In keeping with a theme among the big boys of college athletics, the ACC has petitioned the NCAA to "deregulate" the football conference championship process, according to Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com. Of interest to those in flyover country, Dodd reported that the ACC made the move in "collaboration" with the Big 12.
The Big 12 has indicated in the past that it intended to request a dispensation to hold a championship game with 10 teams in the league. Likewise, since the ACC added Notre Dame, commissioner John Swofford had talked about trying to do away with the NCAA requirement that conferences organize in divisions to have a title game. Seeing as the two leagues were pushing for variations on the same theme, it makes sense to team up to pursue their common aims and whatnot.
It all sounds innocuous enough, but assuming this passes, the measure could have some interesting implications for both the Big 12 and the sport at large:
*For Big 12 partisans, the ability to have a championship game with a 10-team large would ease the minds of those who fear the conference might be at a disadvantage with the College Football Playoff's selection committee under the current rules.
(For the record, I doubt that not having a championship game will hinder a deserving Big 12 team's chances of making the playoff. Could having one help a Big 12 team play its way in? Who knows.)
*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.
Spit-balling: Make the championship a home game for the team that won the head-to-head contest in the regular season.
*What might a conference title game be worth to the Big 12? Right now, the SEC gets $15.3 million annually from its championship game, per USA Today Sports. If the Big 12 cut a deal worth two-thirds of the SEC's contract, it would put a million bucks in each of the school's coffers every year.
That figure could reach even higher if Jerry Jones decided to get involved in the bidding.
*An interesting issue for the larger conferences to consider would be whether the division schema has any utility beyond determining the participants in the conference championship game.
Eliminating divisions could alleviate some of the scheduling headaches that expansion has brought to the SEC, for instance. Instead of working in cross-divisional opponents to go with the division slate, the league office would have far more flexibility to schedule without regard for divisions.
Cutting out divisions for scheduling purposes would also mitigate some of the apparent competitive imbalance in the Big Ten, too.
*Instead of four teams, how about something closer to a de facto 10-team playoff?
Consider a scenario in which the power conferences do away with division play. Instead, using the new selection committee rankings, they all pit their two highest-ranked teams at the end of the season against each other in conference championship games. Here's what that would have looked like this year, substituting the BCS rankings prior to the final week of the season for the committee poll:
- ACC: Florida St. vs. Clemson
- SEC: Auburn vs. Alabama
- Big Ten: Ohio State vs. Michigan St.
- Big 12: Baylor vs. Oklahoma
- Pac-12: Stanford vs. Arizona St.
In many years, you could imagine the selection committee picking the four playoff participants from the five winners of those games.
*As a matter of personal preference, I'd rather see the conference championship games go away entirely. I think they devalue the regular season, and they just strike me as an arbitrary way of determining a conference champion, especially as leagues have grown more bloated through expansion. That horse has left the barn, though.