As expected, the most prominent and consistent football programs have been gobbled up. Our commissioners clearly have put value on keeping rival programs together or fostering new rivalries. For some, geography is important. For others, well, their teams will pick up their share of frequent flyer miles.
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.
As we look at rounds nine through 12, our commissioners are starting to put more value on robust basketball programs. Although USC, Oregon, UCLA and Washington were selected in the first four rounds, the West has gone all but ignored until today.
We pick up today with Mitch Light and the 33rd overall pick:
33. Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Arkansas
Conference so far: Georgia, Illinois, LSU, Miami, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia Tech
Arkansas is good in most sports and great in others. The football team has won 21 games over the past two season and the baseball program recently lost in the championship series of the College World Series. The basketball program has struggled of late, but the Hogs were an elite program as recently as the 1990s. The school’s facilities are among the best in the country and athletics generated $91.8 million in revenue (seventh in the SEC and 14th in the nation) from 2006-11 — not bad for the flagship university in the nation’s 32nd most populous state.
34. Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Louisville
Conference so far: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Tennessee
I am really bullish on the overall growth and potential of the Louisville athletic department. Especially, if it can keep Charlie Strong around. The ‘Ville has one of the top athletic directors in the nation in Tom Jurich, rakes in huge amounts of cash in basketball and has taken a giant step forward in terms of facilities across the board. Louisville was also perfectly located geographically for my Midwest-Southeast focused strategy.
35. Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Cal
Conference so far: Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC
The opportunity to grab another team in California was simply too much to pass up. The Golden Bears will help to anchor my Western edge, along with giving my conference another AAU member. California football hasn’t reached expectations in recent years, but there’s a lot of long-term upside for this program.
36. David Fox (@DavidFox615): Kentucky
Conference so far: Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin
After picking a handful of solid programs, I wanted to grab a team that’s elite at something. Luckily, Gall took Louisville instead of the Wildcats, who I think is the better pick. Round nine isn’t a bad place to get one of the handful of programs that’s as crazy for basketball as the teams in the first and second rounds are for football. I also like the geographic fit for my league. Kentucky’s closer to Ohio State, West Virginia and Pittsburgh than it is to some SEC schools.
37. Fox: Stanford
I’ve ignored my Western division for far too long, and it’s going to cost me a foothold in California, now that Lassan has USC, UCLA and Cal. I have to take Stanford just to have any credibility in California. If there’s one glaring weakness in my league is a lack of programs in the big three power states of California, Florida and Texas. All I have is Stanford, a program that recruits nationally anyway. I’m also putting a lot of stock in Stanford continuing to be competitive post-Andrew Luck. A big gamble.
38. Lassan: Georgia Tech
I considered going with South Florida here, but eventually settled on the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech has been solid in football and brings television sets in the Atlanta market. Although I didn’t land Georgia, the Yellow Jackets should be in good shape with rivalry games against Florida State and Clemson.
39. Gall: USF
Like any good conference, recruiting in Florida is paramount for big time success and adding home games in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area was crucial for my league. The Bulls have only continued to grow since being invented from the ground up 15 years ago and are now looking at competing for conference titles in football and regular NCAA Tournament bids in hoops. USF was the last upper-tier program in the Sunshine State, so this was a no-brainer.
40. Light: NC State
I went “best available” with most of my draft, but the goal with this pick was to pair the Pack with Duke (my upcoming pick on the turn in the next round) to add a Tobacco Road rivalry and give the league two strong basketball programs. From a football standpoint, many consider NC State a sleeping giant. The facilities are outstanding, but the product on the field hasn’t delivered on a consistent basis. The Pack has not won an ACC title since 1979. It’s time to wake up!
41. Light: Duke
Duke doesn’t bring much to the table with football, but the Blue Devils deliver one of the strongest brands in college basketball. Under Mike Krzyzewski’s watch, Duke has won 12 regular-season ACC titles, 13 ACC Tournament titles, advanced to the Final Four 11 times and won four national titles. I realize conference realignment is all about football, but adding an elite basketball program can’t be a bad thing.
42. Gall: Ole Miss
In my “Deep South” Division, I wanted to keep it all in the SEC West family. With Bama and Auburn already on board, Ole Miss felt like a perfect fit. A solid baseball program and decent basketball job were nice, but it was the football fan support, history and tradition that makes Colonel Reb so appealing. To be honest, any SEC team at this point in the draft is a sound investment.
43. Lassan: Kansas
The Jayhawks have experienced some recent success on the gridiron, but this addition helps to boost my Midwest core with Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. Kansas will also help my basketball credibility.
44. Fox: BYU
The Pac-12 and Big 12 aren’t interested in BYU, but my conference is. Only three losing seasons (all consecutive under Gary Crowton) since 1974, plus a national following and a quality basketball program? Sign me up.
45. Fox: Arizona
I would have liked to package BYU with rival Utah on the turn, but my basketball programs in the West are lacking compared to Kentucky, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pitt and West Virginia. With Sean Miller and Rich Rodriguez in Tucson, Arizona could become a solid two-sport program in the coming years.
46. Lassan: Virginia
Once we got into the later rounds of this draft, I wanted to build my presence on the East Coast. The Cavaliers don’t have a standout football or basketball program right now, but this is a solid university and helps my conference reach into the Virginia/Washington, D.C. television markets.
47. Gall: Maryland
Much like Louisville, I think Maryland has loads of upward mobility and potential — if the right people are in place to lead. The basketball program speaks for itself, but with Kevin Plank doing his best Phil Knight impersonation, the Terps have a lot future growth and stability staring them right in the face. The current state of the football program made them a long-term steal at this point of the draft and getting my league into the DC-Baltimore recruiting and TV markets was a huge goal from the onset. Also like Louisville, I had Testudo targeted from the beginning.
48. Light: Purdue
The Boilermakers have been to the NCAA Tournament in each of the past six seasons and won three straight Big Ten titles from 1994-96. Purdue, also, offers some potential in football. The Boilers will never be a consistent power in the Big Ten, but they did average 7.5 wins from 1997-2007 and played in the 2001 Rose Bowl.
Coming tomorrow: The final day of our conference realignment draft. Our commissioners will look at programs short on tradition but long on potential. Teams outside the six major conferences (or new to the six major conferences) also will be scooped up.
National Conglomerate of Athlon Authorities Conference Alignment Draft Recap
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