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Conference Championship Game Deregulation Coming by 2016

CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd is reporting that conferences will deregulate the way their conference championship games for football are setup as early as 2016. While it's unclear what this might mean, it could mean changes for Louisville and its conference schedule are coming.

More games against Miami and other current Coastal teams could conceivably be on the horizon
More games against Miami and other current Coastal teams could conceivably be on the horizon
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports is reporting that a deregulation of conferences championship games for football will almost assuredly be in place by 2016. A proposal championed by both the ACC and Big 12 would allow each conference to decide the two participants for the title game in whatever manner they see fit. Currently, NCAA rules require that a league have at least 12 teams, and that the conference be split into divisions that each play annual round robin schedules.

Andy Staples reported that the original rules requiring divisions and a 12 team minimum, divisions, and round robin play for a conference title game were arbitrarily set with specific Division II football conferences in mind. The proposed changes would simply allow each conference to determine its champion however it wants. And there wouldn't necessarily be uniformity across the conferences. The Big 12 could start playing a title game without adding any more teams. The ACC could keep its current setup, scrap divisions and just have the two highest rated teams play in the title game, or even just announce its own two choices for the title game like a mini-selection committee.

Conference title games are a two-edged sword for conferences, especially in the playoff era. On the one hand, teams can use the conference title game to propel themselves into the playoff (like we saw with Ohio State jumping both TCU and Baylor after crushing Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game). But they can also cost a team a spot with a loss. FSU certainly would not have made the playoff had they lose to Georgia Tech in Charlotte. The same would've been true of Oregon. So conferences will constantly be trying to balance how to get a marketable title game that people will want to watch on TV (and networks will want to pay them to show) and how to keep from keeping their own champs from having an unnecessary hurdle to jump through to get into the playoff.

In the near term, what the conferences will all probably do immediately is put in some clause to allow them to avoid situations like the PAC 12 and ACC have faced with teams self-imposing postseason bans in the middle of the season and pushing 6-6 (like UCLA or Georgia Tech) teams into the conference championship game as a result. Beyond that, it will simply be a conference by conference decision and could possibly change with some degree of regularity.

What does this all mean for Louisville? Again it would be a two-edged sword. Any alteration to the rules that loosens divisions will have positives and negatives. On the one hand, fewer games against Clemson and FSU in particular probably would make it easier to finish with a better record, higher ranking, and a chance to make the title game. On the other hand, Louisville really wants and needs those games for the schedule and chances to play in more nationally televised games with all of the exposure they bring (Louisville didn't win, but the Thursday night game against FSU was an amazing environment and good exposure for the program, for instance).

Additionally, changes in the divisions would at least give Louisville the chance to possibly play the non-UVA Coastal Division teams more often. Louisville is only scheduled to play Miami and Virginia Tech three times in the next 13 years. Any setup changes that gives Louisville more games against Miami, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech and fewer trips to the unfinished basement of college football (Syracuse) and Wake Forest is fine with me. If it also results in Louisville possibly making the ACC title game more often but getting Clemson and FSU in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium less, that might be worth it too.