Do you know what makes the Premier League so great? Especially when compared to American sports leagues?
You do, or at least you will after reading this.
This is the continuation of a blog series on how playoffs have ruined college football in America. So far, we have introduced this subject by showing how the discovery of the Premier League demonstrated what was possible. It was continued with a Part 1 and a Part 2 on how bowl games are not the problem.
In this post, we touch on the main problem with college football’s way of determining a champion. Its not bowl games. It wasn’t the lack of a playoff, which the current playoff has demonstrated. The actual problem?
What Is a Conference?
College football teams, with only a handful of exceptions, are part of larger organizations called conferences. When teams are part of a conference, each team’s schedule is dominated by games played against other teams in that same conference. On average, teams play three games out of conference and nine games within the conference.
These conferences have been in existence for years, even decades. Any college sports fan knows their names:
- Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)
- Big 12 Conference (which actually has 10 teams)
- Big 10 Conference (which actually has 14 teams)
- Southeastern Conference (SEC)
- Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12)
- …and many more
Teams want to win their own conference. Winning a conference title carries significance. However, they ultimately mean nothing if they do not help a team also win the national championship.
Alabama as Example:
Take this season, for instance. Alabama lost their final regular season game to Auburn. As a result, Auburn won the division – a further dividing of the teams within conferences. Auburn played for the conference championship, and Alabama watched from home.
Alabama, however, had won all of their other games during the season. When the season ended, and the playoff committee met in their smoke-filled room to determine the four teams for the playoff, they included Alabama.
Alabama, a team that did not win its own conference or even its own division, is playing for the national championship.
I’m sorry, but when that happens, you have a structural problem.
Are Conferences Really Sacred?
These conferences feel sacred because they are all we have ever known. They have always organized college sports.
But just picture something for a moment. Imagine college football without conferences.
No, seriously, stop and think about it for a moment. Could we have college sports within them?
Think about how often we have seen teams move from one conference to another. If teams can move from one conference to another, couldn’t changes also be made at the conference-level?
Of course they can, and they have been. The Pac-12 used to be the Pac-10. The Big 12 used to be the Big 8. The American Athletic Conference is a relatively recent creation.
Conferences, and the teams in them, are subject to change. So let’s proceed with eliminating them – for now, only in our imaginations.
Why Eliminate Conferences?
Remember that the ultimate goal is to decide the champion on the field. Well, conferences are the true barrier against giving college football fans what they want. This is where the Premier League’s example shines bright.
There are no divisions or conferences in the Premier League. Sure, they exist in the lower levels of English football, but in the professional levels, they do not exist. This creates a scenario where everyone gets to play an identical schedule each season.
When every team plays an identical schedule, two key things happen:
- A team’s record is significant. The number of wins and losses have meaning in comparison with all of the other teams because each team plays the same schedule throughout the season.
- A playoff is not needed. Everything is able to be decided within the regular season (on the field) because all schedules are the same by season’s end.
Is This Possible in College Football?
This means that every sport needs a structure that allows for everyone to play the same schedule. With 130+ teams in college football, this cannot be possible, right? Right?
This is where we once again turn to the example of the Premier League. But that’s for the next post. In the meantime, let’s be grateful that we don’t have a Premier League North and a Premier League South.