But first! Some disclaimers!
-- I am putting this together free and clear of any consideration for other conferences and without regard to the competition between conferences. For example, I won't choose Alabama just to try to hurt the SEC. I won't choose Texas just to hamstring the Big XII.
-- I won't just assemble the best conference possible. I want to give Virginia a chance to be competitive in both football and basketball, which is to say, I want us to have a path to compete for conference championships when our programs get good.
-- I'm paying close attention to academic and cultural fits, but that's not the end-all, be-all.
-- I'm building this conference to be realistically and reasonably competitive, in terms of TV money. For example, I won't choose Vanderbilt over Tennessee just because Vandy is a better cultural fit. The TV money matters.
-- There are certain games I want to see played on an annual basis, and certain games I don't give two shits about. Those preferences are weighed heavily.
-- I went back and forth on this for a while: How big will this Dream Conference be? The standard 12 or 14? Maybe jump up to Superconference level with 16? Or go hog wild with 24, or 32 and form a de facto league? In the end, I decided to say screw a conference championship game, and opted for a 10-team conference, where a perfect round-robin schedule is possible. Everybody plays everybody else. Every year. And everybody plays everybody else twice in basketball, home and away. The most fun I've ever had as a UVA fan was in the 1990s, when the true round robin made the ACC really special, and I want to get back to that.
-- Just like in real-life REALIGNMAGEDDON, geography doesn't matter a whole lot to me. However, I feel like Virginia is a southeastern school with a southeastern feel, so I'll work to keep things regional. Sorry Midwest and West Coast, your teams need not apply.
Okay, let's get to it.
Virginia is the first team in our 10-team dream conference. We now need to find nine more. Let's start with looking at the current ACC, and choosing which teams to nix.
I don't give a shit about Commonwealth of Virginia politics, Virginia Tech can pound sand. (Though I am happy to keep playing an annual nonconference rivalry game against the Hokies. Maryland, you are not so lucky. You can just eat shit and die.)
Boston College, you're fucking out.
Sorry Syracuse, but you're a little bit too northeast for my tastes.
Maryland, hell no.
Louisville, I love you in the real-life ACC, and your athletic department is one of the hottest - if not the hottest - in the country. But your academics are abysmal and your history is dented and scratched. Sorry Cardinals, no rose for you.
Miami, sorry, I just hate you. You're not really bringing much to the table right now, either. Your half-full football stadium is a major turnoff, when I'm considering which schools I need to properly complement my beloved Hoos. Sorry. Just being honest.
Your weakness is crippling, Wake Forest. At this point, you're just filler in the real-life ACC. No need for you in the super-streamlined Dream Conference.
I like everything other than your damning inferiority complex, NC State. Get your shit together and maybe you'd be considered. But not right now.
Florida State, I love you, I appreciate you, but I'm replacing you with better schools that are just as good at football. Sorry, guys.
And finally, Duke, kiss my ass. We'll find a way to field an elite basketball conference without you.
That leaves Clemson, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina making the cut. We have to keep UNC, the South's Oldest Rivalry and their overall athletic brand is too powerful to exclude. Clemson and GT just sort of sneak in the back door, I have no really compelling reason why. Both have great football potential, and GT has a history of good basketball. Plus, they just feel like home to me. I don't know. Might double back and bump either one as this exercise plays out.
Oh, and one other ACC team makes the cut. Notre Dame. That's our first big move as a Dream Conference: sealing the deal with the Irish as a fully-fledged, card-carrying, all-sports member. The national needle is moved, and our conference is only halfway constructed!
Dream Conference at the Halfway Point
The next logical step is to look at the SEC, right? I'll just go ahead and make a big cut by refusing to consider teams that are more than two states removed from the Atlantic Ocean (Indiana is an outlier in that rule, but you make concessions for Notre Dame.) Missouri, Ole Miss, Mississippi State (fuck you), Texas A&M, LSU, and Arkansas, you're all cut.
Alabama and Auburn, you're just two states removed... but no. Still too far away from the flavor of what I'm building. Sorry guys. Plus, Bama scares the crap out of me in football. I feel like we'd never win the conference with the Crimson Tide knocking heads.
Okay, so that leaves six SEC teams for consideration: Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt.
I'll go ahead and lift the velvet rope for Georgia. Really good school, excellent football, sleeping giant in basketball.
But now we need more juice for basketball! Welcome aboard, Kentucky!
Also, come on in, Gators. Your dual-sport excellence is a no-brainer addition. Florida is in the Dream Conference.
Vanderbilt, the ceiling is too low.
South Carolina, all you know how to do is underachieve.
Tennessee, your people and fans are too dumb, and your school is too terrible.
Dream Conference, Almost Complete
That leaves two spots to be filled.
West Virginia is a big fat HELL NO. Obvious reasons apply.
Does the BigTen have anything worth poaching? Well, yeah. How about Penn State? Hmmmmm. Maybe a little too northernly. Maybe too iffy at basketball. Let me think on this for a second.
I'm kind of regretting giving FSU the axe. I'll put them back under consideration.
Was I dumb to dump Louisville? Probably. They're back in consideration.
Am I missing any darkhorse contenders?
Rutgers? Fuck no.
Nothing from the new AAC. Cincinnati, USF, UConn... naaaaaah. Anything not attractive enough for the real-life ACC can't cut the muster for me. So the MAC, Sun Belt, C*USA, nope, sorry.
Big XII teams are too far West. Pac-12 and MWC, too. Obv.
So I'm on Penn State and doubling back around to FSU and Louisville.
Louisville is in for basketball history and up-and-coming stature across the board.
Which of FSU and Penn State offers the highest ceiling for football? The highest floor? The better basketball? It's the Seminoles on all three counts. Welcome to the Dream Conference, Florida State.
And that's it!
The Dream Conference
The thing I really like about this is that there are some really great hard-wired rivalries already in place. UVA/UNC, UGA/GT. UF/FSU, UK/UL. Basketball is great, and football is even better. Baseball is quite strong, as well. I love this conference. Love everything about it.
Now, I challenge Mike and Pierce to offer up their own Dream Conference picks!
And thanks to Anonymous for the awesome idea for a post! I greatly enjoyed this late night stream-of-consciousness exercise.