Largely buried in the flood of basketball news over the weekend was a report from CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd that the ACC proposed new legislation for the NCAA to deregulate conference championship games.
Under current rules, a conference must have at least 12 teams split into two divisions in order to hold one. Everyone must play everyone else inside each division too. The only exception is for 13-team conferences, as they can't make that work mathematically (the MAC used to have 13 for a while).
If the proposed change goes through, conferences would be free to choose their champions however they wish. I am not sure the Pac-12 would do anything differently, but it could be a big deal for the other four major conferences.
The ACC is in a weird spot, with 14 official members plus Notre Dame as kind of an associate in football. It reportedly would like flexibility in determining its champion due to this unique setup. I can't imagine a situation where Notre Dame would play in the ACC title game—it is still an independent after all—but the games with the Irish might count somehow. Or something. I don't know.
The Big 12 could use some flexibility too. It does not have a conference title game because it only has 10 members, but under deregulation it could stage one anyway. I'm not sure if it necessarily needs one thanks to full round-robin scheduling, but TV loves (and pays handsomely for) conference title games. The option would at least be on the table without the need for expansion.
It also puts the conference title game back on the table if the league discovers that not having one is a disadvantage in trying to get teams into the playoff.
Big Ten and SEC
The divisional system really starts to strain at 14 teams, so deregulation would allow for eliminating them altogether. We've discussed here in the past what options there are for structuring things without divisions, and there are some benefits. It's possible without divisions to have everyone play everyone else in the league much more often, something that can help an increasingly sprawling conference feel more cohesive. This applies to the 14-team ACC as well, of course.
It's just a proposal for now, though Dodd notes that there aren't really any objectors to it. With everyone concerned about how to get as many teams into the playoff bowls as possible, we could seem leagues go in some interesting directions to try to game the system. It could end up boring with everyone all doing the same thing, but it could also be fascinating with every league doing something different to play to each's respective strengths.
Just file this one away for the future.