Are the moves by the SEC and the Big 12 a precursor to a 13 game regular season schedule in college football? The answer is a “definite maybe.” College presidents will tell you that 13 games is too many, because they infringe upon the responsibilities of the student-athlete, that is, the responsibility to attend class and turn in work in a timely manner. Behind closed doors, you can bet college presidents and athletic directors alike realize the benefits of a 13 game regular season schedule.
Right now, the PAC-12 and Big 12 are the only conferences to play nine conference games. The PAC-12’s decision was based on a prior decision for all members to play each other, in 2006 (when the conference had 10) and the Big 12’s decision is a similar one, now that they do have ten. The Big Ten has announced intentions to move to a nine game conference schedule, beginning in 2017. However, the Big East plays only seven conference games, and five nonconference games.
Since 2002, the PAC-10/12 has sent 57% of its members to bowl games, the Big 12 65%, Big East 66%, Big Ten and SEC 67% and ACC 70%. So why is the PAC-10/12 percentage so low? Its partly due to the pitiful representation in bowl games in 2010, 4 (as USC was ineligible). For the PAC-10, since 2006, when the extra conference game was added, the PAC-10 has sent 56% to bowl games, with 58% being sent from 2002 to 2005, not a real noticeable difference. Look at the Big East, though, who has played 7 conference games for 8 of the last 9 years (6 in 2005). In years where Big East teams had at least 5 non-conference games were played, 68% of teams made bowl games.
The negatives of adding an additional game? (1) The main negative is probably the impact on playoff discussions in NCAA Football. Adding an extra game makes it tougher to make the argument that the BCS should be scrapped in exchange for an NCAA Tournament style format. (2) How will bye weeks work? Right now, many conferences have two bye weeks, so would could, conceivably, be eliminated. However, some conferences, like the Big Ten, only have one bye week per team. Most coaches would like at least one bye week, rather than playing straight through.
The positives of adding an additional game? (1) Gate revenue – BCS level teams and other teams visiting them, reap the benefit of an extra payday. (2) Television revenue – The schedule will likely be expanded out by one week. (3) Teams would need to have a winning record to make a bowl game, rather than be 500 (would need 7 wins as opposed to 6). (4) Teams who are currently independents will not feel as forced to join conferences – With a move to 9 conference games by some BCS conferences, it becomes tougher for independents, and members of those conferences playing 9 games, to schedule non-conference rivalry games.
The decision to add another game to bring the total regular season schedule to 13 may not be made next year, and it may not be the year after that, but it is on its way. The NCAA will want to wait and see how conference realignment sorts itself out, but get ready for 13 regular season games.