When news surfaced earlier this year that the powers that be in college football decided to move away from the current BCS format to a four game playoff for its postseason, fans rejoiced. Finally, everyone said, a system will be in place where the national title will be decided on the field. Finally, the game’s postseason wouldn’t revolve around the mysterious BCS rankings.
Then reality set in.
Are four teams enough? What if there are two one loss teams and four two loss teams in a season? What if there are three undefeateds and four one loss teams? What about the mid major teams?
People realized that even this new playoff system would not be ideal. It has its flaws and we’ve yet to even put it into practice. How would the committee choosing the four teams make its decisions? Last week Sports Illustrated published an article giving an inside look at how that process will likely work. They put together a mock selection committee to go through the process of selecting four teams for a playoff. Give the article a read for yourself, but to sum things up, they found the process extremely difficult. Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith was part of the mock committee and is a former chairman of the NCAA men’s basketball selection committee. His feedback? He found the selection of the four teams to participate in the football playoff more difficult than selecting the entire field of basketball’s March Madness tournament.
This made me start thinking, why not move to an ultimate playoff? Why not change the entire college football system? Change things up radically. I mean, why not? The landscape of the sport has already shifted so much over the past five years. We now have Nebraska and Michigan in the same conference. Colorado and USC. Missouri and Alabama. And then there’s the bi-coastal new Big East. Can you imagine UConn playing San Diego State?
I started thinking of my own idea for a system that would work better than both the current BCS system and the future four team playoff we have coming. A complete reform of college football. Some of the considerations that came to mind were:
1. Let’s eliminate the full month that some teams now have off between their last regular season game and their bowl game.
2. Let’s actually keep the players in mind. College administrators always flinch at adding more games to the schedule, citing difficulties for the student athlete. C’mon guys. Is UConn playing at San Diego State on a Thursday night really looking out for the student athlete?
3. Let’s expand the season just slightly. There’s a 12 game regular season, a conference championship (for some teams) and then a bowl game. So a good team will play up to 14 games. Let’s play just one more.
4. Let’s completely reform the conferences. I consider myself somewhat of a traditionalist, but these new super conferences aren’t what any of us grew up with. The sense of nostalgia that comes with some of these yearly matchups will soon be gone. So why not take it a step further and really shake things up?
5. With this reform, there needs to be a certain degree of competitive balance in each new conference. There also needs to be a geographic approach in mind. We don’t need to see Boise State and South Florida in the same conference.
So here’s my idea. Eight super conferences. Nine regular season games, with seven of those in conference and two out of conference. After the nine regular season games, the top eight teams in each conference enter a conference playoff. That playoff would last three weeks and be in a bracket format (team with the best record plays the team with the 8th best record and so on).
Then the eight conference champions are all entered into a national playoff lasting eight weeks. The placements in that bracket are decided by a committee with representation from each conference. The goal in the seeding placements of the eight teams is to weight the matchups.
So with a nine game regular season, a three game conference playoff and then a three game national playoff, we’re looking at the possibility of the two best teams in the nation playing 15 games.
I know that the teams that miss making their conference playoff are losing three games from their normal schedule. College football is all about money. I have no way of proving this with data, but I think in the end, my reform will end up providing a better payout to those schools through the conference distribution of revenue. I see the conference playoffs drawing more tv viewers and thus, higher ratings, than most of the regular season games we see currently. The entire season becomes that much more important. The national playoffs would be a big money maker.
I’ve even gone so far as to create the eight super conferences that will contain all the NCAA FBS schools in the nation. I also included teams that will be moving to FBS status in the next few years (such as Charlotte and Georgia State). In creating these conferences, I tried to keep geography in mind, as well as competitive balance. In naming them, I chose names that aren’t currently in use by any conferences because this change is only for football. So current conferences would remain in other sports.
The North Atlantic Conference (NAC):
Army, Boston College, Buffalo, Maryland, Navy, Old Dominion, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, UConn, UMass, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia
The Great Lakes Conference (GLC):
Akron, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Marshall, Miami (OH), Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio, Ohio State, Western Michigan
Midwest Conference (Midwest):
Ball State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin
Mid-Continent Conference (Mid-Con):
Arkansas, Arkansas State, Charlotte, Clemson, Duke, East Carolina, Kentucky, Memphis, Middle Tennessee, North Carolina, NC State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest
Gulf Coast Conference (GCC):
Central Florida, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette, LSU, Miami (FL), South Alabama, South Florida, Southern Mississippi, Troy, Tulane
Big South Conference (Big South):
Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Houston, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, North Texas, Rice, SMU, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas State, UAB, University Texas-San Antonio
Southwestern Conference (SWC):
Air Force, Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Colorado, Colorado State, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech, Utah, Utah State, UTEP, Wyoming
Pacific Coast Conference (PCC):
Boise State, Cal, Fresno State, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon Oregon State, San Diego State, San Jose State, Stanford, UCLA, UNLV, USC, Washington, Washington State
I think these conference alignments are fairly balanced. Some appear stronger than others, but I don’t see any that stand out as being really, really weak (like the current Big East). Sure, you could say the North Atlantic Conference was weaker this year, but it’s not full of teams that are traditionally bad. Virginia Tech had a down year. West Virginia started hot and faded at the end of the season. Penn State had a real shot at going 10-2 this year instead of 8-4. Rutgers and Pitt have been competitive over the past few years. UConn and Temple are programs that are on the rise. You could also look at the GLC and say it’s dominated by former MAC teams because of the high number of teams located in Ohio and Michigan. However, I look at that conference and say it’s also loaded with high power programs with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame.
Overall, it feels fairly even to me, but let’s actually play it out (or theorize it out is probably more accurate):
If this system would have been in place this year, I think we would’ve seen conference championships along the lines of below (let’s assume that all schools were playoff eligible and not on probation for this exercise).
NAC Championship: Penn State vs. West Virginia
GLC Championship: Ohio State vs. Notre Dame
Midwest Championship: Kansas State vs. Nebraska
Mid-Con Championship: South Carolina vs. Clemson
GCC Championship: Georgia vs. Florida
Big South Championship: Alabama vs. Texas A&M
SWC Championship: Oklahoma vs. Texas
PCC Championship: Stanford vs. Oregon
So the national playoff?
#1 Notre Dame vs. #8 Penn State
#4 Kansas State vs. #5 Stanford
#3 Georgia vs. #6 Oklahoma
#2 Alabama vs. #7 South Carolina
Seems like a pretty entertaining conference and national playoff scenario.