Deregulation of conference championships may be on the horizon in college football, and that could open some interesting doors to some changes in a conference near you.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, also serving as the chairman of the Football Oversight Committee, says a formal proposal for deregulation of conference titles has been sent to the NCAA Council and it is his expectation it will be approved in January. This according to a report filed by Heather Dinich of ESPN.com Friday afternoon. None of this should come as a surprise, as the talks about potential deregulation of conference championships has been floating around for a while, and it has really picked up momentum in the past year or so as college football moved to a playoff format where strength of schedule is considered vital for any playoff contender.
“It’s officially in the system,” Bowlsby said in the ESPN.com report. “We haven’t encountered any resistance to it at all. It’s really deregulation, is allowing conferences to do what they want to determine their champion. In the end, I expect that it will be approved.”
How soon deregulation would go into effect could happen as soon as the 2016 season, although that remains to be seen. Any transition could vary by conference as well considering some conference schedules are generated in advance.
Which conference figure to benefit most by this? The ACC and Big 12 could be the biggest winners of this new legislation. The ACC, which has been a bit top-heavy at times in recent years in the ACC’s Atlantic Division (Florida State, Clemson) could tear down division formats and all the top two teams in the ACC to play for the conference championship game, giving us a potential Florida State-Clemson match-up or rematch. Things can be cyclical though, so this is not about pitting Florida State and Clemson in the championship game every year. This is more about opening the field as much as possible to showcase the ACC’s two strongest programs, whomever they may be, in the conference championship game. Compared to other title games, most notably the SEC, the ACC’s championship game could use a little boost for attendance and significance.
Of course, any conference could hypothetically take advantage of this. Imagine a Big Ten championship game between Ohio State and Michigan, who currently share a division. Or an SEC championship game between Alabama and LSU or Auburn. This would not only work just for the power conferences either. It could have benefits to Group of Five conferences, giving a conference championship game bid to the two best teams in a conference. Just like in power conferences, the two best teams in a Group of Five conference are not always in opposite divisions. With so much at stake in the New Years Six hunt for Group of Five conferences, having that extra spotlight game could become a significant factor down the stretch.
Then, of course, there is the Big 12. If deregulation is approved, the possibility the Big 12 could return to playing a conference championship game exists even with 10 members. This could potentially silence some of the expansion talks, although not necessarily end it, but more importantly it could provide the Big 12’s biggest playoff contenders one final spotlight game to make a case for the College Football Playoff.
Last year’s co-champions Baylor and TCU could have been omitted from the four-team playoff for a handful of different reasons, but had one had the opportunity to add one more victory over one of the top one-loss teams in the country at the end of the 2014 season the odds are probably pretty good they would have been included in the playoff instead of eventual national champion Ohio State. The Buckeyes snuck into the four-team field with the last spot after dismantling Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten championship game, and College Football Playoff selection committee chairman Jeff Long has suggested a 13th game helped make the decision to include the Buckeyes over a Big 12 co-champion with 12 games. Selection committee member Barry Alvarez echoed that sentiment.