Posted: April 16, 2013
I have been intrigued by a story late last week about the possible cancellation of the Notre Dame @ Arizona State game that was scheduled for 2014. It appears as if ND might be canceling this game and adding a game against Florida State as part of the new agreement between ND and the ACC. Needless to say, ASU is not pleased about this potential late cancellation and having to scramble to find a replacement game at the last minute. One that will most certainly be a lesser quality opponent, perhaps an FCS opponent, if they do not already exceed the practical limit. Setting aside my particular feelings about these specific events and teams, this got me to thinking and I believe that there is a larger story at play here within the changing landscape of college football and conference affiliation. Scheduling!
In my humble view, maybe it is time to discuss blowing up the entire model of how college football is scheduled. Since we are not going to be seeing a March Madness type tournament in college football, nor do I want to see that, perhaps now is the time to change the whole scheduling model. The conference affiliations have been blown up; maybe the scheduling model should be blown up along side of it as well. And if it is going to be done, now is the time.
Currently schedules are constructed in a hybrid combination between the conferences which set the conference schedule and the schools who round out their schedule with non conference games (which comes first is beside the point). Each conference determines how many conference games each team will play and then the schools fill out the rest of their schedule by reaching agreement and signing contracts on an individual per game basis. Most of the time, these non conference games are against weaker teams, maybe one or two non conference rivalry games, and a few national games arranged to be played at large venues as “special” games. Because of this method of scheduling and as conferences get larger, conference champions are being crowned with more and more of an unbalanced schedule within each conference.
To use the SEC as an example, teams play an 8 game conference schedule. Six games are played within your division and two games against the other division. This means you are playing 2 of 7 teams in the other division of the conference. Who you play is critical to a team’s ability to win its division, not to mention home team fans seeing an opposite division team at home on an infrequent basis. If you are in the SEC West and your East opponents are Florida and Georgia, you have a much tougher road to a division title than if your opponents are Vanderbilt and Kentucky (no offense, just fact). Schedule is playing an increasing roll in conference titles than simply play on the field. And it’s getting worse as conferences get larger. Is this a good thing?
I think that maybe the time has come for conferences to take more control over the entire schedule, perhaps even a 12 game conference schedule. Yes, fans will lose some non conference rivalries, such as Florida vs. Florida State. But fans will also lose Florida vs. Jacksonville State. And we as fans will get more conference games, which taken as a whole are better games. Plus conference titles will not rely so much on whom you play but how you play.
Think of it like this, a 14 team SEC could have each team play 12 of the 13 other teams in a 12 game conference schedule. Instead of rotating the teams from the other division that you play, you rotate the one team that you do not play every year. That looks like a better schedule and a fairer way to determine the division winners.
Further, this model would support 22 and 24 team conferences with two divisions in each. Let’s look at a 24 team conference example…two divisions of 12 teams’ means 11 conference games within your division. Division winners play for conference title. Simple! This means there is only the need for 5-7 conferences in total.
You can see where this is headed. Five conference winners, a few wildcards determined by a selection committee, and you essentially have an 8 team playoff. It is also more unlikely there will be any undefeated teams in this model and one or two losses do not eliminate a team from title contention. This would allow a selection committee the opportunity to select based on merit and not simply record, something that I think is going to be a challenge in the current model where it will be tough to not select an undefeated team regardless of who they have played.
I understand there are a lot of practical barriers to this as school budgets will be impacted and some conferences will need to disappear which is not in their own interest. But to me, this is a win-win, and smarter people than I am have solved many logistical challenges in the recent conference realignments to get where we are now. So, I think this is possible. Yes, this would also require a global shift of thought and probably some rule changes somewhere, but now is the time. Fans would get more and better conference games, a de-facto playoff among all conferences, and a champion decided less by schedule than as currently constructed. Yes, schedule will still matter as some conferences will be tougher than others, but it will matter less than it does now. And that combined with better games in the regular season is a gigantic step in the right direction.
I see major problems with this, and as you said, it will never happen. Sounds good in theory if you are already in a major conference and have a decent team, but what about the other 70-80% of the teams? If you have 5 super conferences, then either you have a couple really week conferences or you have about 100 teams with no shot at winning their division, let alone their conference to even sniff the idea of playing for a national title. Will it determine who is better? Yes, but those smaller schools will never have anything to build on. What potential athlete will go to, say UCF, when they have no shot at winning any title or go undefeated? Yes, they may beat Florida once in a while (Which would be awesome) , but not enough teams to win the division. Those programs would see a decline in talent and would never be able to recover from. Besides that, what about the revenue? No way The Ohio State University would want to give a portion of what it brings to the conference to 23 other schools like Akron, Kent, Centrall Michigan, etc, it already has to do that to 11 schools right now. That’s my 2 cents. Mahalo
Right now we have very strong conferences and very weak conferences so I do not see that changing. The 70%-80% of teams you mention will still have a shot of winning their weaker conference and that would get them into a playoff which they do not have a chance of right now. So I think that helps their case. I do not see an Arkansas State joining the SEC. This remote scenario envisions a continuation of the current expansion trends of strong get stronger. In terms of revenue, I see an SEC and Big Ten being able to get even more money from the networks because there is more inventory of games. More money to go around. The entire pie gets bigger with more money for all especially with an 8 team playoff. You would still have rich getting richer, but that is no different from now.
Yeah, if you combine the biggies, it would work… In theory. Big 10 and PAC whatever team up, SEC and ACC, and then you have the Big 12 with some other good schools. The rest can do whatever. Logistic wise and travel would be a nightmare, but this is all talk anyway.
To fix your earlier problem about winning divisions when your schedules are different should be an easy fix. Let your division record take presidency over the overall record. If team A plays everybody in their division and so does team B, same division scenario, then who has that better record should advance to play in the conference championship, regardless of what either team did with their remaining schedule. Now if those records were the same and then head to head determines who advances. The only time conference record plays a part is if there is a three/four way tie and everyone beat each other. I would like the NFL do that now. Say Dallas goes 6-10 for the season, but those 6 wins are against NY (2), Phily (2), and Wash (2), they should represent the NFC East in the playoffs, plain and simple. You shouldn’t be able to play in the Nat Title/Play offs if you can’t even win you division or conference (wild cards excluded).
Fun to talk about though.
I agree that if you only count your division record towards conference divisional winners and ignore the cross division games it would work. But I think that is more unlikely than my scenario because you reduce inventory and thus money. You would have less games that had meaning and thus reduce the amount of true inventory for CBS, ESPN, etc. It is an interesting thought and I do like using cross divisional games in a tiebreak scenario, but then you only have 6 games in an SEC schedule that count for divisional winners. You increase the likelihood of ties and thus the cross divisional games would still count. But in our hypothetical world, I would prefer that to the current setup.
50% of fans will always bitch about 75% of changes 100% of the time. It’s like politics.
Stop ****** with it and just play the damn game.
What’s with the b***s*** moderation on this site? I didn’t realize I was posting in North Korea!
I did not moderate your content only the cursing. If you stop cursing, I will stop moderating.
There is a difference between censorship and moderation….
Censorship is what you are doing with my exploitative usage, and I have no complaint about that.
Moderation is what you are doing by not having my posts show up until you review them.
Ahhh… but it looks like you killed that feature!
Bravo my friend. Thank you.