College Football Should Reject ACC’s Deregulation Proposal

BCS Trophy

According to a report from Dennis Dodds of CBS Sports,  the ACC has submitted a proposal that would deregulate conference championship games.

College football’s decision makers should reject this legislation immediately. While well intentioned, relaxing the rules governing conference championship games will do more harm than good.

On its surface, the ACC’s recommendation seems like a good idea. If this plan were adopted, a league would have the freedom to crown a champion in any way it sees fit. Conferences would no longer need a minimum of twelve members to play a championship game, nor would they be obligated to split into two divisions. By removing the divisional champs only requirement, it’s much easier to ensure that the best two teams in the league meet on the gridiron for the honor of hoisting the conference championship trophy.

In other words, Championship Saturday would feature more top 10 matchups than ever before. It would also eliminate the possibility of a 6-6 team winning a league title.

Who wouldn’t be in favor of that?

With that said, I don’t like this proposal. If passed, this deregulation would lessen the quality of the regular season.

It saddens me to say it, but that’s exactly what would happen. With just only four spots available in the College Football Playoff, conferences will start using a seeding system when creating the league schedule. Since divisions wouldn’t exist anymore, there would be nothing to stop the schedule makers from keeping the top teams away from one another during the regular season. By avoiding dangerous matchups as often as possible, the leagues can place themselves in position to land two teams in the bracket – regardless of what happens in the conference championship game.

While this approach will generate more money, it will ultimately result in teams playing a weaker slate every year. After all, how could a league have three or four teams in contention for a playoff berth if these squads all hang losses on one another during the regular season?

It couldn’t. That’s why if this legislation goes into effect, the conferences will have no choice but to water down the docket. As a result, college football fans will see fewer Iron Bowls, and more Florida State – Wake Forest tilts.

No one wins in that situation.

Even if the league commissioners chose to stick with a competitive schedule and/or divisional format, deregulating the conference championship games could still compromise the integrity of the regular season.

For example, if the Big 12 were allowed to play a title game, it would always be a rematch since the league uses a round robin format. Allowing this to happen completely invalidates the first meeting, as only the winner of the second contest would capture the all-important conference championship.

The madness doesn’t stop there. If the NCAA permitted each league to choose the two participants for the championship game, there’d be nothing to stop them from choosing two teams from the same division, which would negate the result of the previous meeting.

Although letting the conferences decide who plays for the title would usually result in more competitive games, it could also produce its share of controversy. Consider the case of the SEC last year, where Auburn, Missouri, and Alabama each finished with one loss. The league could have chosen to pit Alabama (one second away from an unbeaten season) against Missouri in the conference title game, essentially guaranteeing Auburn a berth in the playoffs.

But it would have deprived the Tigers of an opportunity to win the league championship.

On the other hand, the SEC could have opted for an Iron Bowl rematch since the Crimson Tide and Tigers were the two highest ranked teams. Had this matchup produced another nail-biting finish, it could have knocked Missouri out of the national championship picture, even though Gary Pinkel’s squad won one of the toughest divisions in college football.

Or more frighteningly, a tight Alabama – Auburn rematch could have given the SEC three teams in the bracket. Since Missouri would have finished the season with just one loss, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the Selection Committee would take the Tigers over Michigan State. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a more qualified one-loss team missed out on an opportunity to play for the all the marbles (see: 2011).

Does the ACC really want to endorse a system that would give its most heated rival the type of power to create the above scenario?

Of course not!

As the paragraphs above demonstrate, college football’s governing body needs to reject the ACC’s proposal to deregulate conference championship games. Sure, it might produce more competitive league title games, but it will do so at the expense of the regular season, while empowering conferences to manipulate the playoff system.

That’s hardly an upgrade over the now-defunct BCS system.

Terry Johnson is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. Follow him on TwitterFacebook, and/or Google+.