WE could make this happen EVERY YEAR.
Like the majority of you, I don't follow European soccer all that closely. Admittedly, I probably follow closer than some of you, but I don't aspire to be some sort of soccer hipster that pretends I care about the "fixtures" of the week all for the sake of being an American sports contrarian. Regardless, like it or not soccer is the most popular sport in the world, especially in England where it is the only sport that genuinely matters. Oh sure, they have rugby, but let's not fool ourselves: an entire continent lives and dies by the results on any given Saturday, and it's not the guys playing weird football. To put it in perspective, imagine if baseball, basketball and hockey up and disappeared, leaving only football to satiate your sports interests. Now imagine transferring all of your sports enthusiasm for the other teams you root for into one football team and that that football team also played in your hometown. That's at least scratching the surface of how much the sports means to those folks; if you want to REALLY get under the surface, consider that, were we as enthusiastic as most soccerphiles, Ross Evans would've had to hire bodyguards after the Utah game because without a doubt someone would have put a hit out on him. It's not rational, but it's the reality of how the game affects a lot of those who follow it.
No matter how much I tried it's doubtful I would ever FULLY grasp how a 0-0 soccer match could be described as "beautiful," but I can certainly understand some of its appeals, if only superficial ones. For one, a soccer match is two 45 minute halves free of commercials and sideline reporting; in other words, watching a soccer match is a 2 hour commitment, tops, once you include halftime and added injury time. I'd miss Erin Andrews and Jenn Brown, but I'd get over it knowing I'd never have to hear another dumbass pre-halftime tight lipped interview again. Another is the system of "loaning" players to another team. Imagine it: Texas' season goes in the absolute tank early, while TCU soars to an undefeated season heading into November. However, in the Oklahoma State game, Waymon James tears his MCL. Compound that with Ed Wesley breaking his collarbone at Baylor a couple of weeks prior. With Aaron Green unable to suit up until the 2013 season, that leaves the Frogs a teency bit thin at RB and pretty much crushes any title hopes we may have had. If this were the EPL and the "midseason transfer window" was open, there's nothing to stop CDC from calling Deloss Dodds and "leasing" Johnathan Gray for a fee for the rest of the season, hopefully riding him to a Championship and then returning him to Austin. Ok Ok, so that would NEVER happen, and it doesn't work QUITE that smoothly, but in theory it's possible.
But, the most intriguing appeal for me, and I'd imagine for a lot of others, is their relegation system. For the sake of brevity, I'll limit this conversation to the English Premier League only. As a crash course, England has 4 main leagues - the EPL, the Championship, and Leagues One and Two. Think of these as the NFL, the UFL, the Arena League and whatever League it is that Terrell Owens presently competes in or, for our conversation, D-1, D-1AA, D-2 and D-3. At the end of the season, the bottom 3 teams in each league are moved down a division, while the top three teams in the league immediately below are moved up, and on down the line. For instance, this season on the last day of play, the big story was the two teams from Manchester going down to the absolute wire in deciding who would win the League Crown - the Super Bowl and BCS Title game of the EPL- but the parallel storyline receiving almost as much column space was the battle between Bolton and Queens Park Rangers for the final spot to stay clear of being relegated. Understand, being relegated in European soccer would be akin to going from a BCS, high paying league to the NAIA where money is concerned. The sudden drop in financial stability has sent teams into bankruptcy just a couple of years after being relegated. It's so severe that relegated teams are actually kept on the EPL payroll immediately afterwards because if not the sudden shock would kill off most of the teams altogether. It'd be like getting SMU'd, not for cheating, for losing. See why this is such a big deal? Darwinism, respec.
