Even More College Football Relegation

Submitted by The Mathlete on May 21st, 2012 at 1:26 PM

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.

Big Ten
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.

Big 12
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.

Hypothetical post-season

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.]

The Big Board

Here are the teams that comprise each Conference and each level. For now current levels are protected, so the top teams from FCS are still behind the bottom teams from FBS and so on for each level. D3 and NAIA are considered equivalent and I used these ratings to rank everything below FBS. BCS conference schools were protected wherever possible. There obviously isn’t perfect balance but I think it’s pretty close considering the complexity quantity of teams and need to balance both the top and the bottom. The Pac-12 doesn’t have enough teams to fill out their entire 12 divisions. Based on historical trends, Pac-12 Level 4 would compete with the other Level 6s, Level 5 with the 7s, and level 6 with the 10s. The other four Conferences all have between 158 and 173 teams while maintaining a consistent footprint.

Level Big Ten SEC Big 12 Pac-12 ACC
1 Cincinnati Alabama Arkansas Arizona Boston College
1 Illinois Auburn Baylor Arizona St Duke
1 Indiana Clemson Iowa Boise St Maryland
1 Michigan Florida Iowa St BYU N Carolina
1 Michigan St Florida St Kansas St Cal NC St
1 Minnesota Georgia LSU Colorado Penn St
1 N Illinois Georgia Tech Missouri Oregon Pittsburgh
1 Northwestern Louisville Nebraska Oregon St Rutgers
1 Notre Dame Miami (FL) Oklahoma Stanford Syracuse
1 Ohio St Mississippi St Oklahoma St UCLA UConn
1 Purdue S Carolina TCU USC Virginia
1 Toledo S Florida Texas Utah Virginia Tech
1 W Michigan Tennessee Texas A&M Washington W Virginia
1 Wisconsin Vanderbilt Texas Tech Washington St Wake Forest
2 Akron Chattanooga Arkansas St Air Force Army
2 Ball St Florida Atl Houston Colorado St Buffalo
2 Bowling Green Florida Int Kansas Fresno St Delaware
2 C Michigan Georgia Southern Louisiana Laf Hawaii E Carolina
2 E Illinois Kentucky Louisiana Mon Idaho Harvard
2 E Michigan M Tennessee Louisiana Tech Montana Lehigh
2 Illinois St Memphis N Texas Nevada Maine
2 Indiana St Mississippi Rice New Mexico Marshall
2 Kent St S Alabama SMU New Mexico St Massachusetts
2 Miami (OH) Southern Miss Texas St San Diego St Navy
2 Ohio Troy Tulane San Jose St New Hampshire
2 S Illinois UAB Tulsa UNLV Stony Brook
2 W Illinois UCF UTEP Utah St Temple
2 Youngstown St W Kentucky UTSA Wyoming Towson
3 Ashland Appalachian St C Arkansas Cal Poly Albany
3 Butler Bethune-Cookman Drake CSU-Pueblo Brown
3 Dayton Citadel Grambling St E Washington Bucknell
3 Grand Valley E Kentucky McNeese St Humboldt St Colgate
3 Hillsdale Furman Missouri St Idaho St Cornell
3 Indianapolis Jacksonville St N Dakota Montana St Dartmouth
3 Michigan Tech James Madison N Dakota St N Arizona Duquesne
3 Minnesota Duluth Liberty N Iowa N Colorado Georgetown
3 Minnesota St Murray St Northwestern St Portland St Holy Cross
3 Saginaw Valley Old Dominion S Dakota S Utah Lafayette
3 St Cloud Samford S Dakota St Sacramento St Pennsylvania
3 Valparaiso Tennessee Tech Sam Houston St San Diego Rhode Island
3 Wayne St (MI) Tennessee-Martin SE Louisiana UC Davis Villanova
3 Winona St Wofford Stephen F Austin Weber St Yale
4 Bemidji St Alabama St Arkansas-Pine Bluff Adams St Bryant
4 Concordia-St Paul Coastal Carolina Lamar Azusa Pacific C Connecticut St
4 Ferris St Elon Midwestern St C Washington Columbia
4 Findlay Florida A&M Missouri Western Carroll (MT) Delaware St
4 Lake Erie Georgia St Nebraska-Kearney Colorado Mesa Fordham
4 McKendree Hampton Nicholls St Colorado Mines Howard
4 MSU Moorhead Jackson St NW Missouri Dixie St Marist
4 N Michigan Jacksonville Pittsburg St E New Mexico Monmouth (NJ)
4 Northwood Norfolk St Prairie View A&M Ft Lewis Morgan St
4 Notre Dame College Presbyterian SE Missouri St NM Highlands Princeton
4 Ohio Dominican Richmond Southern Simon Fraser Robert Morris (PA)
4 SW Minnesota South Carolina St Texas Southern W New Mexico Sacred Heart
4 Urbana Tennessee St W Texas A&M W Oregon St Francis (PA)
4 Walsh William & Mary Washburn Western St Wagner
5 Alma Alabama A&M Abilene Christian Cal Lutheran Bentley
5 Central St Alcorn St Angelo St E Oregon Bloomsburg
5 Malone Austin Peay Augustana (SD) Lewis and Clark California
5 Marian Campbell C Missouri Linfield Edinboro
5 Minnesota-Crookston Charleston Southern Chadron St Menlo IUP
5 Mt Union Davidson Emporia St Montana St-Northern Kutztown
5 N Central Gardner-Webb Lindenwood Montana Tech LIU Post
5 Quincy Mississippi Valley St Mary Montana Western Mercyhurst
5 St Joseph's Morehead St Missouri Southern Pacific Lutheran Merrimack
5 St Thomas North Carolina A&T Northeastern St Redlands New Haven
5 St Xavier North Carolina Central Sioux Falls Rocky Mountain S Connecticut
5 Tiffin Savannah St Tarleton St S Oregon Shippensburg
5 UW-Oshkosh Virginia Military Institute Texas A&M-Kingsville Whitworth Slippery Rock
