Is Nick Saban dropping hints for the future of NCAA football?
Saban Gives Hint of Future Scheduling and NCAA Split
By: Larry Burton
Nick Saban isn’t trying to rub a crystal ball and forecast the future, but he’s definitely inferring to us what the future may hold as far as future scheduling and a possible NCAA split.
Presently there are 125 in Division I major college football. But it is far from an equal division. There have always been the haves and the have nots in this division. Many schools climbed up from lower divisions to finally make this tier, but they never had the facilities or resources to keep up with the established, well funded powerhouses that mostly reside in the five major divisions, the SEC, Big Ten, Big Twelve, Pac Ten and ACC.
With student stipends becoming more of reality in the near future, this will only further distance the haves from the have nots. With TV money being split mostly between the previously mentioned conferences, that too only widens the gap.
For some smaller schools, like Georgia State, they’ll gladly line up and take a whipping from an SEC team for that big paycheck and the national exposure it gives the school. When Georgia State plays a team like Alabama, they make many times the money a home game would bring in. It’s their way of tapping into the big time.
But with many conferences already going to a nine game conference schedule the SEC knows this is a change that could be coming its way too. That would only leave teams with three non conference games. Add that to the pressure that strength of schedule will add to the new playoff system taking place next season and the incentive that scheduling a have not brings to and SEC team, mainly in terms of an extra home game and added ticket and concession revenue, may simply may not be attractive enough for schools to pursue those types of games.
In his recent press conference, Nick Saban said,” So if somebody wants to take the leadership and say, OK, here are the five conferences that are the top conferences, and we’re going to play all our games amongst those people, I’d be fine with that.” Then he took a quick breath and finished, ” But until somebody says that, it’s going to be impossible to schedule all your games with those teams.”
Why would it be impossible to schedule all your games with other “Haves”?
Because they almost all like the revenue that scheduling a have not brings in. They also enjoy a sure win and for some, it’s a way to pad their stats to make a bowl game a possibility. And there’s also the notion that an undefeated conference champion will always find themselves in the national playoff picture, no matter how bad the outside conference opponents are.
So Saban’s statement about only playing teams in the “top conferences” would become a rule and thus end the practice of pansy extra home games with have nots.
In this statement Nick is saying what many believe may the the next big realignment in college football. It could be a break from the NCAA’s Division I to some sort of “Super Conference Athletic Alliance”. This SCAA could either function as a different division inside or outside of the NCAA.
Such a shift would see these conferences all have up to 16 teams in each conference, conference playoffs and nine game in conference schedules. That would drop the top tier teams division from 125 to 80. Those 45 teams would either go back to division II or some a different conference.
Current thinking is that other have nots that have chosen to stay in Division II would join up with that new division so that it too would roughly have about 80 teams in it. With roughly 35 bowl games set aside for the top division now, most of the top half, those with a 6-6 record or better would still be bowl eligible. Such a split would not “wreck the bowl system” as many have worried about.
Even if the conferences just had 14 members each, that would be 70 teams leaving the top half to fill all the current bowls for post season.
In other speeches, Nick Saban has always said that change is more likely than status quo when it comes to re-alignments and new rules that could determine tougher schedules.
Something tells me the warrior that is Nick Saban would enjoy such a new world of a super conference alliance. By dropping such morsels as he does, he also shows that he for one, is ready to see it become reality.
If and when it does however, is anybody’s guess, but the only thing this is consistent in the world of college football is change itself and nobody with clarity expects that to change any time soon.