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College Football Playoffs? Realignment? Let’s Try Something Simple, New, and Refreshing!

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

Since the onset of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in 1998, complaints about fairness and having the “right” teams involved have become the hottest argument among college football fans. With the onset of the College Football Playoff (CFP) program beginning in 2014, those discussions still rage. Debate drones on every year regarding who should be in - and who should not. I have the perfect solution!

In college football today, realignment is all the furor. To which conference does so-and-so go? How will that affect the TV deals or NIL money? What about historic rivalries?

I have a radical suggestion. Let's do a COMPLETE realignment if we are going to do realignment. Let’s eliminate the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big 10, PAC 12, and G5 altogether! Just junk it all as it now stands, and develop a more equitable and practical distribution. Doing this will create the most simple and perfect playoff scenario that has yet existed. Sound too easy or too impossible? Read on. For starters, there should be a limit in Division 1 (or FBS) football to 96 teams. Only those schools with the highest graduation rates will be allowed to participate at the D1 level. One of the failures in college football today is forgetting that these football players are still STUDENT-ATHLETES.

Note that it is not ATHLETE-STUDENT. Therefore, with them still being student-athletes, we must find a way to make academics a priority in college football again. We’ll revisit the graduation rates every four years. If the school is not graduating their players and a school not yet in the FCS has a higher graduation rate, you may get bumped out of the 96 teams in Division 1!

Next, these 96 teams will be divided into 8 newly formed conferences with 12 teams each. The new conferences are based on regional locations. Historical rivalries are therefore taken into consideration. This process shouldn’t be too difficult. Classic battles like Alabama/Auburn, Michigan/Ohio State, Iowa/Iowa State, Arizona State/U. of Arizona, and USC/UCLA will remain.

How will the playoff rankings take place? By having a lottery every year each July, before fall practice and camps begin.

In this lottery, conferences will draw numbers. These numbers will be 1-8. The number drawn in July represents where each conference will line up come playoff time. The actual playoff will follow a 1 v 8, 2 v 7 pattern. This eliminates polling and human opinion/bias from the playoffs because it’s predetermined who lines up where in the playoffs.

The marketing potential for this Lottery is tremendous! Note the interest in the NFL Combine and Draft – but on steroids. Advertising minutes will be precious commodities. You can even have guests draw the numbers for each conference. For instance, Conference A brings in Peyton Manning to draw because Tennessee is a member of Conference A. Imagine all those former players and coaches willing to get involved!

Regarding scheduling and determining who gets into the playoffs, the 12 teams in each conference get divided into two divisions of 6 teams in each. You will play ALL 11 other members in your conference. This means no more “cupcake” schedules”. For the 12th game, a home and away series will need to be developed with an FCS school nearby, preferably in the same state. We have to share the wealth, right?

To determine the conference champions, we take each division winner. The division winner is based on record within the division only. For instance, if you have a team that goes 5-0 against their division opponents, it’s easy to say they are the best team in their division. They’d advance to the conference championship.

But what if they are 6-6 overall and the team in 2nd place is 11-1 overall? It’s time we get back to every game 'matters', and head-to-head competition is the most reasonable solution. If you beat every team in your division, you are 'unequivocally' the best team in your division.

What about the National Playoffs? There are two options. First, there can be a 16-team playoff featuring conference championships as the first round. Or, there can be an 8 team playoff featuring only the conference champions. Either way works out perfectly. You still line up the playoffs in the 1 vs. 8 format based on the lottery held in July.

I understand that sometimes you could have the #1 ranked and #2 ranked teams face each other in the first round. That’s okay in this system! The pills that have sparked endless fights are no longer needed. Teams won’t be selected for the playoffs based on their ranking (or behind-the-scenes shenanigans!). It is strictly decided by play on the field!

As college football has evolved, it has gained a little, but, in my opinion, has lost focus on some key values that we wish to see, including fairness, academic achievement, and competitiveness. My plan can restore these while maintaining the unique spirit and rivalries that make this sport great!

Editor's Note - This article is being republished due to relevancy (with updates).

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1 Comment

Jim Sutrick
Jim Sutrick
Jun 10, 2023

Definitely a different view but why do people consistently tie college sports to graduation rates? That has zero bearing on anything real. Should Harvard be penalized in some academic way because Mark Zuckerberg left early to focus on Facebook? Of course not. And Universities should not be held accountable because their students decide to go in a different direction to begin their career of choice. Just my take.

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