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Dynamo Dresden v 1. FC Kaiserslautern - Second Bundesliga Playoffs Leg Two

Let’s do College Football Promotion and Relegation...the German Way.

I mean...yeah, beer and sausages, but also loser-gets-dropped games with FLARES!

Photo by Ronny Hartmann/Getty Images

You know what college football needs?

More flares thrown onto the field by angry fans.

CRICKET-WC-2015-AUS-ENG Photo credit should read SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images

OK, OK, that was a bad idea. I admit it. Sorry to the Vox Media legal department.


You know what college football needs more of? Promotion and relegation. The Big Ten would long be rid of Rutgers, Louisiana-Lafayette would be hosting LSU every other year, and Kansas would be finally get to 6-6 in C-USA. Maybe.

But no, this isn’t one of thosedoes college football need promotion and relegationarticles. God knows those have been done to death.

Instead, what this posits is that one of the great things about college football are the winner-take-all games in front of a raucous crowd that’s gonna lose its shit at any given moment. See, for example:

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

But now consider, in a pro/rel format, not only the thrill of victory, but the agony of defeat:

Dynamo Dresden v 1. FC Kaiserslautern - Second Bundesliga Playoffs Leg Two Photo by Ronny Hartmann/Getty Images

Those are Dynamo Dresden players after their team—which finished third-last in 2. Bundesliga (that’s German pro soccer’s second division, the Zweite Bundesliga)—lost its promotion-relegation playoff to the third-place team from 3. Bundesliga (third division, Dritte Bundesliga, keep up), 1. FC Kaiserslautern. The lost the home-and-home playoff by a 0-2 margin, conceding two goals at home in front of what were clearly understanding fans, as the flare on the field behind them implies.

You see, while in English (and Spanish) soccer the bottom three teams are relegated to the lower division at the end of the season, replaced by the top three teams from the lower division, in German (and French) soccer the third-worst team from the first division plays the third-best team from the second division. Those matches are two-legged, home-and-home, and if you lose at home, there at best case will be a few flares sent your way. At worst, there will be what the French fans of Saint-Etienne decided to do:

Now, we obviously don’t condone that, even if I thought multiple times last year “I’d like to hit Jim O’Neil with a non-lethal, non-injurious flare.” Y’know, one that would inspire him to be a better coach or something.

With that in mind, I’m proposing a simple twist on the boring old pro-rel system that Reddit proposed and then Bill Connelly picked up on and then picked up on again and picked up on again and...

...where was I?

Basically, we’re adopting the German model, but constraining it a little because three teams promoted and/or relegated is likely more than the system can handle right now. Instead, we’re making it two, and we’re having the second-worst and second-best teams play off against each other.

Thus, the College Football Pro-Rel Playoffs (sponsored by Bad Boy Mowers). These would be played the week before bowl season begins and be shown not on the home conference’s network, but on the lower conference’s network. Enjoy streaming live on ESPN+ on a Tuesday night, Big Ten. Welcome on CBS Sports Network, SEC. You’re gonna hate it here.

A few notes on the college football pro-rel system:

  • All Division-1 scholarship leagues are eligible. Is this because I couldn’t really fit the Ivy League in and don’t get me started on the Pioneer League? PERHAPS! Deal with it, Tommies.
  • I am setting the promotion-relegation number at 2. That feels like more than enough AND it maximizes my misery, because I’m almost certain Northwestern will lose to Kent State. Worst team (hi, Indiana!) gets relegated, second-worst team goes to the playoff.
  • I broke ties like the Big XII’s playoff relegation spot using head-to-head matchups and, where needed, head-to-head against common opponents.
  • For 2021 results and playoffs, I’m using the conference championship games to determine auto-promotion vs. playoff promotion—Northern Illinois beat Kent State in the MAC Championship Game, for example, and laws of MACtion dictate they get to go to the Pizza Pizza Bowl Big Ten.
  • For FCS divisions where there are two smaller conferences where one would do, they’ll have to play a playoff to get auto-promoted, with the loser of the promotion game playing another game for the playoff promotion. I’ve explained all that in the table below.

Here’s what that would have looked like for the 2021 college football season:

Over the next few days weeks weekends random moments where I see fit, we’ll play a couple of those promotion-relegation playoff games, at least in the FBS pro-rel showdowns. They’ll be one-off games at the home site of the relegation candidates using What-If Sports. No plans to adjust for weather right now, but I could be persuaded.

Here’s that lineup of pro/rel playoff games:


Anything you’d change? Anything you’d do differently? I can’t promise I’d listen, but that’s the beauty of the offseason.

In the meantime, get your predictions in for Northwestern-Kent State. I’ll be over here drinking bleach.