College football needs help. If you don’t believe that then I wonder where you have been for the last decade. Certainly the upcoming playoff of four teams is an improvement but how do we decide who those four teams are? Certain conferences believe they could have as many as two, if not three or all four of the best teams in the nation right within their own ranks. Then there are the lowly Mountain West teams that while they may go undefeated in their schedule, the nation won’t give them a spot at the big-boy table because their schedule is viewed as inferior to the schedules of many other power conferences. So what are we to do?
I believe the time has come for nothing less than an all out overhaul of the college football system. This includes conferences, bowl games, everything. We should stop pretending that college football is some amateur hobby of academic co-eds who need to get out of their ivory towers and run around a bit and see this as the multi-billion dollar business that it is. And in so seeing it as a business, we should treat it like a business. The restructuring I am proposing has been stated elsewhere, so I can take no credit for the originality of the idea, but the more I think about it the more I believe it to be a fantastic idea for the health of college football. So how does this work out? Here’s the low down:
Within college football there are 120 Division I schools. About 40 of them are the best of the class, the rest are mid-majors that get some regional respect and that’s about it. Let’s take the top forty schools and put them in four conferences of 10 each. They would play each team in their conference each season in a round-robin tournament of sorts with 3 out of conference games as well. So every team would play a regular season of 12 games. The best record in each conference would then get the cherished play-off berth and we would have a three game national championship playoff.
The remaining 80 schools would be put into 8 other conferences and would play out their conferences and divisions in much the same way with a larger tournament for the smaller schools (think of it as the NIT tourney). This all sounds fantastic to me but many would cry foul. How would we fairly pick the top 40 schools? What if one school fails to meet the criteria of the top 40 consistently (I’m looking at you Notre Dame)? Here-in lies the genius of this system: relegation.
The bottom four teams from the top 40 would be relegated each season into the bottom 80 school system. The top four teams from the lower eighty would be promoted up into the top 40 and play their next season there. This way a smaller school like a Boise State could prove once and for all if they did in fact belong with the Alabama's and Michigan's of college football. Truly every game in the schedule would be a playoff game. Everything matters. The top forty would get the money, sponsorships, prime-time networks and games, etc. The bottom eighty could focus on what college institutions really should focus on; academics.
This could also help the NCAA in terms of penalizing schools for recruitment infractions and other messes such as the Penn State debacle. Instead of taking away bowl appearances, scholarships, etc. just relegate an offending team to the bottom eighty for a predetermined period of time. I’m willing to bet that if Penn State was forced to play Ohio, Bowling Green, Ball State and Miami (OH) for 9 of their 12 games each season over four years the financial impact would be greater on them than 60 million. Once the ban was over the team could win their way back up to the top forty.
I know there are million variables to consider such as schedule, draft of the inaugural top forty, divisional alignment, bowl games, and so on but I have to think this would be a fantastic way to see college football played out. Oh, and if you’re a top forty school each athlete gets paid a stipend (all players make the same money but they get paid for their work). What do you think? Should we realign college football this way? Echo in on the comments.