU was a priority here. I was concerned someone would snatch Utah before I could circle back with this pick, so I’m counting myself lucky. The Utes have two undefeated seasons since 2004 under two coaches, plus five 10-win seasons in the last nine years. Given the early results, the Utes also look like they’re going to remain competitive on the Pac-12 level.

ROUND 14

53. Fox: Boise State
I know there aren’t many TVs in Boise or in Idaho. In addition, Boise State offers little outside of football. But what a football program Boise State brings to the table. The Broncos are consistently interesting and consistently good, and at least for the first few years of my conference, fans nationwide will be curious if the Broncos can compete at this level on a weekly basis. For the sake of my conference, I hope Boise State is up to it.

54. Lassan: Colorado
I regretted passing on Utah, but the Buffaloes aren’t a bad consolation prize. Adding Colorado should help my conference branch into the Denver television market. Although recent success has eluded the Buffaloes, they did claim a national title in 1990 and four Big 12 North titles in 2000s.

55. Gall: Texas Tech
The biggest, most powerful athletic department still left in the state of Texas is certainly an outlier when it comes to geography. But Mike Leach proved you can win big at Tech and getting my second Lone Star State-based program to package with TCU was clutch. With the right coaching, this school has loads of upside and growth still to come.

56. Light: Arizona State
Arizona State has tremendous potential in football and is one of the top baseball programs in the nation — ASU has been to the College World Series 22 times — but as the only school west of Texas it’s a bit of a geographic misfit in my league. The Sun Devils’ closest “rivals” in the league are Oklahoma (971 miles) and Texas (1,004 miles). The basketball program has only made the NCAA Tournament four times since 1981. That’s not good.

ROUND 15

57. Light: Vanderbilt
The Commodores are showing signs of life in football — they have played in a bowl game twice in the past four years and are recruiting better than ever under James Franklin — but this pick was made to strengthen the academic profile of my league and bolster baseball and basketball. The baseball program has been to the NCAA Tournament seven straight seasons and has won two SEC titles since 2007, while the basketball program is coming off of a stretch of four NCAA Tournament appearances in five seasons.

58. Gall: Mississippi State
I completed by Deep South division by adding The Egg Bowl to my Iron Bowl. Keeping another one of the South’s great rivalries under my control felt like tremendous value at this stage of the draft. Getting a seventh SEC team into my league — one with rich tradition on the basketball court and baseball diamond as well as the gridiron — made this an easy choice. I now completely control the state of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee.

59. Lassan: Connecticut
It’s going to be tough for the Huskies to compete in football, but this addition was more about giving Syracuse a rival and adding some basketball power to my conference.

60. Fox: Minnesota
I’m down to one team in the East and one team in the West to complete two eight-team divisions. I strongly considered Cincinnati for my last East team. From a purely athletic standpoint, Cincinnati has been a stronger football and basketball program than Minnesota in recent years, but Ohio State dominates this state anyway. Minnesota has a new football stadium and gives me rivalry games with Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa. And what’s college football without trophy games?

ROUND 16

61. Fox: San Diego State
I was counting on Arizona State being available to complete my Western division with a rival for Arizona. Why Light reached West for the Sun Devils in his conference is beyond me. Oregon State and Washington State are still available, but I’d like to have an opponent where Arizona fans can drive to road games. San Diego State is one of college sports’ biggest underachievers, a stigma the Aztecs are just now escaping in football and basketball. If San Diego State finally starts to deliver on its potential, my league will have a second solid California program. If not, well, at least it’s a good November road trip for all my fans in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

62. Lassan: Baylor
I already had one team in Texas, but it was hard to pass on an athletic department that has produced a Heisman Trophy winner and a women’s basketball champion in 2012. The men’s basketball program is improving, and the football team is coming off back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1991-92.

63. Gall: Houston
With Tech and TCU already in the fold, and LSU just next door, adding the Houston market to the league was the deciding factor between equivalent programs SMU and Houston. The Cougars have a lot of work to do in order to become a financial windfall, but the potential is painfully obvious. This pick gives me three teams in Texas, allowing my league to play upwards of 15 games per year in the most talent-rich state in the nation.

64. Light: Kansas State
K-State was one of the current BCS conference programs still on the board for the final pick in the draft. The Cats aren’t elite in any one area but are solid across the board. The football program won 10 games last season and appears to have reestablished itself as a force in the Big 12 in Bill Snyder’s second stint in Manhattan. K-State basketball, which is making the transition from Frank Martin to Bruce Weber, has made the NCAA Tournament four times in the past five season — after not making it once from 1997-2007.

Coming tomorrow: Our commissioners determine the format of their conferences -- assigning divisions, staging conference championship games and semifinals, and determining scheduling philosophies.

National Conglomerate of Athlon Authorities Conference Alignment Draft Recap

Rd Mitch Light Braden Gall Steven Lassan David Fox
1 >> Texas Alabama Florida Ohio State
2 << Oklahoma Notre Dame USC Michigan
3 >> Georgia LSU Florida State Oregon
4 << Penn State Nebraska UCLA Washington
5 >> Michigan State North Carolina Texas A&M Wisconsin
6 << Miami Tennessee Oklahoma State West Virginia
7 >> Virginia Tech Auburn Clemson Iowa
8 << Illinois Missouri South Carolina Pittsburgh
9 >> Arkansas Louisville Cal Kentucky
10 << NC State USF Georgia Tech Stanford
11 >> Duke Ole Miss Kansas BYU
12 >> Purdue Maryland Virginia Arizona
13 << Indiana TCU Syracuse Utah
14 >> Arizona State Texas Tech Colorado Boise State
15 << Vanderbilt Mississippi State Connecticut Minnesota
16 >> Kansas State Houston Baylor San Diego State

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