Football Elite Subdivision: punt conferences, divide 'em up, let 'em play

'What about the non-Power Five conferences? Won’t they be marginalized? Yes, they will. But they already are, aren’t they?'

Georgia's Todd Gurley gets hit by Clemson's Quandon Christian during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Georgia's Todd Gurley gets hit by Clemson's Quandon Christian during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

By now, we’ve all become quite familiar with the term “Power Five.”

It has supplanted “I hate the BCS” as the most overused phrase in the college football lexicon, and it is already the official name of the unofficial new world order of the sport.

But what happens if (and when) the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 break away and form their own league? SEC commissioner Mike Slive is already saying that if the big boys aren’t granted autonomy they’ll consider creating a new NCAA division to separate them from the Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision and Divisions II and III.

Once that happens we’ll have Triple-A pro football. And since the idea to grant some form of payment to players is gaining momentum, perhaps the National Football League will even help subsidize it.

While no one asked me (and they probably never will), here’s how I’d set it up:

As it stands right now, the Power Five consists of 65 teams.

So that means you’ll have a 65-team league which I’ll call the Football Elite Subdivision (FES).

To do this right, we’ll have to do away with the conferences as they now exist.

That will upset some traditionalists, but I’m sure the introduction of face masks and the extinction of H-shaped goal posts upset traditionalists too.

It’s kinda like when Katie Holmes played Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins but was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight. It’s unsettling, but you just have to deal with it.

So with 65 teams you would need four conferences in the FES. You can call them East, Central, Midwest or West, or you can name them after the four Teletubbies for all I care.

Makes no difference to me.

But whatever the conferences are called, they would be divided up into four, 16-team groups.*

*Yep, a league comprised of 65 schools means one conference will have 17 teams. That spur team can be dealt with in three ways — one, you can choose not to worry about it; two, you kick a team out; or three, you expand to 72 teams and have four, 18-school conferences.

Again, makes no difference to me. I’m just thinking out loud and typing.

Each conference will be divided into two eight-team divisions* and play a 12 game regular season schedule. Under this arrangement, a slate would feature seven division foes, three cross-division games, and two out-of-conference matchups

*I know, I know, one division will have nine teams unless the expansion plan goes through, in which case each division will have nine teams. Just try to stay focused on the big picture right now.

Anyway, instead of some committee deciding who competes in the postseason, which is the case with the fledgling College Football Playoffs, the tournament format will be simple.

The two division winners of each conference will play each other, and champions will advance to a Final Four.

As is the case now, the championship game can go to the highest bidder each season, while the semifinals can be rotated among the major bowls.

The rest of the bowls can be populated by schools that didn’t win their divisions, meaning there would still be some pretty attractive matchups.

But Scott, you ask, what about the non-Power Five conferences? Won’t they be marginalized?

Yes, they will. But they already are, aren’t they?

And if the Power Five forms its own league, perhaps the American Athletic, Western Athletic, Conference USA, etc. can develop their own championship tourney.

And since bowl games continue to pop up like kudzu, there will still be opportunities for their teams to play holiday football.

So that’s my plan.

It might seem a bit silly right now, but don’t be surprised if something like it evolves from the Power Five sooner than you think.

The big boys are already setting the wheels in motion.

Follow Scott Adamson on Twitter @AdamsonslAIM

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Comments » 9

lhaselden writes:

I hope the ACC would move down to the FCS instead.

Xander5000 writes:

Just took us decades to get conferences to reshuffle and stay solidified, so it would possibly open the doors to having a true champion.......and even though we will need an eight team playoff anyway, there are more things
to try to put on the horizon to try to get to whatever goal that we are trying to achieve. That goal seems to be fairness, balance, and to make more money in which ofcourse will cause more issues and problems.
-------- So now,.....here.....we.....go.

fasttiger44#293363 writes:

Your idea sounds a little “out there” and I don't think it will ever happen but, who knows. How about this: All the big boys with big football programs chip in and help pay a stipend for the little boys with smaller football programs. Or better yet, have the NCAA subsidize the smaller schools with money to pay the players. Paying the players seems like is driving this discussion so this is a solution to what I see would be the down fall of college football as we know it. There is no need to separate 5 conferences from the rest of the NCAA because the SEC is so greedy. Leave everything as is and just help pay the smaller schools with small budgets so the paying field is equal.

lhaselden writes:

A lot of the issues like disability insurance and some type of long term medical plan for any disabilities should be paid by the NCAA for all NCAA athletes regardless of the sport.
The education costs of injured players should be paid by the school where they were injured.
Any stipend should be for all athletes not just those in revenue sports.

TigerFan95 writes:

Have eight 15 team conferences (120 teams). The conferences have no divisions and each plays an 8 game conference schedule under a 3-5/5 format. The two teams with the best conference record play each other in a conference championship game. The eight conference winners go to a playoff with the final two teams playing in a national championship game that is rotated among the four current BCS bowls (Rose, Sugar, Fiesta & Orange). All other 118 teams are eligible for selection to the remaining bowls according to whatever agreements, conference tie-ins, etc. they may have. There would also be a provision that teams cannot play more than one FCS team and must play at least one team from one of the other seven conferences each year.

TigerNE writes:

This seems unworkable as you've explained it. The analogy doesn't work well either. Unless the players on the teams are free to sign contracts (employment not scholarships), feely move from one team to another, and relinquish ties to education, for starters, I don't see this working anything like a minor league/farm team type of system.

harryD writes:

I'll bet truth 46 has the answer...

SoCalTiger writes:

There is such a disparity between the best of the "Power 5" and the worst of the "Non-Power 5" that change is inevitable. Playing teams from conferences that Clemson rarely plays now would be a great thing. They still can open with GA and end with SC. No more cream puff games. A little bit less BC or GT or WF. I hope it happens.

clemvol writes:

So we are now talking a true semi-pro league with mercenaries as players instead of student atheletes. The entitlement society seeps into everything.Just call it where it's heading.

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