Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports:
The ACC has submitted NCAA legislation that would “deregulate” football conference championship games sources told CBSSports.com.
The intent is to allow leagues their preference in how to determine their conference champion. It would theoretically eliminate the need – per NCAA rules – to split into divisions with the division winners meeting in a conference championship game.
The Big 12 is also involved, so the legislation goes beyond how conferences are organized to include removing the requirement that conferences have a minimum of 12 members. If adopted, any FBS conference could have a championship game, regardless of how many members it has, whether they are in two divisions, and whether the division members all play each other.
In addition to allowing the Big 12 and other smaller conferences to play a conference championship game, the change would also free up scheduling, which has gotten more difficult as conference have expanded. It has proven to be very difficult to balance a round-robin division schedule, competitive balance, permanent rivals, non-conference scheduling concerns, and a speedy rotation through the rest of the conference.
Allen Kenney of Blatant Homerism imagines even more flexibility:
As Kansas State president Kirk Schultz notes in Dodd’s article, a title game in a league with a round-robin schedule does seem somewhat strange. On the other hand, what if the Big 12 worked out an arrangement where it could elect to hold a championship game each year at its discretion?
For example, say there’s a tie at the top of the standings between two teams with the same records in conference play. The league could opt to have a rematch in a championship game if deemed necessary.
If the Big 12 had that sort of flexibility, imagine what it could do with even more. Say the Big 12 standings ended like this one year:
- Oklahoma – 12–0 (Playoff Rank: 1)
- Texas – 11–1 (Playoff Rank: 5)
- Baylor – 10–2 (Playoff Rank: 11)
If you deregulated conference championship games so far that they were not even necessarily championship games, just an extra game between two conference members, the Big 12 would have Texas play Baylor in that game, to give Texas a shot to get into the College Football Playoff without risking Oklahoma’s spot.
Despite benefits for every conference and widespread support, this change might not be adopted immediately. From Dodd’s article:
An NCAA spokesman told CBSSports.com that the association’s board of directors would discuss the proposal at its April meeting. However, that spokesman also pointed out that the NCAA presidents have “declined to consider rules changes proposed by the conferences,” before first finishing the reform and restructuring agendas.
I suspect this will be an exception to that policy and the change will be adopted in April. Even if this proposal has to wait until the new governance structure is in place, that would only mean a delay until the fall. At that point the new council of athletic directors would likely adopt the proposal as one of its first pieces of business, which still allows enough time to schedule based on the deregulated championship game criteria, especially if conferences are paying attention and come up with possible formats ahead of time.