Time to divorce the 60+ “major” college football programs from the rest

Like a couple that should have separated long ago but stayed together for sake of the kids, the marriage of the top 60+ college football programs to the rest of that sport really needs to end.

Get the divorce papers prepared.

The proverbial final straws came today.

First, the committee that chooses the four teams that will play in the national semifinals determined that an undefeated Cincinnati was not worthy of one of the top 6 rankings. Forget being among the top 4, the Bearcats weren’t even among the top 6.

Cincinnati plays in a so-called second tier conference. The American Athletic Conference has some good and some bad teams, but all of them are perceived as not among the elite. Confirmation of that came today, when those top slots in the rankings went to programs from the so-called Power 5 conferences. Four of those six coveted spots went to teams with at least one loss; and in one case, a team had two losses.

This is a Cincinnati team that went 9-0 this season, winning three more games than Ohio State, which was slotted third by the committee and which is part of one of the elite conferences, the Big 10.

That brings us to the second straw.

The Big 10’s “leaders” have abandoned ethics three times in recent months, and all to ensure that one of its schools (yes, Ohio State) had a path to participating in the national championship. Care to gue$$ what the motivation wa$?

Late in the summer, the Big 10’s “leaders” announced their schools would sit out the college football season because of the uncertainties associated with coronavirus. However, roughly one month later, all of that changed: The lust for championship money became too great, and an abbreviated season was cobbled together. At the time, the “leaders” said a team must play six regular season games in order to qualify for the conference’s title game. But once Ohio State could only get in five because coronavirus cancelled various contests, the policy was amended and, touché!, the Buckeyes played for the conference crown. Finally, the Big 10’s “leaders” today — TODAY — changed the rules about how long players on a coronavirus list had to sit out. It had been 21 days. Now it’s 17. That convenient change ensures three of the best Ohio State players will be allowed to play on Jan. 1, when the national semifinals are scheduled.

My, how ethical.

Back to Cincinnati for a minute: The Bearcats’ opponents this season had a winning record. What about some of the other top teams? CBS Sports’ Gary Patterson posted this:

Overall opponent record:

Notre Dame 44-61 (54-62)

Oklahoma 37-44 (45-47)

Cincinnati 42-33

Texas A&M 41-50

Ohio State 21-18

(With repeat opp added)— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) December 20, 2020

The familiar arguments about which teams ought to make it into the championship grouping are reverberating across the land: The best teams ought to make it into that quartet. (The critics will add that Cincinnati’s weaker strength of schedule greatly aided its generously high rankings in previous weeks). What’s become clearer every year is that a second-tier conference program must scale a bar of perfection that teams in the Power 5 conferences don’t.

Let’s end the charade.

I propose merging the top 65 programs (yes, I know, 64 would be idyllic, but good luck booting one of the schools from a current Power 5 conference) into four conferences. They, and they alone, would be involved in the lust, uh, I mean chase, for one championship. This divorce would allow the remaining conferences to schedule their own championship event. At least they’d have the chance to win a national title! They don’t under the current marriage.

Imagine something like this, which involves the dissolution of the Big XII conference (which has only 10 teams, the fewest among the elite leagues):

PAC-16: Current 12 teams plus Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas

BIG 17 (at some point the Big 10 needs to update its math abilities): Current 14 plus Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State

SEC: The current 14 plus Baylor and TCU

ACC: Current 15 (I’m including Notre Dame) plus West Virginia.

Under my plan, the teams are broken up into two divisions of 8 (one of the Big 17’s would be at 9; not perfect but not impossible to make work), with each division winner playing the other for the conference championship.

The four conference winners move on to the national semifinals.

So, imagine the PAC-16 looking like this (the division names aren’t perfect):
COAST: USC, UCLA, California, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State

DESERT: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech

One last point about my plan: These 65 schools would be limited to playing each other; it’s incumbent on the second-tier programs to refuse to schedule contests against these 65 teams. People who know me have likely heard me use the phrase “if you’re good enough to date, you ought to be good enough to marry.” It’s clear the top programs only want to date the second-tier schools; however, at the end of the day, they want to keep the money and the benefits and the perks to themselves.

Let them.

I suspect at some point in the near future the divorce I’m advocating for will happen. Much like one parent or the other throws a gigantic party to celebrate the formal end of the marriage, so too should the so-called second-tier conferences relish their separation from the greedy swine to whom they’ve been attached.

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