5 UW-Whitewater W Carolina Wayne St (NE) Willamette W Chester
6 Baldwin-Wallace Carson-Newman Arkansas Tech Chapman American Intl
6 Bethel (MN) Delta St Arkansas-Monticello Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Assumption
6 Elmhurst Elizabeth City C Oklahoma La Verne Bowie St
6 Franklin Lenoir-Rhyne East Central Occidental Cheyney
6 Illinois Wesleyan Mars Hill Ft Hays Pacific Clarion
6 Monmouth (IL) Morehouse Harding Pomona-Pitzer E Stroudsburg
6 St Francis (IL) N Alabama Henderson St Puget Sound Gannon
6 St Francis (IN) N Greenville Missouri A&T Whittier Lincoln (PA)
6 UW-Eau Claire Shepherd Northern St   Lock Haven
6 UW-La Crosse UNC Pembroke Ouachita Baptist   Millersville
6 UW-Platteville Valdosta St SE Oklahoma   Pace
6 UW-Stevens Point W Alabama SW Baptist   Seton Hill
6 Wabash Winston-Salem Texas A&M-Commerce   St Anselm
6 Wheaton WV Wesleyan Truman St   Stonehill
7 Adrian Albany St Black Hills   Amherst
7 Albion Brevard Incarnate Word   Bates
7 Augustana Concord Lincoln (MO)   Bowdoin
7 Carthage Fairmont St Mary Hardin-Baylor   Colby
7 Concordia-Moorhead Ft Valley McMurry   Cortland St
7 Heidelberg Glenville St Minot St   Delaware Valley
7 Millikin Miles Missouri Valley   Johns Hopkins
7 St John's Newberry Morningside   Middlebury
7 St Norbert Shaw Panhandle St   Salisbury
7 St Olaf St Augustine's S Dakota Mines   Trinity (CT)
7 Taylor Tusculum Southern Arkansas   Wesley
7 UW-River Falls Tuskegee SW Oklahoma   Wesleyan
7 UW-Stout W Georgia Upper Iowa   Widener
7 Wittenberg Wingate William Jewell   Williams
8 Augsburg Benedict Benedictine (KS)   Albright
8 Carroll (WI) Catawba Central   Buffalo St
8 Case Western Reserve Charleston Dakota Wesleyan   Hamilton
8 Concordia (IL) Chowan Doane   Hobart
8 Gustavus Adolphus Clark Atlanta Dubuque   Kean
8 Hanover Fayetteville St Grand View   Lebanon Valley
8 Hope Johnson C Smith Hardin-Simmons   Lycoming
8 Illinois College Kentucky St Louisiana College   Montclair St
8 John Carroll Lane Mid America Nazarene   Rowan
8 Muskingum Stillman Northwestern (IA)   St John Fisher
8 Ohio Northern Virginia St Ottawa   TCNJ
8 Olivet Nazarene Virginia Union St Ambrose   Tufts
8 Ripon W Liberty Trinity (TX)   Washington and Jefferson
8 Trine WV St William Penn   Waynesburg
9 Capital Bethel (TN) Bacone   Alfred
9 Carleton Birmingham-Southern Baker   Brockport St
9 Chicago Centre C Methodist   Carnegie Mellon
9 Concordia (WI) Cumberland Coe   Endicott
9 Denison Cumberlands Dickinson St   Frostburg St
9 DePauw Georgetown (KY) E Texas Baptist   Ithaca
9 Kalamazoo Hampden-Sydney Hastings   Muhlenberg
9 Lake Forest Huntingdon Langston   Rochester
9 Mt St Joseph Kentucky Wesleyan Midland   Salve Regina
9 N Park Livingstone Nebraska Wesleyan   Springfield
9 Oberlin Randolph-Macon NW Oklahoma   St Vincent
9 Otterbein Shorter Southern Nazarene   Union (NY)
9 St Scholastica Thomas More Valley City St   Ursinus
9 Wooster Washington and Lee Wartburg   W New England
10 Aurora Belhaven Bethany (KS)   Allegheny
10 Beloit Bethany (WV) Buena Vista   Bridgewater St
10 Benedictine (IL) Bridgewater (VA) Concordia (NE)   Framingham St
10 Bluffton Campbellsville Friends   Franklin and Marshall
10 Knox Christopher Newport Iowa Wesleyan   Geneva
10 Lakeland Concordia (AL) Jamestown   Gettysburg
10 Macalester Emory and Henry Luther   Grove City
10 Manchester Ferrum McPherson   Hartwick
10 Marietta Lindsey Wilson Simpson   Morrisville St
10 Ohio Wesleyan Mississippi College St Mary   Susquehanna
10 Robert Morris (IL) Sewanee Sterling   Utica
10 Rose-Hulman Union (KY) SW Assemblies of God   Westminster (PA)
10 Trinity International Virginia Wise Texas Lutheran   Wilkes
10 Wisconsin Lutheran Webber Intl Washington U.   William Paterson
11 Anderson Averett Austin   Catholic
11 Concordia (MI) Edward Waters Avila   Coast Guard
11 Defiance Faulkner Briar Cliff   Dickinson
11 Earlham Kentucky Christian Dordt   Massachusetts Maritime
11 Greenville LaGrange Evangel   McDaniel
11 Hamline Maryville (TN) Grinnell   Merchant Marine
11 Hiram Methodist Howard Payne   Mt Ida
11 Kenyon Millsaps Kansas Wesleyan   Norwich
11 Lawrence North Carolina Wesleyan Loras   RPI
11 Minnesota-Morris Pikeville Mayville   St Lawrence
11 Northwestern (MN) Rhodes Peru St   SUNY-Maritime
11 Olivet S Virginia Southwestern   Westfield St
11 Rockford Shenandoah Sul Ross St   Worcester St
11 Wilmington W Virginia Tech Tabor   WPI
12 Crown Apprentice Bethel (KS)   Anna Maria
12 Eureka Ave Maria Cornell (IA)   Becker
12 MacMurray Greensboro Culver-Stockton   Castleton St
12 Maranatha Baptist Guilford Dakota St   Curry
12 Martin Luther   Graceland   FDU-Florham
12     Haskell   Fitchburg St
12     Presentation   Gallaudet
12     Texas College   Husson
12     Trinity Bible   Juniata
12     Waldorf   King's
12     Westminster (MO)   Maine Maritime
12         Mass-Dartmouth
12         MIT
12         Moravian
12         Nichols
12         Plymouth St
12         Stevenson
12         Thiel
12         W Connecticut



