Pac-12 Drops Divisions After NCAA Division I Board Votes to Eliminate Requirements for FBS Conference Title Games
The NCAA Division I board announced Wednesday that it will relax restrictions on college football conference championship games, allowing conferences to determine which teams will participate in their respective title game. The decision clears the way for conferences to avoid title games being determined by division winners and possibly eliminating divisions altogether.
It didn’t take long for a Power 5 conference to change things. Minutes after the NCAA’s announcement, the Pac-12 announced that starting in 2022, the conference title game would feature the teams with the two highest winning percentages.
“Our goal is to place our top two teams in our Pac-12 Football Championship game, which we believe will provide our conference with the best opportunity to maximize CFP invites and ultimately win national championships,” said said Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff in a press release. “Today’s decision is an important step towards that goal and immediately increases both fan interest and the media value of our football league game.”
In its post, the Pac-12 explained how, in five of the past 11 years, the divisions have prevented the conference title game from featuring a different matchup that features two higher-ranked teams. In 2011 and 2012, for example, the conference title games would have featured Stanford and Oregon – both ranked in the top 10 in both years – if there were no splits, this which allowed an unranked UCLA team, then a 9-5 UCLA team to play in the title game instead of an 11-1 Stanford team and an Oregon team 11-1.
As the Pac-12 made sure to note in their announcement, the conference originally brought this motion to deregulate gaming titles to the board. The motion, according to the Pac-12, was “supported unanimously by all FBS conferences.”
This news has also been a long time coming for the ACC. In 2014, the conference began pushing for deregulation regarding the divisional format, believing that each league should have the right to determine how its championship game is held.
But the legislation originally proposed by the ACC was never passed. When commissioner Jim Phillips took over the ACC in 2021, he said the league would once again return to this subject – echoing the thoughts of his predecessor, John Swofford. Only, in this moment, deregulation has made its way into the college football landscape. Eliminating the division format seemed like the next logical step.
Like the Pac-12, the ACC believes removing the divisional format will allow for more compelling matchups, more opportunities for teams to compete, and the ability to field multiple teams in the college football playoffs. Since the start of the playoffs, the ACC has made seven appearances (including six by Clemson) while the Pac-12 has had only two appearances.
The potential removal of divisions will have ripple effects on conference scheduling. The Pac-12 said in its statement Wednesday that while the current two-division conference football schedule will remain in place for the 2022 season, scheduling scenarios for seasons beyond 2022 will continue to be in place. reviewed.
At recently concluded ACC Spring Meetings in Amelia Island, Fla., the league discussed eliminating divisions and moving to a 3-5-5 scheduling format: three permanent rivals for each team, then a rotation among the remaining 10 teams in the league. five one year, five the next.
While the ACC hasn’t voted on the division’s format, all indications are that it will pass at some point and go into effect for the 2023 season.
“The two drivers to this: First, is the opportunity for our student-athletes to play at all ACC schools over a four-year period,” Phillips said last week. “The other element is that I always thought it was a local decision on how you run your conference. You see across multiple conferences they would like to dictate what their league structure looks like and who eventually lead to an expanded football playoff.
“You want your top two teams to have a chance to play at the end of the year for a lot of reasons.”