There was a point and time that divisions in college sports made sense. That time has passed.
College basketball eliminated divisions when it realized they didn’t make sense in the big picture and caused more harm than they did good for the sport. Football needs to recognize that time has arrived for them to follow suit.
Realignment and conference expansion is the biggest culprit. It’s robbed fans of many of their traditional rivals. It’s caused schedules to be wildly uneven. It’s also made it so a conference foe is less a neighbor and more like somebody you know from the same town. And now it’s clear more harm is being done than good.
12 teams in a conference with divisions always bothered me. With the natural cross division rivals present in the SEC and ACC it created schedules that were always too unbalanced and uneven. Now that 14 teams are present in the ACC, Big Ten, and SEC it just doesn’t make any sense to continue with the division format.
Here are 4 excellent reasons to move on and the advantages that will be created from doing so.
1. By eliminating divisions it frees up scheduling.
Instead of 2 games rotating among the other 6 teams, you can have 2-3 games set in stone while having the other 6-7 games rotate among the other 8-11 teams in the conference. It will allow a player (and fans) to see every team in their league at least once, and probably twice over their 4 years in school.
2. Real rivalries will be kept intact.
There is some fear that teams that have played for 100 years in some cases would stop playing regularly. That can(and should) be avoided. For example in the SEC, Georgia. The Bulldogs need to play Florida and Auburn. Being in the East currently they have to play Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, etc. That isn’t necessary. They are no more rivals with them than they are with Alabama or Ole Miss. So against the 11 other teams they can rotate 6 games per year. Makes sense, right?
For some teams, it may need to be 3 games. Example: Michigan. The Wolverines need to play Ohio State, Michigan State, and Minnesota. The Big Ten will have a 9-game conference schedule soon, so the other 6 games would rotate among the other 10 members. Doesn’t that make more sense than locking them in against Indiana, Maryland, or Rutgers every year?
The leagues may decide some members have 1 rival (think Pac-12 in-state foes), or 2 rivals while others have 3, which is fine. Or they may decide to make it the higher number for everyone (some teams have no rivals because they are new to a league). Either way, it’s better to lock in less permanent games so the conference foes actually are just that instead of a team you may not play your entire college career.
3. Conference title games will have more meaning, not less.
Although conference title games are often unnecessary and sometimes problematic, they are moneymakers that aren’t going away. So a conference just would match-up the top two teams in the conference. We often have complained the best two, and sometimes 3, teams are in the same division. Now? No problem. Tiebreakers would simply be head-2-head and then common opponents. Stanford could play Oregon. Alabama could play LSU. FSU could play Clemson. You get the idea. We are guaranteed better title games. That also would help the selection committee consolidate their field of 4 for the college football playoff because most every conference title game would serve as some sort of elimination game.
4. Competitive balance.
As I touched on above, it would eradicate uneven schedules due to an imbalance within the divisions. Schedules will always be different and unequal, that is unavoidable, but at least it would be more randomized on a year to year basis. We’d also avoid situations like what we have seen with an 11-1 team playing a 6-6 team for a conference title. Geography wouldn’t be a factor any longer in your schedule being easier or tougher than a conference foe.
The ideas of having divisions or a certain number of teams to hold a conference title game or playing 6 set games each season are outdated. There is no good reason that football should carry on with any of these things.