Conferences may have more flexibility to host and determine the participants for conference championship games after the 2015 season.
According to a report by CBS Sports, legislation is expected to pass that would relax the rules currently in place for football title games, namely the requirement that a conference must have 12 teams to host one.
The Big 12 and ACC are pushing the relaxation of the rule. From CBS:
“I think there’s some belief that ACC would play three divisions, have two highest ranked play in postseason,” said Bob Bowlsby, chairman of the new NCAA Football Oversight Committee. “Really, nobody cares how you determine your champion. It should be a conference-level decision.
“But because the ACC has persisted in saying, ‘We’re not sure what we’ll do,’ there’s probably a little bit of a shadow over it. In the end, I don’t think it’ll be able to hold it up. We’ll probably have it in place for ‘16.”
To go into effect, the rule would need to go through the oversight committee before it’s voted on by the NCAA council. The oversight committees are a new introduction into the governance of college athletics.
Bowlsby is the commissioner of the Big 12, which currently has 10 teams and is barred from hosting a title game. However, since the conference has each team play a nine-game schedule, every team plays each other once during the course of the season.
The league’s co-champions, Baylor and TCU, didn’t qualify for the College Football Playoff in 2014. While both were winning the same day Ohio State blew out Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, the Buckeyes’ win was in the team’s 13th game of the season. Baylor and TCU only played 12 because of the lack of a Big 12 title game.
At 14 teams, a hypothetical three-division ACC would have an uneven number of teams. Adding Notre Dame – the Irish have an affiliation with the ACC – to a division would give the ACC three divisions of five. But it is a longshot to expect Notre Dame to forfeit independent status.
In the 10-year history of the ACC, only once has the conference’s title game not featured two ranked teams. The game in 2012 was Florida State against an unranked Georgia Tech team who was at the game because Miami had declared itself ineligible for postseason play and North Carolina was serving a bowl ban. However, Clemson and FSU, the league’s two football powers in recent history, are in the same division.
There is no indication that either conference would immediately make the move to change championship structures when and if relaxation of the title game rules is official. A spokesperson for the ACC said “It’s the ability for conferences to make their own decisions.” But the ACC and its teams have shown they’re already willing to be creative. North Carolina and Wake Forest are playing each other in non-conference games in 2019 and 2021.
It’s also hard to blame both conferences for wanting to have all options open to them as the Playoff proceeds. While the Big 12 was left out entirely in the first year, undefeated Florida State dropped as far down as No. 4 before entering the Playoff as the No. 3 seed behind two one-loss teams. Another couple years of perceived unfair treatment may make the conferences very reactive.
And while the focus of the rules changes are on the Power Five conferences, it’s a move that could help the Sun Belt as well. The conference is the only other FBS conference besides the Big 12 that won’t have a title game in 2015 and it can add some extra revenue in the form of a championship without finding a 12th team if it’s allowed to host one.
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