Stewart Mandel ($$) ponders a possible change in his infamous (well, in these parts, anyway) college football feudal hierarchy.
As we head into 2020, do you plan on re-doing your college football feudal hierarchy list soon? Along those lines, do you think it would be appropriate to add the label of “emperors” beyond the “Kings” of the sport? You have a set of programs making their annual conference races nearly foregone conclusions, such as Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State.
Quintin M., Bowling Green, Ohio
In the past I’ve done it every five years (2007, 2012 and 2017), specifically to avoid getting too caught up in what’s happening right now. Remember: These “tiers” I devised are not strictly based on performance on the field. It’s more a measure of how their brands are perceived. As I’ve explained in the past, college programs’ prestige levels took years, if not decades, to build, so we wouldn’t expect their brand power to change considerably one way or the other in a short span of time.
But a question worth considering: Is the number of programs that qualify for the top tier — be it Kings, or your suggested Emperor subset — in fact shrinking? I’ve always had about the same number in that top tier. But of those 13 as of 2017, nearly half — Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan Texas and USC — are probably not held in quite as high esteem as the others. (Miami quite frankly is in danger of falling out completely, which seems nuts to say about a team that’s won five national championships in my lifetime.) Florida and Michigan have won plenty of games recently, USC won a Rose Bowl not that long ago, but they’re not Playoff contenders — and that’s now coming to define programs far more than any other element.
Now, one or more of those could turn around and reach the CFP in the next year or two and go right back to enjoying exalted status. Which is exactly why I’m not inclined to update these rankings any sooner than I have to. But it’s interesting to note that while I was able to cite five programs from the top tier whose prestige has been suffering, I only one see Baron on the cusp of potential promotion — old friend Georgia. That, too, speaks to a possible thinning of the ranks of what we consider “the top of the sport.”
So, you see, it’s not so much a matter of Georgia’s brand being enhanced as it is there being fewer trees in the forest blocking the view.
I guess that means not as many people recognize the Song Girls as they used to.