The college football landscape appears to be a state of chaos as NIL rules are re-thinking how schools and conferences do business. The University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma are already planning to make an unprecedented jump from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
When Big 12 officials invited all 10 of their schools to a conference call Thursday, the Red River Rivalry duo was a no-show. No comments have come from either school as the rumors continue to amp up.
“Speculation always swirls around collegiate athletics,” a Texas spokesman said in a statement. “We will not address rumors or speculation.”
There’s still plenty of hurdles for both Texas and Oklahoma to overcome as the Big 12 holds first and second-tier media rights through the end of June in 2025. Even if the schools depart for the SEC, the Big 12 will still own the rights to broadcast their games barring a major coming-to-terms.
Now, there’s even more potential realignment rumors going around with Texas Christian University, Baylor University and Texas Tech University reaching out to the Pac-12 Conference.
While Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said that the Pac-12 is not seeking new schools, but will accept calls.
“I consider the Pac-12 an exclusive club with a high barrier to entry,” Kliavkoff told ESPN. “We love the schools and teams we have today. We’re not actively seeking to poach any teams from any conference, but we’d be foolish not to listen if schools call us.”
With so much unknown regarding the future of college football, I took the liberty of re-thinking the sport and developing a format that promotes competitiveness and parity without losing what makes college football popular.
Keep in mind that not many logistics went into it. It’s simply a hypothetical on how to best re-create college football that eliminates mathematical formulas, College Football Playoff committees, conference bias, strength of schedule and the dreaded Football Power Index.
When it comes to the FCS, they have a great system of their own and have completely established a brand to stand out from the FBS. If schools still want to apply for promotion up to the FBS with this format, they would be more than welcome to, but we will stick with just the 130 FBS schools for this rough draft.
First, the conferences
Goodbye, SEC, Pac-12, Big 12, etc… and hello, giant, regional conferences.
While 130 isn’t divisible by four, only the west and south conferences boast one extra team to create the most-balanced version of this format.
The hardest factor into the division of the regions was the Florida schools. The University of Florida holds a handful of rivalries within the SEC and while LSU will not join them in the Atlantic Conference, the classic Florida-Georgia rivalry will hold. As will be discussed later on, there’s still plenty of opportunities for an LSU-Florida matchup to remain an annual event.
Bedlam will also be separated as Oklahoma State goes to the south and Oklahoma moves to the West solely in the name of competitive balance.
Dividing the conferences into four classes
Now, 30 games a year isn’t feasible in college football, so there will be eight teams divided into four classes based on performance in the prior year to the start of the format.
Here’s a look based on the 2020 season:
The 12-game schedule will remain in this format. Each school will be required to play the teams in their class with the other five weeks being open to any matchup outside of class/conference with protected rivalries being the emphasis, so LSU/Florida, Oklahoma/Oklahoma State, Ohio State/Michigan, USC/UCLA.
Don’t worry, college football fans. You are not losing your major rivalry games.
Similar to the NFL, wins are the biggest emphasis in the new college football. Rankings won’t matter except in the case of networks scheduling games for morning, afternoon and primetime, and for the sports world to get excited about specific matchups.
Just look at some of the potential matchups you would get in the first season:
- Florida/North Carolina
- Clemson/Coastal Carolina
- Ohio State/Notre Dame
Every week, fans will be guaranteed a marquee matchup with big stakes on the line.
Postseason + class promotion/relegation
The four class winners in each conference will meet in a four-team playoff where the conference champion will go on to compete in the four-team CFB Playoff.
EX: WEST – Oklahoma-Stanford-Baylor-Arizona
Oklahoma would play Arizona, while Stanford would play Baylor. The two winners would meet in the conference championship game and the champ advances to the CFB Playoff.
Going back to the LSU and Florida rivalry, imagine Florida losing the same way they did in 2020 after one of their players chucked a shoe to set up a game-winning field goal for Florida. If the Gators take care of business in their class and conference, they could meet back up with LSU and seek revenge in the CFB Playoff.
Not only will the class II, III and IV winners compete in the postseason, but they will also move up a class, while the last-place teams in class I, class II and class III will be relegated down a class.
In theory, a Kansas or Vanderbilt can build their programs to the point where they win Class IV of the south and work their way to Class I within three years and vice versa for a Class I team.
This is also where the FCS could play a role. Should one or multiple FBS teams go 1-11 or 0-12, this will open the door for the top FCS schools to earn themselves promotion to the FBS if they are deemed eligible by the NCAA. So the defending FCS champion Sam Houston State could replace Kansas, while Kansas tries to win the FCS a year later to get back into the FBS. It’s very European, but the new college football is here to promote competition.
Potential Playoff Bracket:
Times are changing in the world of college athletics. Traditional conferences are changing as well and these schools wanting greener pastures in different conferences implies that it is time to end these conferences in college football.
An ever-adapting landscape requires a major swing. This new format is the best of all of them.