What is the biggest single complaint about the current format of big time college football?
That only four teams make the playoff? That only certain teams have a real path to a title? The inequality of scheduling? That a committee of humans sitting in a conference room still decides who plays for a championship?
Though an endless number of schemes have been presented to “fix” football, we’ve got a sweeping plan that will not only solve many of the problems inherent to the sport, it will make it even better.
Imagine it’s our version of 1787, only we’re not so much the framers of a great nation, but the reformers of a great athletic pursuit. Complete with powdered wigs (or donuts) and feathered quills (or gel pens), join us as we boldly, nay courageously, draft a blueprint that will one day be considered a guiding light to equality and goodness.
The Great College Football Reformation
The key components:
- It equalizes and regulates scheduling across the conferences, promoting fairness.
- It ensures that every conference member plays every other conference member.
- It protects and restores historical rivalries whenever possible.
- It expands the CFP from four teams to eight.
- It rewards teams who have won an on-field conference championship with a guaranteed CFP bracket slot.
- It rewards a select number of current non-Power squads, including the three military academies, with a well-deserved, unobstructed path to a national championship.
- Split the 64 current Power 5 members, plus Notre Dame, BYU, Army, and ten current non-Power league programs into seven, 11-member conferences which make sense geographically and whenever possible protect historic rivalries.
- Eliminate the practice of the independent status in football.
- Legislate that each conference play 10 league games per year (a round-robin format where every member is forced to play every other member, annually) plus two non-conference games, at least one against a member of one of the other six Power leagues.
- Eliminate divisions and the unfair practice of protected cross-division rivalries.
- Outlaw scheduling games vs. FCS schools.
- Legislate that each conference host a league championship game between the best two teams in the conference.
- Expand the CFP bracket to eight teams, which will include the champion of each of the seven Power conferences, plus one at-large team to be decided by the committee, presumably the highest ranked team that didn’t win a league title.
- Shift the role of the CFP committee from selecting which four teams make playoff to seeding an eight-team bracket and selecting the single at-large bid.
- The Cotton, Peach, Fiesta, and Sugar Bowls will host the “Elite Eight” or first-round playoff games. The Rose and Orange will host the “Final Four” or semi-final games.
- The CFP National Championship game will be played by a rotating host city, not necessarily one of the major bowl sites, on the final Saturday night of the season. National Championship Saturday will become college football’s version of Super Bowl Sunday.
The proposed split:
The Pacific Conference: Boise State, BYU, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, and Washington State.
The Southwest Conference: Air Force, Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, Colorado, Houston, SMU (or Colorado State), Texas Tech, Texas A&M, TCU, and Texas.
The Midwest Conference: Arkansas, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Memphis, Missouri, Northern Illinois (or Toledo), Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.
The Great Lakes Conference: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin.
The Southeast Conference: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt.
The Northeast Conference: Army, Boston College, Maryland, Navy, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The Atlantic Conference: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami Fla., North Carolina, NC State, South Carolina, UCF, USF, and Wake Forest.
Clearly, the task of selecting the “additional” teams and then splitting the 77 total programs into seven conferences is the most controversial. In the format presented here, several teams, like Arkansas, Penn State, and South Carolina, could argue that they are displaced. Though these placements, and others, could certainly be tweaked, from a geographic standpoint they make sense.
The biggest advantage of the plan is that it equalizes scheduling practices across the board. Each conference is set up the same way and is held to the exact same standards. Though scheduling will never be an apples-to-apples comparison, this proposal goes along way in leveling the playing field.
No longer will the SEC play eight league games while the Big Ten plays nine. Teams will all play the same number of Power opponents, unless they choose to play two Power members out of conference as opposed to the unilateral standard of one. Protected cross-division rivalries – which currently dictate, for example, that LSU play Florida annually while Ole Miss plays Vanderbilt – will be no more.
It also takes the decision of which teams play for a national championship out of the committee’s hands. Though this group of earnest experts is well-meaning, there is no better way to decide which teams move on than to do so on the football field.
As for what happens to the “other teams,” those from the American Athletic, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt that aren’t listed here (plus Liberty, New Mexico State and UMass, who are all independents in 2018), they aren’t “relegated” away from “major college football” but, instead, they’re truly set free.
Yes, these teams, who have long played a 12-game FBS schedule that could never really lead to a national championship, can form a new level of college football. It’s a destination where, finally, at long last, the head coach at places like San Diego State, Southern Miss, UL Lafayette, and Bowling Green can tell their teams “if we win all 12 of our games, we’ll have a shot to play for a national championship.”
It’s the same statement that can be said, again at long last, at programs like Boise State, UCF, and Houston. How good are they? The College Football Reformation lets us find out. For real with meaningful outcomes.
The other attractive component of the master plan is that it gives Power college football a launch pad to separate, once and for all, from the troubled NCAA. Though this could happen in the current format, a change this sweeping, agreed upon unilaterally from power bases as diverse as Texas, USC, Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Alabama, and Florida State, provides a historical turning point from which so much more change could come.
The scope of questions like, “should we pay college athletes?” “should athletes by compensated for the resell of their likenesses?” and “what should be acceptable recruiting and draft procedures?” change dramatically when they’re asked only about college football players as opposed to athletes across all sports.
Just imagine what would happen if the governing body charged with “protecting amateurism” is only concerned with a single sport – the most lucrative one in the nation.
Amy Daughters is a contributor to FBSchedules.com.