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How to save college football: Plan stolen from soccer could be the answer

Texas A&M football players
Would a college football plan modeled after a British soccer league be cause for celebration? Texas A&M University/Facebook
Bill Van Rysdam head shot column mug April 2013

There has been a lot of discussion lately about college athletics, specifically college football. It is obvious that there is a major disparity between the haves and the have nots. Realistically, 90 percent of schools have no shot at winning a national championship — or even being invited to a major bowl game.

There has also been a greater focus put on whether or not football athletes are being used unfairly to generate money for their respective universities. One college, Northwestern, has voted to unionize, there’s an anti-trust case deciding whether or not players should be paid and athlete directors who talk more these days about expanding the brand and generating revenue than helping student athletes succeed.

 The bottom three clubs are kicked out of the league and new ones are added. (I’m sure the Texans and the Astros are glad the NFL and MLB don’t follow this policy). 

So where do we go from here? Perhaps the solution can be found across the pond by taking a page from the Barclay’s Premier League.

The league, for those uninformed sports fans, features England’s best soccer clubs. The clubs play matches outside the league, but winning the Barclay’s is equivalent to winning a Super Bowl or being named National Champions.

Now before you say, “I hate soccer, it’s boring,” what makes the Barclay’s Premier Leagues so unique is that they “relegate” teams every year. The bottom three clubs are kicked out of the league and new ones are added. (I’m sure the Texans and the Astros are glad the NFL and MLB don’t follow this policy).

The beauty of this set-up is that it creates drama at the top and bottom of the standings.

First you would need to set up a “Super Football Conference.” I know there will be lots of disagreement about the criteria, but for the sake of argument, let’s pick last year’s BCS Top 25 schools.  Those not making the cut would remain in their respective conferences.

The top four teams in the BCS standings at the end of the year (before the bowls) were Florida State, Auburn, Alabama and Michigan State. These schools could have competed in a play-off system to determine the national championship. USC, Duke and Northern Illinois finished at the bottom of the list and would be relegated out of this super conference and returned to their respective conferences.

The incentive is that opens the door to three other schools to join this super conference. Again, the exact criteria would need to be worked out as to how to select those schools. It could be best record, followed by most points scored in a season, but you get the idea and it would give a lot of schools the opportunity to play with the big boys that they might not have gotten in the past.

Perhaps a super conference could also address some of the disparity in college football by allowing them to have different rules including paying athletes and other issues facing big time college football. Yes, this means schools could lose some of their traditional rivalries, but in a world where Texas no longer plays Texas A&M and bowl games seem to extend into February, it might just take a radical move to save college football from itself.

Let the debate begin.

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