Pac-12 announced Wednesday that it was canceling its division format for the upcoming football season moments after the NCAA Division I board threw out requirements that dictate how the conferences can determine the champion.
Pac-12 will now pair the teams with the highest conference winning percentages in the title game after 11 seasons of matching winners from the Northern and Southern divisions.
Other conferences are expected to follow, most notably the 14-team Atlantic Coast Conference. ACC is looking to implement a new scheduling model As soon as possible by 2023.
It’s unlikely the ACC will follow Pac-12 and weed out its divisions this year, said John Wildhak, athletics director for Syracuse.
“I don’t think you’ll see it. We’ve already released our schedule for 2022. But we can do that by 2023,” said Wildhak, a member of a subcommittee trying to determine the best format for the conference schedule. “There is no reason why we can’t do this in 2023.”
For a conference title game, NCAA rules previously required leagues to be divided into divisions if they could not play an entire round-robin schedule. The 10-member Big 12 ended up deciding to resume the title game without even splitting in part to raise the winner’s photo for supplement consideration.
This was evident in the minds of Pac-12 executives, too.
“Our goal is to put our top two teams into the Pac-12 football championship game, which we believe will give our conference the best opportunity to improve the CFP invitations and ultimately win the National Championships,” said Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkov. “Today’s decision is an important step towards that goal and immediately increases the fan interest and media value of our football match.”
The DI Council also approved the recommendation of the Football Monitoring Committee Aiming to help manage the roster, raise the annual scholarship cap 25.
While a maximum of 25 starting counters will be waived over the next two years, the total scholarship limit of 85 per team in the Bowl Division and 63 in the Championship Division will remain in effect. The change, backed by the American Football Coaches Association, aims to help teams replenish rosters that have been weakened by transfers.
A proposal is still pending to set certain periods in which players can enter the transfer portal and immediately qualify for a new school. Football coaches have suggested two dates, multi-weekly, starting after the regular season in late fall and again after spring training usually ends in late April.
Since similar windows will likely be needed for other sports, this proposal is being taken up by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee, which is expected to make recommendations this summer.
Pac-12 said its nine-game conference schedule based on the divisions in place for this season will not change, but that models for future seasons will be reviewed.
ACC is considering a 3-5-5 football scheduling model that would have teams with three opponents play as permanent scheduling partners annually, then rotate the other ten teams over two seasons in an eight-game schedule (five one, five the next) ).
The change addresses two issues with the current seven-team divisions and a permanent cross-match competition group: Conference members go years without playing with each other and lopsided divisions that have sometimes created lopsided encounters in the league title game.
Without the divisions, the conference would likely have the two most accomplished teams in the championship game and improve their chances of picking one or two teams in the College Football Playoff game.
Pac-12 noted that five of the tournament’s 11 games would have been different if the conference had matched the top two teams instead of the division’s winners.
The Big Ten and Southeastern Conference is also studying future scheduling models and whether to stick to sections.
The Big 12 is considering returning to the division setting as it prepares to welcome four new members in 2023, which could increase the number of teams in the conference to 14, at least temporarily.
Texas and Oklahoma are set to leave the Big 12 after the 2024 season and join the Southeast Conference. Upcoming Big 12 members from BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF are expected to join the conference by 2023.
Associated Press sports writer Aaron Bird contributed to this report.
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