College football is not appointing a czar. Said czar, if appointed, would not be me. But, since sports media is now all about the hypotheticals, I will run with this one. Here are seven immediate changes I would make to college football if given authoritarian power.
Eliminate Conference Title Games
These games do not work outside the SEC. Fans in other conferences neither care nor show up. These games seldom match up the two best teams in the conference, that have the same record, did not meet head to head, and require another game to decide the championship. Their sole purpose is to milk a little more TV revenue (which would be more than replaced by the 8-team playoff these games are precluding). The most rousing conversations from these games revolve around halftime football toss strategy. These games detract from what should be decisive regular season showdowns and risk the best teams not reaching the playoff.
Eliminate Conference Divisions
If we get rid of conference championship games, we can get rid of the divisions formed to set them up. Most conferences have lopsided divisions. Divisions ensure that some “conference rivals” play only a few times per decade. Having divisions prevents fairer and more creative scheduling options that would still protect conference rivalries. Michigan fans want to play Ohio State and Michigan State every year. Also playing Indiana, Rutgers, and Maryland every year just leads to stagnation and boredom.
Replace Conference Championship Games With Week 1 Of An 8-Team Playoff
The college football discussion devolves into a torrent of playoff hypothetical debates midseason. It should be more exciting to actually watch these teams play football. Auto-bids for the Power 5 conference winners. The committee chooses the three best at large teams. The top four conference winners get home field advantage in the first round, which happens over what was formerly conference championship weekend.
The Week Two Non-Conference Draw
Teams don’t cede control of their entire non-conference schedule. USC must play Notre Dame etc. But they do so for one week. We would rank the 128 teams using a past performance formula. For the purposes of argument, let’s say a three-year pro-rated SRS or something similar. The ranked teams would be divided into eight groups of 16 teams (1-16, 17-32 etc.). Teams would face a random non-conference draw from within their group, either home or away. Revenue for the game would be split. The draw could be held live as a festive non-sports, sports event. Why week two? Because that’s generally the worst week of the season.
Eliminate Regular Season Overtime
Overtime was a drastic solution to a problem that did not exist. A few games per year ended up tied. Now, many more games finish tied in regulation because having overtime incentivizes teams to play for it. Overtime promotes coach conservativism. Overtime subjects results to a made-for-TV crapshoot that starts on the 25-yard line. Overtime distorts the win-loss record. Did Ohio State look like an 11-1 team in the playoff or a 9-1-2 team that went 0-1-2 against its three best conference opponents?
Running Clock After First Downs
The NFL allows the play clock to keep running while the chain crew resets. NFL games have fewer plays and end roughly when they are supposed to. College football games, especially with up tempo passing teams, can seem interminable. The national title game started shortly after 8pm ET. It ended after midnight and could have stretched past 1am ET with overtime. Clemson ran 99 plays. Shorter games are better for fans and better/safer for players who will play fewer downs while fatigued.
A Video Referee
Replay is a valuable tool. It can also be a wanton obstruction when used too slowly and too frequently. We already have a replay official. Make the official a part of the refereeing crew on the sideline and in communication with the refereeing crew to streamline the process. The video referee could overrule the line judge before we go through the theatrics of making the wrong call on the field, sending that call to review, and wasting minutes of everyone’s time. Save the extended timeouts for when they are needed.
Allow Off-Field Revenue Earning
Amateurism is a sham. Getting rid of it requires a tricky legal process. Employing the Olympic model that allows players to earn off-field revenue is an easy fix. It allows every athlete to capitalize on his/her marketing potential. It costs schools nothing. It improves players’ material circumstances. Fans get to play NCAA Football 18. DeShaun Watson already appeared in de facto Nike ads. The future Deshaun Watson should be paid for it.