NCAA doing what’s best for college football in moving to scrap championship game requirement
Meetings need to be able to autonomously decide how to set up a meeting championship game.
There is no reason why all championship structures should follow the same rules, as there are as diverse and diverse conference management organizations as college football itself. In the end, the powers reached an agreement.
The NCAA Division I Council resolved on Wednesday to remove the requirements for the FBS Conference Championship Game, paving the way for the conference to decide for itself how to determine the champion. This allows you to be creative when planning and selecting champions and needs to get the most out of it.
Literally, minutes after the NCAA Council stamped it, Pac12 announced that it would do just that and revise the conference’s championship game by selecting the top two teams based on the conference’s winning percentage. The Big 12 has long lobbied for conferences with fewer than 12 members to field a title game, inspiring that same No. 1 vs. No. 2 model. Some conferences may follow. Others could go in a different direction.
At the core of the conference, the scheduling structure is accomplishing a specific goal: putting the best teams in a position to win as many quality games as possible. The five major conferences step into very different realities, and their strategies need to reflect this.
For meetings like Big 12 and Pac 12, creating a meaningful 13th data point remains a top priority. The Big 12 missed two of the first three College Football Playoff fields, and Baylor and TCU split the infamous vote in 2014, finishing fifth and sixth. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has played three consecutive playoffs after the Big 12 revived the Championship Game in 2017. Pac12 hasn’t played off since 2016, but overhauled the title game and returned to candidates such as Oregon, USC, and Utah. It helps to maximize the chances of a quality win.
However, not all meetings benefit in the same way. Before missing the ACC Championship game in 2021, Clemson scored a total of 112 points in the previous three title games. In a meeting without real companions, the Tigers’ quest was perfect. The victory in Virginia for the 2019 ACC title would have achieved the same as the victory in Florida in 2013.
Perhaps most importantly, the system opens the door to creative regular season planning. ACC has previously announced that it will explore the 355 system with three permanent opponents and five rotations each year. The SEC is likely to consider a similar pod plan, with the league expanding to 16 by 2025. Perhaps an extended partnership outside the meeting or a tournament inside the meeting will work.
If an administrator needs a guide to understand the power of flexibility, it’s nothing more than college basketball. Top Seeker Gonzaga participated in the West Coast Conference tournament bracket until the semi-finals. Bulldogs had to win less than half of the 7th to 10th games to win the tournament. But if you’re a WCC, why make Gonzaga’s journey more difficult than necessary?
The Mid-Major Meeting is also wisely scheduled. To get the NCAA’s attention, Conference USA has developed a spreadsheet-oriented scheduling format that summarizes the top five teams in the final segment of the regular season at Round Robin Pod. That way, all five teams can take advantage of quality winning opportunities to significantly improve their RPI in the hope of becoming a two-bid league.
As college football continues to evolve, the calculus could change. If the College Football Playoff expands, the SEC might choose to angle scheduling in a way that protects multiple contending squads. If a contender doesn’t rise out of the ACC, providing a showcase could prove more valuable. A Group of Five conferences could grow to the point of having a borderline playoff team each season.
Ultimately, that’s the point. The NCAA Council’s decision to abolish the conference’s championship obligations allows major college football conferences to make decisions for the right reason. So they can decide what is best for the game.