Continuing our series about American Football, or ‘Gridiron’ as we’re calling it for this article, today we’ll talk about the college/university level of the game, its structures, and competition format.
As mentioned in part one, gridiron is played based on school level starting in high school, some high school players are good to be recruited to play at the university level. University gridiron or college football here in the states, is hugely popular, more so in many parts of the country than the NFL professional league.
Many schools’ football programs are huge parts of the identity of their school, city, state, or region. College gridiron is so huge in this country that several programs have financial budgets comparable to professional teams in other sports, for example the University of Texas’ gridiron program is valued at over $133 million, making “the Longhorns”, the richest team in all of collegiate sports.
Now, while Texas is the prime example of the wealth and popularity of college gridiron, the thirst for revenue from the sport had caused thousands of universities and colleges to start their own programs even though gridiron is the most expensive collegiate sport to finance. Now in “Division 1” college gridiron determining a “National Champion” can be akin to the UEFA Champions League.
Only the best teams are eligible to win it, but unlike the Champions League, a team’s ability to win the championship is not based on the results of the previous season, but on which league or “conference” that team is in and the results of the current season.
As of this moment only teams from the six “power conferences” are eligible to compete for a national title, and roughly about 124 teams are able to compete under this format.
There are other conferences in “Division 1” gridiron in what are known as “mid major conferences” but they are ineligible to compete for the national title due to the vast difference in skill of their conference opponents, school athletic budgets, and general influence.
From the “power conferences”, the member teams play 12-13 game seasons from August to December, mostly against teams within their own conference, while leaving a few game slots for “Out of Conference or OOC” competition.
The SOS or “Strength of Schedule” of a team’s season is determined by the ability of its conference opponents as well as the strength of it’s “OOC” foes. For the last time, this year deciding a national championship will be a season long process through a ranking system that utilizes polls of the USA Today, coaches, the Associated Press and other groups.
Using a secret and complicated mathematical equation with the polls in account, the top 25 teams in college gridiron are determined each week. At the end of regular season the teams in the top two positions are the only ones eligible to compete for the national champion.
This ranking format has caused many controversies throughout the years. Several years, legitimate title contenders were blocked from entering the championship with supposedly less deserving teams were allowed in, causing mass detracts for the current system. So starting in 2014, the four best teams in the country as determined by a selection committee will compete with each other in a playoff, which will culminate in hopefully unanimous national champions being crowned.
In the next installment, the professional level, the NFL is explained, from the make-up of its teams to the finances that have made it the richest sports league in the world.