We have already presented you with the most sensible alternative to college football’s rigid, often-unbalanced divisions: the pod system. Pods balance the desire to protect existing rivalries with the need to keep schedules fresh and vibrant, and they do so in an orderly fashion that’s easy to understand and free from accusations of favoritism.
Today, however, we want to offer up a different solution to the same problem, one that is markedly less sensible but much more entertaining: the Division Basement Draft.
The concept, originally dreamed up by my wife, Kaitlin, is very simple. At the end of each season, every conference takes the worst team from its two divisions and has them alternate picking who their division colleagues will be next season.
Let’s use the 2018 SEC as an example. Arkanas finished at the bottom of the West Division with a conference record of 0-8. Tennessee, who went 2-6 in SEC play, came in last in the East. In the Division Basement Draft system, they would have alternated, with Arkansas going first, picking schools to fill out their divisions for 2020. And that might have yielded something like this for 2019:
Consider the possibilities that rearrangement opens up. An Iron Bowl rematch in the SEC Championship, or a Florida-Georgia game that decides the winner of the West, or LSU printing out 2019 SEC EAST CHAMPS shirts.
Then the process repeats with the worst teams from each division that year, regardless of their original home. You could, for instance, have Ole Miss drafting teams for the SEC East while Kentucky picks the teams to fill out the West.
This system presents a number of advantages, no matter which conference you use it in.
1. More Television
We’re going to let ESPN air this live during the summer. It’s going to take far too long, as they stretch it out to cram more commercials into the broadcast, but it’s all going to be worth it watching athletic directors sweat through decisions like “South Carolina or Auburn?” (This is basically the same thing as asking whether you’d like food poisoning or spicy food poisoning.)
And, because this is TV, we’re going to make them talk through the whole thing. Why did you pick Texas A&M in that spot? What makes you think the Aggies can’t win the league this year? Do you just hate dogs?
2. Challenging Division Reputations
Every year, we’re going to assume the Big Ten East is better than the Big Ten West, because one has Ohio State and Michigan and Penn State and one does not. The West has a perception hill to climb from the beginning, even though everyone’s starting the year 0-0. By redrafting divisions every year, we force ourselves to regularly reconsider our conclusions. (Before we wind up saying “Yeah, the division with the Buckeyes is better,” at least.)
3. Creating Beef
Traditionally, there is not much heat to an Arkansas-Mississippi State game. (I mean no offense by this; I can’t state that strongly enough. State fans, please do not approach my family in church. Arkansas fans, please do not poison me, in church or otherwise. Thank you.) The Hogs and Bulldogs have only played each other 31 times, and few of those clashes have been particularly memorable.
But what if Mississippi State’s motivated by the slight of being drafted third overall by Arkansas? “THEY THINK WE’RE SHITTIER THAN MIZZOU – AND SOUTH CAROLINA!” is some powerful bulletin board material. Lose to Arkansas, however, and you end up justifying their low opinion.
4. The Stay-Puft Moment
We could try a version of this draft where the best team in each division is doing the picking, but it’s less satisfying watching juggernauts pick out the teams they plan to obliterate. Here, with their final picks, the two worst teams have to choose the form of their destructor. In our example, Arkansas has to pick between Georgia and Alabama to complete its division, an absolutely hellish choice. Tennessee, meanwhile, doesn’t even get the option. They just sit there helplessly, watching as the Razorbacks pick UGA and doom them yet another bloodletting at the surprisingly well-moisturized hands of Nick Saban.