Getting Rid of College Football Divisions Would Be a Great Idea
The Big 12 paid a consulting firm to determine it should expand back to 12 teams, form two divisions, and have an eight-game conference schedule to give itself the best chance of having a team reach the playoff.
ESPN’s Edward Aschoff offers a different take: get rid of divisions altogether. One could, as Clay Travis did, take that a step further: get rid of the Conference Title Games too. This is a notion worth considering.
Football divisions offer one benefit. They set up a title game neatly. There’s no guarantee those are the two best teams, of course. If you think divisions add anything to conference branding, we challenge you to list ACC Atlantic and Coastal members without google searching it.
Football divisions come with a significant cost. Schedules are made disproportional, causing competitive advantages and disadvantages. Divisions exacerbate the effects of conference realignment. Teams that have faced each other for nearly a century now square off only a couple times per decade.
Look at the Big Ten. They shed the embarrassing “Legends” and “Leaders” names. But, the structure remains problematic. Nebraska is cut off from Texas and does not play on the East Coast or in Ohio/Pennsylvania often enough to make inroads. Michigan is cut off from traditional football rivals such as Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and has to play Maryland and Rutgers every year.
Scheduling without divisions would be clear-cut and simple.
In an eight-game schedule in a 14-team league, teams would play three fixed yearly rivals. They would play the other 10 teams in alternating slates of five home and home. Every conference team would play every opponent home and home at least once during a four-year cycle.
Alabama could play permanent rivals Auburn, Tennessee, and LSU. One year they could play Arkansas, Mississippi State, Georgia, Kentucky, and South Carolina. The other year they could play Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Florida, Missouri, and Vanderbilt.
A nine-game schedule could be accommodated by five yearly rivals and rotating slates of four. Ohio State, for instance, could play Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Maryland every year. The first rotating slate could be Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, and Indiana. The second: Iowa, Northwestern, Rutgers, and Purdue.
Such a schedule would be fairer, promote conference continuity, and be more entertaining.
Getting rid of the divisions makes the title game trickier and begs the question about having a title game at all. Getting rid of the title game would cost conference revenue. Of course, that revenue would be more than made up for if the trade-off was an 8-team playoff.
We’ll presume this brand of forward thinking is what Lane Kiffin is waiting for.