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NCAA Football:  The Day College Football Changed Forever       Share

11 June 2010

Today is the day that changed college football as we know it.  Its so significant that every major sports news outlet will run a story about it.  It is so important, I’m not even commenting on the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks won Hockey’s Championship – the Stanly Cup.  “It” involves the move of the University of Colorado Buffalos from the Big 12 conference to the Pac 10 Conference. Before I get to the details, I have some explaining to do, so hold on.
American Intercollegiate athletics are governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).  If your college wants to play sports, they belong to the NCAA, which sets rules, punishes violators, and organizes athletics on a national scale.  The NCAA divides its schools into Divisions, I, II, and III.  These are further subdivided, but what you need to know is that most of what you see on TV is Division I-A (reserved for the biggest schools) and is now known as the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS - so named because these teams are part of the Bowl System – the post season games).  All FBS schools except three – Notre Dame, Army, and Navy are part of a Conference.  A conference is a quasi-geographic grouping of FBS schools.  There are 12 such conferences with between 9 and 12 teams per conference.  Six of them are considered the “major” conferences – the Big 12, ACC, Big East, SEC, Big 10, and Pac 10 – because they contain the traditional football powerhouses. 
Today, one domino fell and changed everything.  Colorado University left the Big 12 conference for the Pac 10.  Don’t let anybody tell you differently, they are leaving for money.  They are being offered more money from TV contracts and other monies per year then they are currently getting.  Although not yet confirmed, it is all but a certainty as I write this Thursday night; Nebraska is going to the Big 10.  So begins the disintegration of the Big 12.  If Nebraska bolts, as they likely will, six other teams from the Big 12 will also join the Pac 10, creating a super conference of 16 teams.  The remaining four teams in the Big 12 are left holding the bag and will have to beg to join another conference. 

Why does this even matter?  Its huge because the method by which major college football (FBS teams) choose their national champion, called the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is based on the premise of six major conferences and does not account for a super conference of 16 teams, with the potential to have 4 teams at any time competitive for a national championship.  The system will have to change.  The huge money that each college will now bring in as a part of this super conference will allow them to pull away from teams in the “smaller” conferences.  Huge incentives will exist for the other five remaining conferences to gobble up teams to create their own super conferences.

 When the dust settles, it could create a situation resulting in a paradigm shift in college football’s method of selecting a national champion.  For now, they use the BCS, but a small number of huge super conferences would inevitably lead to a play-off system, what the majority of fans actually want.  Although not particularly interesting to a non-sports fan, this change is hugely emotional to college football fans and will probably be the most important change to college football in over a decade.  If you thought Don McLean was upset the day the music died, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
One liner – “Even with the Pac 16, the SEC is still the best conference in college football.”  In reference to the super conference that could exist – the Pac 16 compared to what is now generally considered the best conference in college football, the South Eastern Conference (SEC).

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FCS:  Football Championship Sub Division.  Formerly, and still referred to as I-AA.  This is a lower level division that has a 16 team playoff that determines their champion.

FBS:  Football Bowl Sub Division.  Formerly referred to as Division I.  This is comprised of 11 conferences (6 of which belong to the BCS, and 5 so called mid-majors), Army, Notre Dame, and Navy.

Major Conferences:  Southeastern Conference (SEC), Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

Mid Majors:  Mountain West Conference (MWC), Western Athletic Conference (WAC), Sun Belt, Conference USA, Mid America Conference (MAC)

BCS:  Bowl Championship Series.  A system designed to produce a consensus national champion in college football only because college football(read universities) refuses to have a playoff to determine the champion.  The BCS rankings are determined by a combination of computers, the USATODAY Coaches Poll, and the Harris Poll.