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Conference Championship Game "Deregulation" Is Coming

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Soon, conferences will get to pick their own way of naming a champion in football.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dennis Dodd reported yesterday that conference championship game "deregulation" is probably going to happen by 2016:

The move would directly impact the Big 12 and ACC, which developed the legislation. The Big 12, which is the only Power Five league without a championship game, is merely seeking the option of staging such a contest with 10 teams. The ACC's ultimate intentions with a 14-team league in football, one which already holds a championship game, are not clear.

Roy Kramer developed the first conference championship game for the SEC after he noticed a rule buried in the NCAA rulebook that said conferences could hold such a game if they A) had at least 12 teams, B) those teams existed in two divisions, and C) everyone in each division played a round robin schedule with each other. There was an exception to the rule when the MAC had 13 teams for a while, as there is no way to play a round robin schedule in the seven-team division with all league teams having the same number of conference games, but otherwise leagues had to fulfill all three of those requirements to stage a CCG. This "deregulation" would take away those requirements.

After what happened last year with TCU and Baylor in relation to the College Football Playoff, it's easy to understand why the Big 12 wants to have the option of staging a title game. It doesn't want to expand to 12 teams because there aren't really any teams out there on the market that the conference could add that wouldn't end up reducing the average payout per team. With deregulation in effect, it can get its best two teams to stage a game at the end of the year to boost one of them for the postseason.

It's unclear what the ACC's move is here. On the one hand, we have this:

"I think there's some belief that ACC would play three divisions, have two highest-ranked play in postseason," said Bob Bowlsby, chairman of the new NCAA Football Oversight Committee.

On the other, we have this:

Three other ACC sources said there have been no recent discussions about moving to three divisions.

"We haven't really discussed that to any degree of seriousness," Swofford told Dinich last month. "A few years ago, it came up briefly but didn't get legs in our discussions. I think that's unlikely in our league."

More recently, ACC athletic directors have discussed eliminating divisions as one possibility but that has not gained traction, either. For now, the ACC has no plans to change its championship game format.

The ACC has 14 football teams, and that doesn't make for three divisions of all the same size. Three divisions only works if the otherwise ACC-affiliated Notre Dame gives up its football independence—which is highly unlikely—or if the league adds another school. If it did so, that would solve scheduling issues of having an odd number of teams in other sports. It would also be a stopgap on the road to two eight-team divisions in the event the Irish did end their independence somewhere down the line.

I like the idea of ditching divisions, because it would allow every team in the conference to play each other more often. If the SEC wanted to, it could give every team two or three permanent opponents in order to preserve the key rivalry games and then have the rest of the schedule spots rotate. It could lead to a mess where three teams are tied at the top who didn't play each other, which is why I don't think we'll see an end to the divisions.

In any event, this deregulation will allow all five of the power conference teams to have a conference championship game at the end of the season. We've never had that situation before, so it's a welcome change.