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ACC supports deregulation of conference championship games

More college football: Bruce Feldman | Dennis Dodd | Jeremy Fowler | Latest news

The ACC has submitted NCAA legislation that would "deregulate" football conference championship games sources told CBSSports.com.

The intent is to allow leagues their preference in how to determine their conference champion. It would theoretically eliminate the need -- per NCAA rules -- to split into divisions with the division winners meeting in a conference championship game.

That would benefit the ACC and other conferences which have expanded to the requisite minimum of 12 teams (and two divisions) to stage a championship game. Theoretically, with passage of the legislation, any of those conferences could play in one division and still stage a championship game.

If the new legislation is adopted a league could match its two highest-ranked teams. That might enhance a conference's ability to get as many teams as possible into the new four-team playoff.

"Theoretically, we could say we're going to take the two highest in the BCS rankings and have them play at the end of the season," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.

ESPN.com first reported last month the league's intent to forward such legislation that would give the ACC "flexibility" in who plays in its conference title game. The legislation was submitted in collaboration with the Big 12, Bowlsby said Friday night.

The measure is thought to have wide-ranging support among FBS conferences because it is largely non-controversial. It is known that the 10-team Big 12 would prefer deregulation if it ever decided to play a championship game with its current 10-team alignment. The league staged a championship game from 1996-2010.

NCAA rules require a conference to have at least 12 teams before staging a conference championship game. Teams must also play each opponent in its division. Beginning in 2014, the ACC and Big Ten will join the SEC in having seven-team divisions in football (14 teams total).

That extends the period of time it will take teams to face every conference opponent. Notre Dame has an ACC scheduling agreement beginning this year. It will take three years for ND to play each of the 14 ACC teams from 2014-16.

The Big 12 and Sun Belt will be the only FBS conferences that don't have at least 12 members in '14.

"You wouldn't any longer have to have 12 (teams)," Bowlsby said. "You wouldn't any longer have to play a full round-robin in your subdivision. That would actually afford us the opportunity to have a playoff between two selected teams by whatever process we would want to select.

"I doubt we're going to do that but we would likely have the prerogative."

Kansas State president Kirk Schulz reiterated that stance: "The Big 12, with 10 schools, we have no desire to go to a divisional format. But there's been questions about, generally, should we have some sort of championship game or not? I think it's going to be interesting to see what happens to this proposal."

The Big 12 plays a true round-robin schedule. It could match its two highest-ranked teams for a championship instead of, say, the winners of two five-team divisions. However, such a structure would guarantee that those Big 12 teams would be meeting for second time in a season.

"To me," Schulz said, "playing a team a second time in a season is just odd."

An NCAA spokesman told CBSSports.com that the association's board of directors would discuss the proposal at its April meeting. However, that spokesman also pointed out that the NCAA presidents have "declined to consider rules changes proposed by the conferences," before first finishing the reform and restructuring agendas.

That reform agenda has taken center stage since the results of a presidential summit in August 2011 produced more issues than solved problems. The NCAA and its membership is now in the process of figuring out how to give more power to day-to-day stakeholders like athletic directors and commissioners.

"Championship games, they've been great for TV," said Schulz who had no knowledge of the ACC proposal. "Sometimes the live audiences are not really good when the lower-seeded team winds up winning. It's great for those fans but for the conference point of view it may cost you that [championship] shot. The question really becomes how much of a great idea are those championship games?"

Bowlsby said he doubted all 10 FBS conferences would be forced to stage a championship game for uniformity purposes in the College Football Playoff era.

"Theoretically, that could happen. It never would," Bowlsby said, "because of the way this organization has been put together. That just isn't going to happen."

Former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer exploited a little-known NCAA bylaw in 1992 that allowed his conference to first stage a conference championship game.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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