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Conference Realignment Auction: Introducing The Tennessee Valley Athletic Conference

In the last installation of the conference realignment series, James introduces a 16-team conference that seeks athletic balance and geographical intrigue.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Quick Facts:

Conference's name: The Tennessee Valley Athletic Conference (aka "The Valley" or TVAC)
Northernmost school: Butler University (Indianapolis, IN)
Southernmost school: Tulane University (New Orleans, LA)
Easternmost school: Coastal Carolina University (Myrtle Beach, SC)
Westernmost school: Arkansas State University (Jonesboro, AR)
Which two teams have the longest driving commute? Maryland and Tulane
Where is your football championship venue? Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA
Where is your basketball championship venue? Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN
Where is your baseball championship venue? Regions Field in Birmingham, AL


Who was the MAC team that you drafted? Why did you draft them? How do they fit into your conference?

Miami University. I had the choice of them, Kent State, or EMU. I ultimately decided I wanted to focus on academic prestige and tradition, which is why I edged out Miami over those programs.

What was your game plan coming into this auction? Did you have a strategy or pre-planned budget for teams you sought to go after?

My strategy was nab schools in the Midwest and South at a price that would be advantageous, keeping tabs in TV markets, academic prestige, and geographic fit. The two big things were this: find teams inside or just outside the reach of areas affected by the Tennee Valley Authority, and find teams that were $40 or under.

Towards the end, the academic prestige became less of a point, as key schools I wanted in the strategy became too pricey for my liking. I think I got some bargains I wanted as a result, though.

Did you have any teams that you wanted to go after coming in? Why or why not? Did your plan work or naw?

I wanted Tulane, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt when I originally started, and got all of them. I was very happy to have gained those schools.

Ultimately out of necessity (lack of rivals, geography, needed money) I traded Northwestern, but gained Maryland and Memphis as a result so, net positive.


What are some key rivalries that you have in your conference? Do you have any rivalries that you missed out on?

Southern Miss-UAB and Memphis-Louisville are two current big rivalries in the conference, although I did also introduce James Madison-Marshall, Miami-Butler, Vandy-Memphis, and Charlotte-Coastal Carolina as potential geographic rivalries.

The one I am really missing is the Battle for the Victory Bell between Cincinnati and Miami. Cincy proved to be too much money, ultimately. Tried trading for it, but I had no chips.

Is your conference splitting teams with divisions? How will they work, in terms of scheduling, tie-breakers, postseason play, etc.?

Yes, the divisions will look thusly:

Northern Division:

  • Miami
  • Butler
  • Maryland
  • Marshall
  • Louisville
  • James Madison
  • Wake Forest
  • Vanderbilt
Southern Division:

  • Tulane
  • Southern Miss
  • UAB
  • Georgia State
  • Memphis
  • Charlotte
  • Coastal Carolina
  • Arkansas State

The football schedule will be all division opponents once and a protected cross-division rivalry game, with four non-con games. Games will play on Saturday afternoon/evenings, and Wednesday/Friday evenings.

Postseason-wise, the aim is seven bowl ties in football.

In basketball, the schedule will consist of home and away for division opponents each season, and an "every other year" rotation with cross-division opponents. This results in 21 conference games. This allows for ample room for a stacked non-conference schedule.

Postseason play will involve all sixteen teams, seeded 1-16 by record. Think of a regional seeding in the March Madness tournament.

For baseball, the top eight teams by record will participate and be placed in two round-robin brackets of four games each. The #1's of each bracket then face off against the #2's in a winner-take-all semi, then the winners of those brackets play a winner-take-all final.

What makes your conference unique?

Well, for one, there's the North/South division. Divisions are normally East/West, if there even is a division split. Also, it pulls from the American, the ACC, the Big Ten, Conference USA, the MAC, the SEC, and the Sun Belt. It combines schools of close geographical backgrounds with competitive balance in both football and basketball.

Happy with your conference? Overall takeaway from this operation?

I'm very happy with how things turned out for me. I played my cards right and even exceeded my original expectations. (I had only intended on 12 teams, but I couldn't let all that money sit around.) There's good balance, the divisions are competitive, and there are some interesting potential rivalries that could bubble in the surface.

Also, the potential TV contract could be pretty good for the conference, New Orleans, Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, Louisville, DC, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Charlotte, and Myrtle Beach.