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By Nick G.
If I had told you two years ago — before Texas and Oklahoma hitched their wagons, hightailed it for the SEC, and ripped a hole in the fabric of NCAA space-time, opening some sort of Stranger Things-esque black hole — that Central Florida vs. Arizona State would eventually be an in-conference game, would you have believed me?
How about UCLA-Iowa? USC-Wisconsin? Cincy-Utah?
Or how about a better question:
Would you have been excited to hear any of that? About any those prospects?
Because I wouldn’t.
So I feel like I’m speaking for a lot of people when I say:
We do not like the NCAA Upside-Down
We all know what’s happening here: Promises of big-money TV contracts have made every AD in this country exceptionally short-sighted, if not totally insane. And in my estimation, in the next few years, conferences are going to look ridiculous — and the game will suffer greatly for it. Partly fueled by the Petri dish of NIL deals, partly by the natural inclination of powerful entities to consume smaller entities… this new phase of NCAA realignment has left many fans scratching their heads — and looking at the cost of long-distance air travel. Regional identity and rivalries are what bring the drama and intrigue to this sport, and to essentially kneecap that part of the sport is to hobble it irrevocably — maybe even fatally.
Granted, I’m Biased
Obviously, opinions of this matter tend to fall on where your fandom lies. I can’t even deal with my SEC friends lately, all of the reveling in the shakeup that has basically left them as the NFC to the Big Ten’s AFC.
But as a fan of a team (WVU) that has been regularly required to travel absurd distances to play in-conference games for a decade now, I can tell you: it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. There’s no heart it in. There’s nobody to talk smack with. It’s nothing like when we would play Pitt, Virginia Tech, or Penn State. And honestly, I don’t watch as often as I used to for that very reason.
The most frustrating part? There’s gotta be a better way! There are hundreds if not thousands of approaches to this problem, and all of them are better than this current movement.
So this week’s what if, we’re asking your opinion:
What If: We Blew Up the NCAA and Restarted From Scratch?
How would you structure the 130 NCAA teams? How would the National Champ be decided? What does an ideal playoff look like?
Answer below in the comments. If we like your hot-take best, we’ll shoot you a RYP hat next week. To give us a jumping off point:
Ideally, in my mind, college football would scrap the worst-performing, least-admired teams (say, UTEP and Old Dominion) to round out to 128 and create eight 16-team conferences based on geography and historic rivalries. Each conference would consist of two eight-team divisions, also based on geography and depth of rivalry. Each team plays every team in your division once a year, and then also plays four teams outside of your division once every-other year (so you’ll never go more than two years playing somebody in your own division). Then you’ll have one out-of conference flex game to show off the strength of your conference. Win your division, you play for the conference championship. Win the conference and you go to an 8-team playoff for the National Title. Bowls could continue as planned for the 2nd through 4th-place teams for each division. Seeding for the playoff could be based on how conferences perform in flex games. It’s fair (win 14 games for the Natty). It’s clean. And most of all, it holds true to the spirit of college football (while leveraging some of the magic of March Madness.) (Come to think of it NCAA Basketball could easily adopt this approach, too.)
I realize this is pie-in-the-sky idealism which ignored the power of money, but maybe one day after this system damage college ball enough, the fans will demand this sort of innovation, or we’ll just stop watching.
Alright now you
What do you think? Drop us a comment at the bottom of the page.
This Week’s Trivia Question
If you play for the Lakers but you’re a D-II WR in the NCAA, where do you attend college?