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Lab Experiment: Relegation In College Football

[Ed. note -- Front Page'd]

What if college football were to adopt a relegation/promotion mechanism similar to English football? A little bit of reality will need to be suspended for this, of course, but if nothing else, it makes for fun discussion and a fascinating lab.

First, we need to rank the schools, top to bottom. Suspend reality and assume that we can find a fair way to do this. Next, we need to decide how large individual leagues would be. Finally, we can examine the impact this structure would have on college football.

Initially, I considered creating 13-team leagues to allow for 12 games a year. If FBS/1-A college football contributes 130 teams to this experiment, we can form 10 13-school leagues.

This structure comes with its own pros and cons. Pro: everyone plays everyone. Con: how do you determine who hosts whom? Who is lucky enough to get Alabama at home? Who has to travel to LSU?

You could fix this problem by installing two-year terms in leagues. This way, everyone plays everyone at home and on the road. This also means that a champion would only be determined every other year-- good for suspense and story lines, bad for instant-gratification.

Another solution? Establish 7-team leagues. Each school hosts and travels to the other six schools in its league for a total of 12 games. Let's assume FBS/1-A college football contributes a nice, round 126 teams to this experiment-- this yields 18 7-school leagues.

Every year, the bottom three schools in each league are relegated to the immediately-inferior league, while the top three schools in each league are promoted to the immediately-superior league.

Now that we have the structure, we can discuss the impact it has on college football.

1. How would a relegation/promotion system impact recruiting and the kinds of players a school pursues?

2. How would the natural turnover from graduation, expired eligibility, and the NFL draft affect a school's ability to stay competitive?

3. What would it take to remain in the top tier? The goal is to win, sure, but the real goal is to survive and be consistently good enough, right?

4. After a number of years, would membership in individual leagues remain relatively stable (ignoring the relegated/promoted schools)? Would we see the same faces in the top few leagues? Over time, would college football find an equilibrium?

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