With conference expansion rumors swirling, and BC on the very fringe of various Big Ten and ACC/Big East conference realignment talk, one can't help but wonder how Boston College's conference affiliation would be different in a parallel universe. That's right. You know they are out there ... parallel universes. Just like the time when Elaine learns of Bizarro Jerry on Seinfeld.
In these parallel universes, Doug Flutie never connects with Gerard Phelan, sending BC football back twenty years (or even worse Title IXed? Down to I-AA?). Sean Williams guards the in-bounds pass, BC goes on to beat Villanova in the Sweet 16, en route to their fourth men's basketball National Championship. And men's ice hockey gets IXed instead of men's lacrosse.
And of course, BC isn't a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Which begs the question ... which conference is BC in over there? Here are some possibilities.
The Big North Conference
In this universe, Jim Delany's masterplan came to fruition about 50 years sooner ...
Conference Members: Boston College, Syracuse, Rutgers, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Notre Dame
Football Outlook: Amazing. BC has some Northeast dancing partners (Syracuse, Rutgers) and Notre Dame has to play the Eagles annually. This 16-team football conference is a good 6-7 teams deep, led by BC, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Notre Dame.
Basketball Outlook: Great. Think: current Big Ten basketball, only bolstered by additions of BC, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Missouri.
Hockey Outlook: Great. You have 7 programs that currently play in DI (BC, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Notre Dame) and I'm sure you could convince Syracuse, Penn State and Illinois to come along to form a 10-program conference with every game broadcast nationally on the Big North Network.
The Bigger East Conference
In this parallel universe, the Northeast football powers team up to create a conference that spans from Chestnut Hill to Morgantown.
Conference Members: Boston College, Connecticut, Syracuse, Army, Buffalo, Rutgers, Temple, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Maryland, Navy, West Virginia
Football Outlook: Not bad. Not bad at all. This football conference is pretty top heavy, with BC, Syracuse (program didn't take a monstrous nosedive in the 2000s), Pittsburgh, Penn State and West Virginia leading the conference. Also preserves a lot of great rivalries including BC-'Cuse, Army-Navy, Penn St.-Pitt, Pitt-West Virginia, Maryland-Navy and so on, and so forth.
Basketball Outlook: Also strong. In addition to BC, UConn, Syracuse, Temple, Pitt, Maryland and West Virginia are also annual tournament fixtures.
Hockey Outlook: With only BC, UConn and Army playing DI hockey, BC probably plays in some form of Hockey East in this universe.
The All-Jesuit Conference
At some point in the twentieth century, the AJCU comes up with the idea of forming an all-Jesuit powerhouse basketball conference.
Conference Members: Boston College, Detroit, Creighton, Fairfield, Fordham, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Holy Cross, Loyola (MD), Loyola (Chicago), Loyola Marymount, Marquette, San Francisco, Saint Joseph's, Saint Louis, Xavier
Football Outlook: Terrible. At some point, BC probably followed the lead of other Jesuit schools by deemphasizing big time college football and dropping down to Division I-AA.
Basketball Outlook: Strong, nay very strong. Good thing the Catholic church has nearly unlimited resources, because conference travel costs would go through the roof. But BC would be one of a few schools that would headline this basketball conference, along with G'town, Gonzaga, Marquette, Saint Joseph's and Xavier. All regular NCAA tournament fixtures.
Hockey Outlook: Hockey? What's that?
The New England Conference
All New England, all the time.
Conference Members: Boston College, Boston University, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Providence, Massachusetts, Northeastern, Rhode Island, Holy Cross, Fairfield
Football Outlook: Poor. As BC and UConn are the only conference members that play big-time college football in this world, both programs dropped down to I-AA a long, long time ago.
Basketball Outlook: Moderate. BC, UConn, Providence, UMass, URI and Holy Cross would headline, but the quality drops off precipitously after that.
Hockey Outlook: Strong. This is Hockey East less Merrimack and Lowell and adding UConn. My guess is we won't miss Merrimack or Lowell too much.
The Real Atlantic Coast Conference
In this universe, 16 team super conferences rule the land. This one is counterpart to the Pac-16, with all teams located actually on the Atlantic coast.
Conference Members: Boston College, Connecticut, Rutgers, Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Duke, N.C. State, Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida, Miami
Football Outlook: Moderately stronger than the ACC's current configuration, if for nothing more than a Florida for Florida State swap and the addition of South Carolina.
Basketball Outlook: This is ACC basketball plus quality programs in Connecticut and Florida, sometimes.
Hockey Outlook: Since I get to make up this universe, in this one, college hockey is the third most popular college sport behind football and basketball. A majority of Division I schools have varsity programs, including all members of the Real Atlantic Coast Conference. BC competes annually with N.C. State (the RBC Center, all about the facilities!), Connecticut (shouldn't they be better at hockey anyway?) and Virginia (because they love to excel at non-revenue sports) for the conference championship.
The Triple A Ivy League
The country's stronger academic schools that aren't quite Ivies band together to create a wicked smart athletic conference.
Conference Members: Boston College, Cal, Duke, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Michigan, North Carolina, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Stanford, Rice, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wake Forest
Football Outlook: Ridiculous. BC, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Notre Dame, UCLA and USC headline. Conference is split into two divisions (East, West). East consists of BC, Duke, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Wake Forest. Conference championship is played annually at Soldier Field (Notre Dame's home away from home).
Basketball Outlook: Really, really strong. Ratings bonanza if for nothing other than Duke-UNC.
Hockey Outlook: The revenue-neutral sport of choice for this conference ends up being lacrosse, rugby or squash. Hockey is extremely boorish for this lot of programs.