I have a few thoughts about various ways Cal football and/or the Pac-12 conference can improve college football. The first references the Pac-12 – Big Ten scheduling alignment by trying to devise a creative way to enhance and implement the series. Today’s idea involves a pick-your-own-opponent draft. Instead of the athletic departments all trying to come to individual agreements amongst themselves, why not reward winning teams by allowing them to choose their Big Ten/Pac-12 opponent. The specific idea is as follows:
The pick-your-own-opponent draft results in mandatory home and home series, with each opponent being selected by the schools of one conference (the conferences alternate choosing their opponent every two years). This should be able to work within the context of the scheduling alignment, as every school is reserving an open weekend for this game anyway. The selection order is determined by the in-conference record during the previous years, with ties decided by a coin-flip (or OOC record, or bowl record, or head to head record, or whatever other method is deemed mostly fair). If the Pac-12 were selecting this year, and based on last year’s record alone (because it’s the only year with everyone in the same conference), the selection order would be:
1. Oregon (8-1)
2. Stanford (8-1)
3. USC (7-2)
4. UCLA (5-4) via coin-flip
5. Washington (5-4)
6. Cal (4-5) via coin-flip
7. Utah (4-5) via coin-flip
8. ASU (4-5)
9. Oregon State (3-6)
10. Colorado (2-7) via coin-flip
11. Arizona (2-7) via coin-flip
12. Washington State (2-7)
This means Oregon has first choice and can select any Big Ten team to play a home and home series with. Oregon can use any criteria they deem fit by selecting: a marquee opponent (Ohio State/ Michigan/etc.), a safe opponent (Indiana/Minnesota/etc.), or a good but not great team (Iowa/etc.). Oregon can choose how ever they want, and whomever they want, so long as it is a home and home (in this case, 2012 & 2013, 2013 & 2014, or whatever is logistically feasible [also, I realize the scheduling won’t start until 2017]). Stanford would receive second choice, and be able to select any team with exception to Oregon’s choice. The draft continues until the process of elimination pairs the last place Pac-12 team with whatever team is left in the Big Ten. In two years time, the Big Ten hosts their selection party and the roles are reversed.
As with everything this idea has positives and negatives.
First, it creates a nice bit of drama. I know I would watch a selection draft if it were a televised event, it might also create a bit of must-see television for the Pac-12 network/Big Ten network to air during the college sports doldrums of June and July. Second, schools can start to accuse each other of dodging them. For example, if Oregon has the first selection and chooses Indiana instead of Ohio State/Michigan/Penn State/Nebraska, then Ohio State/Michigan/Penn State/Nebraska fans can legitimately call out Oregon for not wanting to play them. This has the added bonus of the slighted school having their chance at redemption two years later during the draft, by choosing Oregon (assuming they are available), then these schools play on the field. Further, if a controversy were to develop between two schools (similar to the 2004 Cal – Texas feud, or the Oklahoma – Oregon onside kick shenanigans), the slighted school could choose the offending school (if they draft early enough). Thus, greater drama develops within college football. Finally, if the less prestigious programs have an uptick in play, they are rewarded by being able to select higher quality opponents, who are then required to play at their stadium. This could be a boon for programs like Oregon State and Washington State that struggle to secure marquee match-ups at home.
Typically the traditional powers will choose first. This could translate to marquee programs in each conference perpetually choosing each other, and effectively blocking the less prestigious schools from playing these marquee opponents (though, the networks would love this). Another negative is being able to create a balanced schedule. Schools like USC and Michigan already play Notre Dame OOC, and being selected by a school of another conference (and having no voice in this selection) makes it difficult plan a reasonable schedule. Further, scheduling is a bit more complicated than I suggest in this article. For the Pac-12 there are two other non-conference games, and the Big Ten has three. The two teams drafted together then have to find a common weekend to play. This would totally be feasible if the conferences reserved one weekend for this slate of games, but I’m fairly confident the network execs would prefer to spread their quality content throughout September rather than consolidate the content into one weekend. The Pac-12 has the added problem of playing an uneven number of conference games. Each Pac-12 school would prefer to host a BCS opponent at home when they have only 4 conference home games. The uncertainty of the pick-your-opponent draft does not guarantee this scheduling arrangement.
Personally, if the conference can make the logistics work, I'd be completely sold on this idea. I believe most of the time, the conferences would get 5 or 6 compelling games a year, and it would be interesting to see who teams choose to play. I also believe a lot of the early selections would be used to pick middling teams from the other conference. I actually think UCLA might be the hottest selection out of the Pac-12 as the opposing team gets to play in LA, and have the SoCal exposure to help recruiting in that area, but with much greater odds of sweeping the series than playing USC (assuming the best of the Big Ten chooses first).
Finally, I realize there are several details that I brought up that would need to be worked out more thoroughly. Please, don’t focus on the unresolved details, which are exemplified by what years the draft influences. I don’t think it is fully relevant to the pick-your-opponent draft concept if the 2012 draft determines match-ups in the 2013 & 2014 seasons or the 2014 & 2015 seasons, or the fact this can't even be implemented until 2017.
What say you? Yea, Nay, Hell Nay!