The Pac-12 announced Wednesday it was scrapping its divisional format for the next football season moments after the NCAA’s Division I Board rejected requirements that dictate how conferences can determine a champion.
The Pac-12 will now pair the teams with the highest conference winning percentages in its title game after 11 seasons of matching North and South Division winners.
Other conferences are expected to follow, including the 14-team Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC is looking to implement a new schedule model from 2023.
Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack said the ACC is unlikely to follow the Pac-12 and get rid of its splits this year.
“I don’t think you would see it. We have already published our schedule for 2022. But we could do it with 2023,” said Wildhack, who is part of a subcommittee trying to find the best format for the conference schedule. “No reason why we can’t do it in 2023.”
To have a game for the conference title, NCAA rules previously required leagues to split into divisions if they couldn’t play a full round-robin schedule. The 10-member Big 12 ended up deciding to resume their title match even without splits, in part to raise the profile of the winner heading into the playoffs.
This was clearly on the minds of Pac-12 leaders as well.
“Our goal is to place our top two teams in our Pac-12 Football Championship game, which we believe will provide our conference with the best opportunity to maximize CFP invites and ultimately win national championships.” said Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff. “Today’s decision is an important step towards that goal and immediately increases both fan interest and the media value of our football league game.”
The DI Council also approved a recommendation from the Football Monitoring Committee intended to help with roster management, lifting the annual scholarship cap of 25.
While the so-called 25 initial counters maximum will be removed for the next two years, the overall purse limit of 85 per team in the Bowl Subdivision and 63 in the Championship Subdivision will remain in place. The change, backed by the American Football Coaches’ Association, aims to help teams replenish rosters that have been squeezed by transfers.
A proposal is still pending to define designated periods during which players can enter the transfer portal and be immediately eligible for a new school. Football coaches offered two multi-week dates, starting after the regular season in late fall and again after spring training ended in late April.
Because similar windows would likely be needed for other sports, that proposal is being handled by the NCAA’s Division I Transformation Committee, which is expected to issue recommendations this summer.
The Pac-12 said its nine-game, division-based conference schedule in place for this season will be unchanged, but patterns for future seasons will be reviewed.
The ACC is considering a 3-5-5 model for football programming that would have teams playing three opponents as permanent programming partners each year, then rotating the other 10 teams over two seasons in the eight-game schedule ( five one year, five the next).
The change addresses two issues with the current seven-team splits and a permanent cross-rival setup: conference members go years without playing each other, and the lopsided splits that have sometimes created lopsided matchups in the league title game.
Without divisions, a conference would be more likely to have its two most accomplished teams in its championship game and improve its chances of having a team or two selected for the college football playoffs.
The Pac-12 noted that five of its 11 league games would have been different had the conference matched its top two teams instead of division winners.
The Big Ten and the Southeastern Conference are also considering future planning models and whether to stick with divisions.
The Big 12 is considering a return to a divisional setup as it prepares to welcome four new members in 2023, which could bring the number of teams in the conference to 14, at least temporarily.
Texas and Oklahoma are expected to leave the Big 12 after the 2024 season and join the Southeastern Conference. New Big 12 members BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF are expected to join the conference by 2023.
AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard contributed to this report.
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