I made the mistake of ignoring college football for about 45 days this year. Some call it a vacation; others call it stupidity. The ignorance wasn’t planned, but life and what we in Ohio like to call Summer – warmer temperatures, but with daily rain – got in the way. I was quickly jarred back into my college football reality when I saw words on Twitter that indicated the Big 12 was in trouble (it isn’t) and that the Pacific-12 is again considering expansion (it shouldn’t). Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: the current conference makeup in college sports is a complete cluster. Almost none of the 2010-2013 moves now make any sense. I know it’s all about money, but you can’t sell me on Missouri in the SEC or Nebraska in the Big Ten.
At the time, the moves made sense because the Big 12 was an absolute joke, and no one had the guts to tell Texas to shut up and fall in line. Don’t forget the Pac-10 wanted to be bigger and there was all this “new” television money.
Blame whomever you want for that round of realignment or deck chair re-arranging, but to put college fans through it again is stupid.
Since I try not to be one to complain about something without a potential solution, I’ll offer one that changes the complete landscape of college football and probably collegiate sports as we know it.
Eliminate the conferences.
Yep, for football, eliminate the Power-5 conferences and construct some type of model where FBS teams are split into two divisions. After you split them into two easy divisions, -- sure East and West work -- roll the FBS post-season and championship back to the NCAA’s control and have the association become the central schedule maker for FBS football.
Two divisions gives you a few things that fans want to see:
- Traditional rivalries every year. Notre Dame/USC, Texas/Texas A&M, Ohio State/Michigan, Oklahoma/Nebraska, etc.
- Eliminates bad conference games. Ohio State/Nebraska, Iowa State/Any good team, Colorado/USC, etc.
- Eliminate conference championship games. Let’s be 100% real with each other, none of us need to see a Power-5’s conference championship game. If we really want that extra game then convert it to a regular season game.
- Eliminates games versus the FCS. Alabama playing Western Carolina, Oregon playing South Dakota or any of those other teams is disrespectful to college football’s most important fans: those who pay for tickets. FBS teams can play FCS teams in the spring if you really need to see Ohio State beat the pants off Youngstown State.
- Dynamic and yearly scheduling. College athletic directors have done a great job of selling you on how important it is to schedule games in eight years in advance. The reality is if you told Jerry Jones in February that he could have Ohio State and Notre Dame on opening weekend in September, he’d find a way to make it work. I also have faith that fans from both schools would fill AT&T Stadium with less than a year’s notice. If we can do this for playoff bowl games, we can do it for great regular season games.
I won’t pretend all these ideas are peaches and cream, and yes, some traditional – albeit terrible – rivalries won’t survive, but the truth is that college football is being held back by conferences.
The organization that already funnels significantly more money back to its member schools, the NCAA, is in a better position to manage television contracts on a national level than individual conferences. For those of you that want a 16-team playoff, this is easiest way to get there.
The association can tier television money based on a schools finishing playoff position. The champion and runner-up can have the most, positions three through eight can evenly split another pool; nine through 16 can split a smaller, third pool and everyone else can get the money back they put into participating in football.
It could work like your basketball bracket pool; Bob from accounting is terrible at picking teams, but we’ll give him his $5 back for participating.
This idea is a rough draft, but no, I don’t intend to pay student-athletes unless they’re funding their own education and athletic training, I’ll eliminate probably half the bowl games, and it’s completely fair to reduce the size of FBS by about 20-30%. I propose we only allow FBS expansion once every five years without exception, and new entrants will have to prove their worth against third-tier FBS schools in spring football games.