I won’t lie. As much as I try to be flexible and open-minded, I hate change. When the NCAA started monkeying with the nomenclature of Division I football, I thought it was stupid. I felt that everyone knew and understood the old way. I felt it was a valid concept. I felt like it was some sort of nod to political correctness (“We don’t see you as lesser football teams, just teams that get to play for a real national championship, so let’s use that!”).
Now, honestly, I’m not quite as certain.
Initially, this looked like double-speak. It was taking something clear (to me) and replacing it with something confusing. The two terms are still a bit clunky and the acronyms are too similar at first glance to work very well as identifiers, but after reading the NCAA rationale for the change, I have to admit that the attempt was probably a good idea. Here’s a quote from the NCAA document abolishing the 1-A, 1-AA, and 1-AAA monikers:
In supporting the new labels, it was noted that Division I-A conferences attempt to brand each individual conference during the regular football season and seldom have used the Division I-A label. Division I-AA institutions and conferences tend to use references to Division I-AA football more often, but find the term confusing and misapplied by the public, boosters and media when referring not only their football programs but their overall athletics programs. The label Division I-AAA has no meaning beyond noting that the institution or conference does not sponsor football and elimination of its use should have no detrimental impact.
That… errr… makes sense. Having a 1-AAA label to denote the absence of the sport in question does, in fact, seem stupid. I also have to admit that I occasionally mistakenly applied the 1-AA tag to a school’s basketball program where it had no business being, or confused it with Division II.
So, in theory, I must now admit that I accept the change. It’s pretty clear when you see the labels fully written out – One group of schools plays postseason bowl games, the other plays a championship tournament. No sweat.
But the whole FBS/FCS thing has to go. I realize “subdivision” is accurate, but it’s a mouthful. And a reader coming across either term in print has to stop and say “Wait, if it has a ‘B’, it’s 1-A, and if it has a ‘C’, it’s 1-AA.” In that way, it hasn’t really done away with the offending terms, it has simply caused writers and readers to break out the decoder ring on a daily basis. As a method for shortening an unwieldy three-word label, the acronym approach isn’t working. For one thing, we know we’re talking football, so let’s drop the “F”.
I admit, I’m not sure how to solve the problem. I don’t want the NCAA to create yet another term for next season – that would be even more confusing. So, given the label we already have, what can we use for shorthand? Bowl vs. Champ? It just sounds so informal. In a way, calling one subdivision “Championship” really underlines the fact that the Bowl system doesn’t produce a true champion, and I can’t imagine that’s what the NCAA wanted.
I think the greatest minds of the blogosphere can work this out. Let’s hear your ideas in the comment field.