The Pac-12 has changed its conference championship game selection criteria, effective immediately for the 2022 season, the league announced Wednesday. Winners from the North and South divisions are no longer guaranteed to compete in the Pac-12 Championship Game; rather, the two teams with the highest conference winning percentage will qualify, regardless of division.
The new selection process follows the NCAA Division I Council's vote to free conferences from division and championship game requirements. Now, conferences of any size are allowed to decide scheduling and conference title game structures independently. The Pac-12 will keep its existing division-based schedule for the 2022 season but will examine different models by 2023.
"Our goal is to place our two best teams in our Pac-12 Football Championship Game, which we believe will provide our conference with the best opportunity to optimize CFP invitations and ultimately win national championships," said Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff in a statement. "Today's decision is an important step towards that goal and immediately increases both fan interest in, and the media value of, our Football Championship Game."
The Pac-12's conference title game model matches one that the Big 12 has utilized since it returned to a conference championship game in 2017. The Big 12 has produced a College Football Playoff team in three of the subsequent five seasons. The Pac-12 has not produced a playoff team since 2016.
Had the Pac-12 utilized a similar model in previous years, it would have changed five Pac-12 Championship Game matchups since 2011. Notably, the change would have allowed No. 4 Stanford in 2011 and No. 5 Oregon in 2012 to both earn trips to the conference championship games instead of unranked and No. 16 UCLA, respectively.
The schedule could provide immediate benefits starting in 2022, as early conference favorites Utah and USC both play in the Pac-12 South. Now, both the Trojans and Utes would be eligible to face off in the title game.