Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Radical Proposal for Change in the American College Football Landscape

**If you want a view of what this system looks like click on this link to see my Appendix to this post**

I have had this idea for a while, but with all the conference realignment of the past few years, I have never felt this strongly about the system that will be described below.  Its roots come from European and Brazilian association football structures, which I find fitting, because the current college football landscape is the American sporting culture that most closely resembles that of Europe; they are both very regional with a very heavy emphasis on entrenched powers, that really only rise and fall relative to the other entrenched powers of other regions.  This proposal is not meant to be realistic, it starts from a position of everything being on the table, while taking into account the history and tradition of the Bowl System.

The Proposal:
At the time I first came up with the idea, there were exactly 120 teams participating in College football, and the proposal works best for 120, but could also fit 124, 128, etc.  For the purposes of simplicity, this proposal will work with a 120 team FBS (aka DI-A) structure.  The proposal is also dependent on the NCAA (or some other body) assuming total control of football.

Step 1: Rank Order all 120 teams (using an average BCS score over a weighed 5 year period with the most emphasis going on the most recent season)

Step 2: Split them into 3 groups of 40 (1-40, 41-80, 81-120).  (for the initial split, I would be fine with

Step 3: Within each tier of 40 teams, split up into 4 divisions of 10 teams each by geography.

Step 4: Each team plays the other 9 teams in its division*.  This is the entire regular season. There are no non-conference games.

In the top tier (1-40), the 4 division advance to a Championship Division.  They are joined by the 2 winners of play in games contested between the 2nd place finishers.  The 6 teams in the Championship Division play a 5 game round robin schedule consisting of 2 home, 2 away, and a final neutral site Bowl Game (which is chosen first).  The team with the best record after the 5 games is the Undisputed National Champion. A tie is broken by the head to head match between the two teams in the Championship Division round, and three way ties are broken by point differential within Championship Division round games only (for the purposes of point differential, all OT games are counted as +1 for the winner and -1 for the loser, regardless of actual final score)


The losers of the play-in game join the 3rd, 4th, and 5th place teams, plus 2 winners from play in games contested between 6th place teams, in a 16 team knockout tournament.  The Championship game of this tournament is a Bowl game, and bowl placement for the other teams is dependent on how far the teams advance in the tournament.


The losers of the 6th place play-in game play in a minor bowl game. In same bowl pool as winners of the middle tier divisions.


7th, 8th, and 9th place teams in the top tier join 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, place teams from the middle tier in 6 groups of 4 teams.  The teams in these groups each play 1 home, 1 away, and one neutral bowl game.  The teams that finish in 1st and 2nd place in the group play the next season in the top tier, the 3rd and 4th place teams in the group play the next season in the middle tier.

The groups are formed at random with the following rules in mind:
Each group has 2 tier one teams and 2 tier two teams
No group can have 2 7th place teams
No group can have 2 4th place teams
No group can have teams from the same division (i.e. no rematches)

After the groups are picked, the mid level bowls choose their matchups first, and the other two games are scheduled.

Last place teams in the top tier are automatically relegated to the middle tier, and all first place teams in the middle tier are automatically promoted to the top tier. First place teams are in same bowl pool as top tier 6th place play-in losers.


5th and 6th place teams in the middle tier have no post-season


7th place teams in the middle tier host 4th place teams in the bottom tier. 8th place teams in middle tier host 3rd place teams in bottom tier, and 9th place teams in middle tier play AT 2nd place teams in bottom tier.  The winners of these games play the next season in the middle tier and the losers play the next season in the bottom tier


Last place teams in the middle tier are automatically relegated to the bottom tier, and champions of bottom tier divisions are automatically promoted to the middle tier, and play against a fellow bottom tier champion in a bowl game


There is no post-season for teams finishing 5th or worse in the bottom tier.


*The 9 game regular season could be done in two ways, either half the teams play 4 home games and the other half play 5 (in which case the next season would have to flip, and if the numbers didn't work out that that was possible, a running tally would be kept from the start of the system and schedule makers would try to always get teams closest to playing a net of 0, with the guarantee of the split always being 4/5 or 5/4 in any one year.  OR a split of 4, 4, and 1.  It most likely that the 4/4/1 split would only work at the top tier level if it was to work at all, and that the middle and bottom tier teams would simply do a 4/5 and 5/4.  In a 4/4/1 system, after the divisions were set at the end of the previous year, teams would be required to find a partner and pair up their one neutral site game.

The system is run entirely on merit.  There are no voters, no polls (apart from the initial rankings in the first year of the proposal).  EVERY single week of the regular season there are TWENTY games played between teams that are in top 40.  I can't stress that point enough about how exciting that would be. Round Robins >>>>>  play-offs, where one bad game can cost you everything, but the people who need playoffs are appeased some as well, because this system has a playoff.

Teams would know every week that they had a chance of beating the team that they were playing.  No more cupcake games!  No more free wins for big time programs, every win must be earned.  Because the system is fluid, no team is locked in to its place.  If your programmed gets turned around into a winning machine, no amount of politics is going to keep you from proving just how good you are.

In the top and middle tiers, every game matters to every team.  There is a difference between each finishing position and that difference cannot be made mute because a bowl selection committee thinks the lower placed team will travel better.

I would also propose as an addition to these changes to have a spring playoff in April and May, consisting of 128 teams (with the DIII and DII champions plus the top 6 from DI-AA also participating). Teams would be allowed to schedule whoever they wanted in the first round (i.e. a rivalry game that was not played the previous fall) and all other rounds would be subject to a random draw, FA Cup style, with the championship game being played in a northern city.

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