Sunday was a huge day in the world of sports. Those of you that turned on your television sets at 10am EST were hit with a barrage of English Premier League soccer. Or football, or futbal or whatever the hell it’s called. It was the last day of their season. 4 teams moved on to the Champion’s League, which is great. What’s also great is that the dead weight in the EPL was removed, and new blood injected.
It’s a fantastic model of sports.
As a red blooded American that is sipping boxed wine and eating over-cooked tuna steaks, I am not going to pretend to know the intricacies of European soccer. Nor am I going to pretend I care. Nor am I opposed to adding ketchup to that tuna steak. However, I want to take one nugget of genius those Euros provide.
Win, or get out.
In England, they have their premier league. If you win there, you move on to the European Championship. Makes sense, right? While that doesn’t happen if you win the MAC, it’s the other step that I think is even more brilliant. If you suck, you get demoted.
That’s what is lacking the world of NCAA football.
Using Indiana as an example, they last won a Big Ten conference title in 1945. Why are they in the Big Ten “competing” for football titles? So this is the crazy idea I came up with this week. Booting several teams out of the Big Ten each year, and allowing a few of the well performing MAC teams to take a crack at a Big Ten schedule.
Let’s take 2016 as the example, and use 2 teams from each conference. Rutgers and Michigan State combined for 1 Big Ten win in 18 chances . Western Michigan won the MAC, and beat 2 Big Ten teams in 2 chances. The other team out of the MAC that would make the jump up to the Big Ten would be Toledo, who had a respectable year and return quite a bit of offensive fire power. Or it could be Ohio. The debate on who had the better season is irrelevant for the time being. Back to the original argument.
If these two teams are really as terrible as Power 5 fundamentalists think they are, then they will fail miserably and be out of the Big Ten next year. If they can compete, well, then they stay.
So why make such a change? One, it makes the lesser teams in the Big Ten step up their game. Two, it will help the MAC step up theirs. Three, while there is already a crossover of fans of the two conferences, I think it would increase the fans of both. All the sudden, all of MAC nation will be rooting for the traditional MAC schools that make it big. Or against, because they are jealous. The Big Ten fans will grow to appreciate just how good the football is in the “lesser” MAC, and it will be scouting next year’s foe.
There are also a lot of crossover fans that get priced out or just plain can’t get a ticket to their favorite B1G team. The Horseshoe and the Big House are routinely packed with people and ticket prices on the secondary market aren’t cheap. Between the two states, there are nine MAC teams. Whenever Michigan and Ohio State travel to an instate foe, you can guarantee it will be another sell out crowd. Of course it’s highly doubtful either of those teams end up at the complete bottom of the Big Ten standings. However, Michigan State was, and they would likely pack every MAC stadium they play in. Certainly the ones in Michigan and northern Ohio.
This idea isn’t just limited to a Big Ten/MAC thing. There are 5 power 5 conferences, to go along with 5 group of 5 conferences. It could be repeatable across all of division one.
All of the sudden, every team in the FBS is on a little bit more equal footing. Sure, the traditional powers still have much of the power, but it gives the little guys hope and motivation and the ability to move up. It also makes for a lot of compelling story lines. Does anyone outside of fans of Maryland and Rutgers watch that game at the end of the year? Would more people tune in if the loser was going to the MAC? Does the MAC championship game fill up if it’s a winner take all promotion to the Big Ten? The story lines are endless.
Of course, the giant elephant in the room is money, specifically the loss of money for the teams that get demoted. I am sure they would struggle to sell their home games in the MAC, and the TV and bowl money isn’t close. The TV rights and bowl money can be protected for the traditional members, and this arrangement could be for football only. As for attendance, most of the teams that would be demoted aren’t selling out anyway. If they aren’t terrible, and they are sitting there at 6-1 with a chance to win the MAC, it might increase attendance over a team sitting there at 3-4, and expected to lose even more games in the Big Ten.
Parity in college football is at unprecedented levels. More talent is spread over more teams. The average player on the two Super Bowl teams was a 2.5 star recruit. That’s right in the MAC’s wheelhouse. The championships and big bowl games don’t represent this parity, however. Three programs have filled over half the playoff spots since it started 3 years ago.
With all this great talent spread around the country, the system should reflect that change. I believe shuffling the schedules would give the p5 fans new found respect for their g5 brethren, and would strengthen college football overall.
Of course it’s never going to happen. College football will continue to get even more top heavy. Eventually, they’ll come up with a way to pay the players at the big schools, and split FBS yet again. As ratings decline and the money starts to dry up, the NFL will swoop in and create the minor league they always wanted. When all that happens, you can’t say uncle Jimmy didn’t warn you and at least try to come up with crazy ideas to prevent it.