College athletics makes a lot of money, yo.
For the 2011 season, here are the 32 highest grossing college football programs (source: Equity in Athletics):
Institution Name Total Revenues The University of Texas at Austin $103,813,684 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor $85,209,247 The University of Alabama $81,993,762 Auburn University $77,170,242 University of Georgia $74,989,418 University of Florida $74,117,435 University of Notre Dame $68,986,659 Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College $68,804,309 Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus $66,210,503 University of Arkansas $64,193,826 University of Oklahoma Norman Campus $59,630,425 Ohio State University-Main Campus $58,112,270 University of Nebraska-Lincoln $55,063,437 University of Washington-Seattle Campus $53,092,369 The University of Tennessee $52,590,771 University of Oregon $51,921,731 University of Iowa $50,460,344 Michigan State University $49,754,373 University of Wisconsin-Madison $48,416,449 University of South Carolina-Columbia $48,065,096 Texas A & M University-College Station $44,420,762 Oklahoma State University-Main Campus $41,138,312 Clemson University $39,207,780 Arizona State University $34,859,343 Florida State University $34,484,786 University of Southern California $34,410,822 Texas Tech University $33,510,844 University of Kentucky $32,997,939 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University $32,989,216 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities $32,956,474 Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus $32,104,928 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign $30,545,255
So, what would they look like as a 32 team supeconference?
SOUTHEAST MIDWEST WEST EAST Alabama (+39.5%) Michigan (+22.2%) Texas (+17.5%) Notre Dame (+33.9%) Auburn (-14.9%) Illinois (-19.8%) Oklahoma (+30%) Clemson (+16.1%) Georgia (+26.4%) Ohio State (+25.5%) Oklahoma State (+23.8%) Florida State (+24.8%) Florida (+37.5%) Nebraska (+21.8%) Texas Tech (+8%) Virginia Tech (+6.6%) LSU (+26.5%) Iowa (-0.5%) Washington (+1.9%) Georgia Tech (+1.1%) Arkansas (+0.3%) Michigan State (+23.3%) Oregon (+35.8%) Kentucky (-19.5%) Tennessee (+3.2%) Wisconsin (+23.3%) Arizona State (+7.5%) Penn State (+13.4%) Texas A&M (+29.4%) Minnesota (-6.8%) Southern Cal (+19.6%) South Carolina (+20.1%) avg. 2012 F/+: +18.49% avg. 2012 F/+: +11.13% avg. 2012 F/+: +18.01% avg. 2012 F/+: +12.06%
Seven game round-robin conference schedule to determine champions, leaving five games left for interconference play (or potentially games against lower division teams). The postseason would consist of a seeded four team playoff, comprising of only teams that can afford to play at that level.
Is this a good idea? Probably not; no Cinderella stories, teams on the outside would all but never work their way into the top tiers, and this isn't even close to an approximation of the best 32 programs (or even the best divisional balancing).
But after reading an article at the mothership about weight gain in college athletics I started to think about the abuse college football players put on their bodies and how much the NFL benefits from the player development that occurs at the college level. We will eventually get around to properly compensating revenue-generating student-athletes, and I'm of the opinion that the NFL should pay its fair share. A 32-team "farm league" for the NFL may not be the right answer, but it's something I'd want to consider.