Last summer, when the idea of four 16 team Super Conferences was all the rage, I made an attempt at tossing out a pitch for NCAA Football implementing the relegation system. It involved making the Conferences regional and trimming the fat - ie Baylor, Duke and USF - in order to get the numbers even, making the MWC, WAC, Sun Belt, etc into lower leagues and even setting up a tournament for the top teams in each Conference ie the Champions League played all across Europe. However, this became EXTREMELY convoluted once I realized how much the turnover in leagues from year to year would make travel insanely complicated to flesh out, aside from the more glaring reasons, notably how ZERO ADs would go for it. So I abandoned the idea altogether and kind of forgot about it until yesterday when I read THIS article from SBNation/EDSBS Spencer Hall. The article is written in jest and mostly in honor of what has been described as the most exciting day of the most exciting season of EPL soccer ever, but it's fun to speculate. And, heck, in a vacuum where all parties agree, it might work.
The gist of it is this: College Football basically already operates like the EPL, with 20 teams holding all the power; case in point, since 1990 -21 seasons- only 14 different teams have won a national title. He also makes the point that, with Conference realignment, relegation is pretty much in full effect with the Big Six holding all the marbles and those who weren't thrown a life raft paddling like hell to stay alive. Just ask New Mexico State and Idaho about equality. Teams like TCU, Utah and Boise, having made their scratch in a "lower league" were rewarded with entry into a "higher league," which is a lot like small time clubs like Fulham, Stoke and QPR clawing their way up the ranks for a bigger payday. But, where my idea was to break up the Conferences into regions, Hall simplifies things by keeping the Big Five (sorry, BEast) intact and having them turn the mid majors into subconferences, or the Championship Leagues. For example, The Big Ten's subleague would be the MAC, the Pac 12-MWC, the Big 12-CUSA, the SEC-Sun Belt and the ACC - the Big East, which he justifies by saying, "if that sounds like an insult to the Big East, you really should take a hard look at the Big East's current membership." Point. Taken. That way, you keep all of the teams in close proximity and avoid the major headache of re-adjusting Conferences year to year based on location that my system would have stumbled into.
He doesn't go down the line, but you can work it out as you like - NAIA, D-3, D-II, D-1AA would have similar hierarchies, although it would be MUCH simpler to keep it to 5/5. No mention of if there would be a points system, although it would be pretty easy to implement - think hockey, with points being awarded for OT losses and the like. The BIG oversight here is how the post-season would work, but again, you can probably guess. Perhaps a ten team playoff, with each of the five leagues sending their top 2 teams? Or, keep the currently proposed four team model and give the #1 overall seed a bye? For the "Champions League" you could do something similar to how it works now with the top 4 finishers in every league qualifying, with spots 5&6 going to a lesser tourney. Lots of possibilities here which we hope you'll give us in the comments section.
Given, there is a SHITTON to dislike about the EPL system, mainly how the influx of foreign money/lack of a salary cap enables only about five teams - Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and now Manchester City - to have any sort of hope of winning it all on a yearly basis. If it played out accordingly, Ohio State, Texas, LSU/Florida and Alabama would be the only NCAA teams with any shot of winning, which is not a world anyone should want to live in. However, within the constraints of college football its clear that this is not how it ALWAYS has to happen - think how close West Virginia was a few years back- and just think of the by-products of this system. Imagine TCU/Baylor - have to keep SMU out of the talk due to Conference affiliation for now- is moved to the final day of the season. Both teams come in licking their wounds, with TCU having 4 losses and already accepted a bid to the Holiday Bowl. But imagine Baylor, with a loss, would be dumped down a level. Think that might give our boys some inspiration to come out and play their asses off? Or the flipside - imagine if this year's TCU/OU season ender was for the #1 overall seed in the post-season tourney and a spot in the Champions League the following year? The day the Champions League pairings are announced is akin to how we view schedule announcements and signing day rolled into one. Imagine, aside from being in the Big 12, competing in a knockout tournament with OSU, LSU and USC? Kinda cool, no? Of course, if this were to happen, the Champions League idea would NEVER fly because of the added games, but this is MY fantasy world and I can run it how I choose.
So what do you guys think? Would this be something you'd be interested in, presuming CFB exists in a world where something like this could ever gain momentum? (It doesn't). Your suggestions and improvements in the comments.
**UPDATE** Apparently SBNation is making this a thing with posts throughout the week. Check out the next two HERE and HERE.