Mike Lantry, 1972
In honor of SB Nation’s Relegation Week, I thought I would take a deep dive into the world of potential scenarios. Jason Kirk did an outstanding job, but if you are going to blow the whole system up, blow it up all the way. I tossed conference affiliations out the window and created a consistent structure throughout all of college football. 733 teams, five conferences and twelve levels.
Each conference within each level has 14 teams. Two divisions of seven teams each. The season consists of the following:
- 1 Non-counting pre-season game
- 3 Non-conference games with a maximum of one game from a team of a lower level
- 6 Games against division opponents
- 3 Games against teams from the opposite division
- 1 Conference Championship Game, with home site determined by inter-conference record, team from the best division hosts, even if their record is worse
Playoff: An eight team playoff (at the Rose Bowl homesites, of course) featuring the five Conference Champs and three at-large selections with at most one from each league, with no priority seeding for Conference Champs.
Relegation: Teams finishing seventh in their division play a Thursday night game prior to the Conference Championship with the loser relegated and the winner is safe for another week. If an at-large team is selected for the playoffs from the same conference in one division lower, the worst sixth place team plays the winner from the seventh place game on Thursday before the playoffs. Winner is firmly safe for another year and the loser spends the next season in the lower division.
The five surviving conferences are the same as Jason’s, the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC. Each conference has a footprint that is consistent across all of the levels.
Current conference footprint minus Nebraska, Iowa and Pennsylvania. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio.
Current conference footprint minus Louisiana and Arkansas. Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina. For the lower levels, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia are included.
Start at Texas and Louisiana and take everything north from there, except Minnesota. Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota.
Everything including and west of the Rockies. New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.
Everything else. East of Ohio and from North Carolina up the coast. North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia are only in for current FBS teams.
Conference championship games
Big Ten: Wisconsin vs Michigan St in East Lansing
SEC: Georgia vs Alabama in Tuscaloosa
Big 12: Oklahoma St vs LSU in Baton Rouge
Pac 12: Stanford vs Oregon in Eugene
ACC: Penn St vs Virginia Tech in Blacksburg
Hypothetical playoff bracket
1. Alabama-SEC Champs
2. LSU-Big 12 Champs
3. Oklahoma St-At large #1
4. Oregon-Pac-12 Champs
5. Wisconsin-Big Ten Champs
6. Stanford-At large #2
7. Georgia-At large #3
8. Virginia Tech-ACC Champs
Big Ten: Ohio enters as Level 2 champs, Minnesota and Indiana play for the right to stay in level 1.
SEC: UCF and Southern Miss both earn Level 2 playoff berths so Georgia Tech and Louisville play for the spot out, and the winner plays Auburn for the second relegation position.
Big 12: Houston is in from Level 2 along with Tulsa while Iowa St and Texas Tech battle for the first spot and the winner will take on Iowa for the second.
Pac-12: Oregon St and Colorado are first on the block, with the winner facing Washington St for the right to stay in Level 1 while Nevada and Air Force are in the Level 2 playoffs.
ACC: Temple is in for the next season while Maryland and Duke play for the right to stay in the top level of the ACC.
The relegation system is a bit messy but I wanted to give each team a chance to play their way out of it, ensuring maximum drama. Even the worst team can survive a relegation by winning one or two relegation games. All playoff teams from the lower levels get promoted and only the three worst teams from a League at each level can be demoted, but everyone one of them has an opportunity to survive on the end.
The Pros and Cons
Obviously this is never happening, but the drama of weeknight relegation games leading into conference championship and playoff games would be great. There is a consistent footprint, a consistent league structure, and consistent rules all through the depths of college football. New programs adding football can earn their way up the ladder if they want to invest like the big boys. Traditionally terrible football schools like Duke have to earn their place at the big boys table instead of getting to coast on other programs, all while staying under their conference umbrella. I could see level-specific scholarship levels disappearing. If you want to compete like the big schools go ahead and offer 85 and see how far you can get. If you want to be cheap and control costs you can forgo scholarships and see how well you fare. Ultimately each team is playing against teams that are historically similar producers. Travel, especially at the lower levels, shouldn’t be a significant issue and for some teams might be less than today. Because of the footprint restrictions and the division structure, travel should be manageable.
Rivalries could certainly be impacted but non-conference scheduling would allow series to continue, even if teams were in opposing levels. Divisions would likely be based on geography at the lower levels and competitive balance at the top. If one team really diverged from its historic level it would be difficult to maintain rivalries but the option is always there for at least the main rival.
[After the jump: conference breakdowns in the new world.]