May 21st, 2012 at 1:59 PM ^

This is really just another "Let's make an American Sport more like English Football" discussion. In mid-May I think that's a fine idea.

I like this concept more for what it does to the lower divisions than for the Big Boys.


May 21st, 2012 at 2:05 PM ^

I'm hardly a "futbol" fan but as a casual observer, the crazyness associated with this years championships (Chelsea knocking Tottenham out etc.), I say lets go for it! Again, a bloggers proposal makes much more sense than the aholes that run this show.


May 21st, 2012 at 2:29 PM ^

I always see this idea discussed as "relegation," but don't forget there are two sides to this coin. I saw the end of the West Ham United* vs. Blackpool (?) game this weekend and the West Ham fans were going nuts because they were going to be promoted back to the Premier league.

* Shouldn't they just be called, "Ham United," because if they are truly United, there would be no need to make the East/West distinction.


May 21st, 2012 at 2:34 PM ^

This is interesting, but I'mconfused about what you mean when you say "division" a few times (whether you mean conference division or division as it is used by the ncaa now: div I, II, III; which I believe you referred to as "level" at the beginning. )

" 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..."

That means same conference but one level lower? And this would mean the losers from those 2 games are being replaced by the level 2 conference champ and its at-large friend?

Sorry if I seem slow here, I'm really not familiar with relegation.

Shop Smart Sho…

May 22nd, 2012 at 6:43 PM ^

I don't quite understand how you placed the teams.  What I mean is that Wabash and DePauw are in different levels inside the Big Ten.  They are both Div III teams.  Only reason I know this is because three of my friends in high school went there, and the Monon Bell game is a REALLY big deal to them.


