There is a simple solution to the consternation surrounding college football scheduling in the wake of recent expansion and solidification of the five NCAA super conferences: Go to a 16-game regular season.
Before you cry “preposterous!” to that proposal, first consider the future direction of the NCAA in general, and college football in particular. Paying athletes is around the corner. The super conferences soon will have seized control of the NCAA. Television networks will continue to seek revenue streams, and there is no better river of money than more college football games to satisfy their programming needs.
In other words, NCAA football gradually is moving to a pro sports model. A 16-game regular season would generate millions of dollars in additional gate revenue for all of the 62 programs in the super five conferences. Television executives would do cartwheels in their offices, and tote larger bags of cash to the bank with the additional games. And, on a smaller level, scheduling problems would be solved.
With a 16-game regular season, SEC and ACC teams could play one regular-season game against each of its 13 conference brethren. Thus, a true and fair champion would be determined in each division.
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The expanded schedule would pose problems for the Big Ten and Pacific-12 conferences, which field 12 programs each, and the Big 12, which has 10. In all likelihood, though, it would force those conferences to expand to the more-desired 14 members.
The 16-game schedule also would allow each football program to play three non-conference games, thus meaning South Carolina could continue its in-state rivalry with Clemson of the ACC. Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Kentucky-Louisville also would be protected, and perhaps Missouri would renew its discontinued rivalry with Kansas, and Texas A&M with Texas.
You might ask, what is wrong with the current system that includes 12 regular-season games, including eight within the conference? Well, the SEC decided over the weekend to continue with an eight-game conference schedule for the foreseeable future. Those eight games include six opponents within each team’s division, one permanent opponent in the other division and one opposite-division opponent that rotates.
Naturally, with 14 member programs, not everyone is happy with the schedule format.
“The rotation of opponents can only be the fair and right way,” LSU coach Les Miles said Wednesday on an SEC teleconference. “It gives everybody the opportunity to see an entire schedule, the entire conference in four years. It removes an annual inequity of scheduling.”
Miles and his athletics director, Joe Alleva, were the most vocal critics of what is called a 6-1-1 system. They pointed out that LSU has played traditional SEC East powerhouses Florida and Georgia 19 times since 2000, while Alabama has played those two Eastern Division opponents eight times during the same period.
“There is no perfect answer to please everybody,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said.
Well, actually, there is, and that would be a 16-game schedule.
The regular season begins in late August for some teams. The start date could be pushed to mid-August and run through the middle of December. That would allow for a conference championship game, and two rounds of the NCAA tournament that will be held for the first time following the upcoming season.
Not that anyone much cares about academics, but this schedule would keep the season within the framework of one academic semester.
Yes, playing 16 games would be radical. Yet the NCAA is on the verge of drastic change to the way it operates. One of those changes will soon include paying athletes a stipend. The governing body of college sports likes to disguise the payments under the heading of an “increase in the cost of attendance,” but do not be fooled. Athletes will be paid.
The NCAA also soon will allow the five super conferences to operate in their own universe, thus making decisions that most benefit those member programs only. The power has shifted from university presidents to TV networks, followed by the five super conference commissioners, then those conferences’ 62 head football coaches.
Paying athletes, five super conferences ruling the NCAA, even more TV dollars down the road. It all adds up to a professional sports model where a 16-game regular season would work just fine, thank you.