What if College Football had Relegation???


The English Premier League season recently came to an end and with that, three teams lost their status with the EPL and will move down to the second tier of English soccer called ‘The Championship’. The season was capped off with Everton staving off relegation by defeating Bournemouth on Sunday. While watching, I was thinking college football could use something like this to keep parity and drive competition throughout the country. We know the competitive landscape of college football is a never-ending discussion. Four teams aren’t enough, twelve is too many and why don’t teams outside of the Power 5 get a shot? We could go on and on. Here’s how I think it would look if major college football implemented promotion and relegation.

The Rules

There are 10 conferences within the FBS level of college football. Although conferences aren’t as regional anymore, the general locations match up pretty well. For each Power 5 conference, there will be a corresponding group of 5 conferences based on their region.

  • B1G & MAC
  • SEC & Sun Belt
  • Big 12 & Conference USA
  • ACC & American
  • Pac 12 & Mountain West

The bottom two teams in each Power 5 conference will be relegated to their corresponding group of 5 conferences and the top two teams from the group of 5 conferences will be promoted to the related Power 5 conference. For conferences with divisions, the top and bottom teams from each division will be relegated or promoted. Based on the 2022 results, here is what these conferences would look like going into 2023.

Big Ten & MAC

This would be a super interesting switch. I am one of the many people who believe Rutgers shouldn’t be in the Big Ten, to begin with. Then, we have MACtion. MAC teams are notorious for taking out Big Ten teams on an annual basis in nonconference play. Minnesota fans know all about this. In 2021, 30+ point underdog Bowling Green rolled into Minneapolis and handed the Gophers a loss. Promotion would put the rest of the conference on notice with Ohio and Toledo joining the ranks!

SEC & Sun Belt

This one feels right. JMU gets the opportunity to prove itself to the Power 5 teams that are currently afraid to schedule them. They might be under their transitionary probation but I think they would raise some hell in the SEC. This isn’t all bad for big schools. On the bright side for Texas A&M, relegation would give them every reason to buy out and fire Jimbo Fisher.

ACC & American

This combination of conferences would make a lot of fans happy. The American and ACC will reunite some old Big East football foes through the process. UCF and Cincinnati were the 2nd and 3rd teams in the American in 2022. With both moving to the Big 12, SMU slides in their place. Tulane had a historic season in 2022 and finds a well-earned promotion to the Power 5. We all saw what they did to USC in the Cotton Bowl… The Green Wave can play with the big boys. People forget Tulane at one time was part of the SEC.

Big 12 & Conference USA

This is a perfect example of capturing program momentum and scaling it up to the best competition. Frank Harris has shot this UTSA team to the top of Conference USA. With Harris’ return, UTSA takes an exciting 2022 season and looks to stretch the momentum into 2023. North Texas fired coach Seth Littrell after their 2022 bowl game. Hard to imagine him getting fired knowing he led them to a 2023 berth in the Power 5. Another benefit is coaches at small schools are more likely to be rewarded without leaving their program. Then relegation allows these programs to build better without being poached.

Pac 12 & Mountain West

Could you imagine Deion Sanders still taking Colorado as a member of the Mountain West? The roster overhaul is something, but the 2022 Buffaloes didn’t deserve to be in the Pac-12. The best part of relegation is the proof. If you don’t think you belong in the Mountain West, PROVE IT!

What About Independents?

There are currently seven independent FBS football programs not tied to a conference. The Independent team with the worst record gets relegated to the FCS. Then, joining the ranks of the FBS is the most recent FCS champion. The only way back into the FBS is to win an FCS national championship. This twist for independents strongly supports the conferences. Notre Dame has been strong recently, but would they take a chance to keep their Independent status? They could complete their marriage with the ACC similar to what they did in the 2020 season or jump ship to the Big Ten where they are aligned for hockey.


In the college football landscape, the rich get richer. Promotion and relegation would help even some of that out. Promotion also offers non-traditional teams a path to compete for a playoff spot. With that opportunity comes better access to talent when playing within top conferences. The best players want to play in the biggest games on the biggest stage. With that said, would blue chip prospects stay at a team like Texas A&M once relegated to the Sun Belt? I can only speculate, but the Aggies have resources within their program to claw their way back.

Final Thoughts

Would this work in major college football? Probably not. But, we are allowed to dream right? It’s no secret that the conferences are running college athletics right now. Would promotion and relegation bring more balance from the governing body of the NCAA? The theory alone sets the stage for some interesting matchups in 2023.