In a shake-up intended to boost the Pac-12 Conference’s standing in college football at large, the conference on Wednesday announced that the two teams with the highest conference winning percentage will match up in the Pac-12 football championship game.
The change will take effect for the 2022 season this fall.
Under the old format, the winners of the North and South divisions would meet in the conference’s championship game at the end of the regular season.
The new format puts the future of the North and South divisional format very much in doubt. In a news release, the conference says the divisions will remain in place for 2022, but the format beyond this year “will continue to be reviewed.”
The Pac-12’s announcement came shortly after the NCAA’s Division I council on Wednesday eliminated a rule requiring FBS conferences to split into divisions if they wanted to play conference championship games.
In 2011, when the Pac-12 expanded from 10 teams to 12 — adding Utah and Colorado — it created the North and South divisions.
The Pac-12’s new format would have resulted in a different championship game matchup in five of the past 11 years. Most notably, under the new format, the 2018 Pac-12 title game — in which Washington beat Utah — would have been an Apple Cup rematch between the Huskies and Cougars.
“Our goal is to place our two best teams in our Pac-12 Football Championship Game, which we believe will provide our conference with the best opportunity to optimize CFP invitations and ultimately win national championships,” Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff said in a statement. “Today’s decision is an important step towards that goal and immediately increases both fan interest in, and the media value of, our Football Championship Game.”