On the opening weekend of college football, 78 games were played involving Division I-A squads. Thirty-eight of those games, virtually half, also involved lower-division teams.
In September, 265 games will be played involving major-college teams. Seventy-six of those are against lower-division teams. This grand sport, this game that rivals baseball and trumps the NFL in its tradition, has lost its balance. Lost its moral compass. College football’s caretakers are on hiatus. They have let September dissolve into a series of one-sided, meaningless games, interrupted only by a few games a week that honor the sport. Our own teams have done their share to lift the profile. Oklahoma-BYU. Oklahoma State-Georgia. Oklahoma-Miami next week. They also have contributed to the shame. OU 64, Idaho State 0 last Saturday; OSU-Grambling in a name-the-score mismatch this Saturday. Which is why college football cries out for centralized scheduling. Minimum scheduling requirements for the schools entrusted with the sport’s good name. A year ago, I trotted out a plan in which the Big 12, SEC and Atlantic Coast conferences — the three major leagues with a dozen teams each — would agree to play an opponent from each of the other two conferences every year. That would guarantee two legitimate non-conference opponents every season for every member of those three leagues. Some liked my idea. Bob Stoops endorsed it. Joe Castiglione was open to the idea. Of course, the Sooners are not the problem in college football scheduling, so I’m not sure I’ve got a consensus just yet. So let’s raise the stakes. Time to call for commitments from all the BCS leagues — the Big 12, SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big East — to require their teams to adopt scheduling standards. Teams that play four non-conference games would be required to play at least two against fellow power-league foes. The Pac-10, which plays nine conference games, would be required to play just one non-conference game against a BCS-league school, though the Pac-10 usually schedules tough without the mandate. And the Big East, which has five non-conference games, would be required to play three within the agreement. For good measure, let’s invite the Mountain West Conference into the coalition, since the Mounties play good football and deserve a seat at the BCS table anyway. Such a step toward centralized scheduling would have profound and wondrous effects on college football: →More good games in September, a month rife with mismatches. The television networks would love it; rights almost surely would go up. →A clearer picture in the national championship race. The bowl system would be enhanced, since more competitive games would weed out the contenders. And remember who most supports the bowl system: the conferences in question. →Fiscal sanity in the payouts to schools sacrificing their teams for a huge check.