May 21st, 2012 at 2:52 PM ^

Can we take the top two finishers in each of the five conferences and create a 'Champions' League' of sorts?  I know the time/scheduling concerns would preclude this from happening, but as this is an exercise in off-season hopeful imagination, let's add that to the list.


May 21st, 2012 at 3:09 PM ^

This might even give someone a reason to cheer for a directional school..."We're moving on up!"

I love it!  It will never happen.  There is nothing that big educational instutions like less than actual accountablity for their results.


May 21st, 2012 at 3:18 PM ^

As if ESPN and the SEC don't ride the B1G as being a weak conference already. Please no... Four mid-majors for the B1G, two for the SEC, zero for the Big12, one for the Pac12, and zero for the ACC.

At least leave the state of Iowa in the B1G region to maintain some continuity and even out the seriously lacking 12th division (albeit, not as laughingly deficient as the Pac12 only fielding six divisions).


May 21st, 2012 at 3:19 PM ^

This is good on a whole bunch of levels.  If done across every sport, it might allow a small school like Calvin (btw, I did not see them on your list...no football program but they were D-III National Champs in basketball in the 90's) to compete in sports they are good at and focus there resources to be world class in niche sports like say hockey or rowing or swimming or fencing or track or distance running or volleyball or soccer or whatever.  It would allow you to pitch your school to top athletes and garner the exposure of competing against larger institutions.


May 21st, 2012 at 3:31 PM ^

Doesn't seem like relegation/promotion is appropriate for college.  Players are on the field for a maximum of 4, but more likely about 2, years.  A senior dominated team could easily perform well and get promoted, only to be a laughing stock the following year when all the seniors are gone and they are playing stiffer competition. 

Not to mention the impact of one star player.  Think about Dan LeFevour at CMU.  He would have gotten CMU up to Level 1.  After he left, they were 3-9 (in 2010) against MAC competition - who knows what would have happened against the more traditional B1G.

Can't promote a team when they are forbidden from returning their star players.


May 21st, 2012 at 4:37 PM ^

(1) If he gets them up to level 1 and they have an 0-12 season then they fall back to level 2 after increased exposure, helping them recruit more in the future.

(2) If they move up to level 1 and have a 3-9 season but someone has a 2-10 season, then they get to stay in the elevated level for another year.

(3) If they didn't move up to level 1 and have a 3-9 season, then there is a chance that they get relegated to level 3. They can move back up to level 2 the following year.


May 21st, 2012 at 8:17 PM ^

I think that would make coaches focus more on recruiting players they know would stick around. It would prevent a Kentucky-esque basketball situtaion where Calipari recruit five kids that win him the title and they all leave...

Coaches would have to encourage the children to stay in school longer, thus more houses of learn-ed doctors, as Dale Dobeck would say.


May 21st, 2012 at 4:39 PM ^

In 2008, Indiana gets releated. In 2009, without Indiana for it's sole win and to fall behind Michigan in the standings, Michigan gets relegated. In 2010, Denard happens, Michigan wins all of their games and gets elevated to level 1 again. If RR didn't get fired after year 2, he'd still be on after year 3.


May 21st, 2012 at 7:22 PM ^

I don't think Rodriguez could possibly make it through Year 2 and relegation.  That could have been the first time in history that we would have been demoted out of the top-tier level and I don't think any coach would have survived that - think of the pain that came with snapping the bowl streak multiplied by 25.


May 21st, 2012 at 9:02 PM ^

As always, genius from the Mathlete.  As a native Missourian, the best part is seeing Kansas in level 2.  A minor, picky point: Big 12 level 6 has Missouri A&T which should be Missouri S&T.


May 22nd, 2012 at 8:04 AM ^

Finally, tailgating at The Grove at Ole Miss will become more accessible for those of us from the states that fought on the "other side" in the "War of Northern Aggression." Maybe Mississippi State will ask that the season-ending "rivalry game" will be renamed the "Scrambled Egg Bowl."

So much for the Mannings' tailgating tent and that cheer in The Grove:

Hotty Toddy, Gosh almighty
Who the hell are we, Hey!
Flim Flam, Bim Bam

Archie and Eli will not be happy with this development.


May 22nd, 2012 at 8:05 AM ^

I love the effort here by the mathlete, just incredible. To slot all these schools into divisions, this must have taken a day or two to do all this work.

In terms of the actual proposal, well, we know it will never happen. A relegation and promotion system implicitly assumes that every team has winning as a #1 prority. With college sports, you have all sorts of competing priorities, especially for teams outside of DI BCS.




June 22nd, 2012 at 12:26 PM ^

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