The new Pac-12 commissioner is ready to shake up college football scheduling, and thank God he is. George Kliavkoff entered the world of college sports just this summer, so maybe it’s his outsider perspective that’s allowing him to think outside the box, but he has put forward the suggestion that perhaps scheduling football games a decade in advance is — as he so delicately put it — “insane.”
He’s absolutely right. It will be a real challenge to change a system that’s already in place like that, with a decade of games already scheduled out, but the years-in-advance announcements of home-and-home series do essentially nothing but guarantee money for schools already swimming in it. And it’s not like those schools wouldn’t be playing a full schedule anyways — no matter when a matchup is scheduled, they’ll still profit off of ticket sales and TV rights.
Thinking about a game in 2030 is ridiculous. 2030 doesn’t even sound like a real year at this point. And yet Notre Dame and Alabama have scheduled a home-home series for 2029 and 2030. In this case, when it’s two blue blood programs meeting up, it almost kind of sorta makes sense, but Notre Dame also scheduled Arkansas for 2028. Arkansas? Sure, they were a great Cinderella story for the first half of this season, but who knows where the program will be that long from now? Something that’s especially important to keep in mind is the difficulty with balancing non-conference strength of schedule, which has become a huge debate point in playoff discussions.
Try as one might to build a fall season that has winnable yet challenging matchups, it’s impossible to predict that far in advance how a team will look. Of course, that can happen with normally scheduled games too — Georgia thought they were scheduling a top opponent in Clemson just this year, only to watch the Tigers shit the bed throughout their regular season. You can’t always factor in unexpected sudden drops like that, but closer scheduling would allow for more mitigation of lopsided games.
Will all of this change with the expanded playoff that keeps getting pushed further and further back? Yeah, probably. One- and even two-loss teams will still get their shot to fight for the title in, like, five years, or whenever the committee can finally make up their minds. But with the new “alliance” between the B1G, Pac-12, and ACC, schools won’t get as nervous about having slots to fill on their schedule when all the cool kids have already scheduled ten years in advance. With the countless moving parts in the sport, conference realignment among the most concerning of them, teams are more anxious than ever to get their games scheduled against non-conference rivals. The audacity of Kliavkoff to wait until the same calendar year to schedule games! What he suggests is a sort of “save-the-date” model that allows high-level non-conference matchups to be scheduled throughout the season, rather than just at the very beginning, as many are now (Ohio State opened against Oregon this past season, for instance, and will open against Notre Dame this coming season. Games like that could be more spread out under a different scheduling model).
There are approximately a million questions to be answered once Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC and force the conference to realign within itself due to an oversaturation of teams, so perhaps it would be better to wait on putting this into action until the sport is a little more stable. But Kliavkoff is right — it is insane, and we’ve just been accepting it for what it is for a long time.
By 2030, who knows — maybe the amateur model will be fully abolished and college coaches will be hauling in contracts worth $50 million. Maybe college football won’t exist anymore as we know it. Maybe Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos will have officially started their colonies on Mars. But if nothing else, you can bet that Alabama and Notre Dame will be playing!