College football teams no longer have to win their division in order to reach their respective conference championship games.
The NCAA Division I Council has voted to allow FBS conferences to pick the two teams that will play in the conference championship as opposed to going by division winners.
The decision will be finalized later Wednesday.
Division I Council relaxes restrictions for FBS football conference championship games; FBS conferences to determine their championship game participants. All Council actions are not final until today’s meeting ends. pic.twitter.com/cHjD4nfVle
— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) May 18, 2022
Four of the Power 5 conferences — the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC — have divisions, with the winners of each playing in the conference championship, but that setup might not last for much longer.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL RANKINGS: Alabama, Ohio State lead Sporting News’ post-portal deadline top 25
What does this mean for college football? The Sporting News breaks it down.
NCAA’s changes to conference championships, explained
Minutes after the news became public, the Pac-12 announced it would implement a change under the new system, and provided insight into how the decision came about.
In a press release, the Pac-12 said it was the conference that brought the motion forward and that all FBS conferences supported the decision. The conference said it will change its football championship format moving forward so the teams with the highest conference winning percentage face off in the championship game.
“Our goal is place our two best teams in our Pac-12 Football Championship Game, which we believe will provide our conference with the best opportunity to optimize CFP invitations and ultimately win national championships,” Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said in the release. “Today’s decision is an important step towards that goal and immediately increase both fan interest in, and the media value of, our Football Championship Game.”
DeCOURCY: Sorry I can’t accept nomination for next NCAA president, but I do have some ideas
For the most part, it has worked out that conference championships have been between teams with the best conference records. However, the conferences — in the interest of College Football Playoff hopes — could use CFP rankings to act as tiebreakers in an effort to increase their chances at having a bid for a championship.
In the new system, the Big Ten would have featured two conference championship games between Ohio State and Michigan, while the SEC would have seen a 2020 title game between Alabama and Texas A&M rather than Alabama and Florida.
MORE: Alabama’s Nick Saban calls for solution to college football’s lack of parity
Here’s a look at how different conference championship games over the past five years might have looked based on best conference records, with CFP ranking serving as the tiebreaker. The Big 12 is not included as it does not have divisions and already selects conference championship matchups by conference record.
This move will also have a major impact on scheduling, as it eliminates the need for divisions. One conference that will certainly benefit in that regard is the ACC. The Athletic reported that the ACC has explored a 3-5 model, which would have schools playing three teams every year with the remaining five conference opponents rotating each year.
Under the current model, ACC teams are required to play the teams within their division once every season, and often go several years without playing other teams in the ACC.