How To Fix College Football

Sean Glennon (en) under center as the Virginia...
Sean Glennon (en) under center as the Virginia Tech Hokies take on the Boston College Eagles in the 2007 ACC championship game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These days, American College football is big business. Conferences receive millions in TV contracts and bonuses when teams go to bowl games. Over the years, the length of the regular season has grown from 11 to 13 games. Add in a conference championship, a major bowl, and the plus 1 game, a team can easily play 16 games on their way to a National title.

Playing 16 games at the collegiate level is just plan crazy. After all, the players are supposed to be students first and athletes second. Many schools and conferences seem to have forgotten that aspect of college. It should be about education, not a money train.

More than 10 years ago in the middle years of the BCS, I was working on a project at LexisNexis. Many of my fellow developers didn’t go to football schools as I had and didn’t really know college football. I explained the BCS concepts and we started to discuss ways to make it better. Several ideas came to the forefront:

  • Any conference champion should have the opportunity to win
  • Settle it on the field. No poll monkey business.
  • Regular season should be no more than 11 games.

Any Conference? What?

Though it is true the major conferences tend to be tougher than the rest, that is no reason a lower conference champion shouldn’t have a chance. Both Utah and Boise State have shown the ability to be BCS busters. With the switch to a one game playoff, now it makes more sense to allow other conferences to have a chance.

Given the number of conferences, though, it can easily be argued allowing all of them to participate may make the playoffs too long. Top 8 conference winners then. Don’t win your conference, don’t get in.

Field: yes. Sports writers: no.

The college football championship originally arose when sports writers wanted to crown one. There was no mechanism to have conferences play one another and it took many years for one to come about.

Formed in 1992, the Bowl Coalition didn’t have the Big Ten or the Pac -10 conferences as they were contractually obligated to the Rose Bowl. The ACC, Big 8, and SEC each had one champion and the Coalition lasted through the 1994 season.

The next attempt at a 1 verses 2 game was the Bowl Alliance. Starting in 1995, it didn’t include the Big Ten, saw the Southwest Conference disband, and the formation of the Big 12 conference. The final season was in 1997 and saw a split champion as Nebraska won the title game and undefeated Michigan won the Rose Bowl.

The more successful program for a championship game was the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and it lasted through the 2013 season. Over those years, it saw the SEC come to dominate and the controversy over which team was the true #2 never ceased. Grumblings and groanings for a true playoff started and the initial compromise is the Plus 1 game.

Writers will not be deciding the champion again.

Too many games

The regular season has grown to be far too long. Starting earlier every few years and no longer ending on New Year’s Day, the long time traditional final bowl game day, teams play 13 games just to get to the conference championship game or a bowl. When Tennessee won the first BCS title, they played 13 games for the whole season, including an SEC championship game. Now that’s nothing.

The seasons are too long. Schools petitioned the NCAA to first expand to 12 and then 13 games in the regular season to ensure more teams were bowl eligible with 6 wins. What was once reserved for the better teams, now a team with a losing record can make a bowl game. Seems rather counter to the intention of bowls. Return to the old ways and send losing teams home.