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Pac-12 adjusts football championship game format after NCAA lifts divisional restriction

The change goes into effect this season

arizona-wildcats-football-pac12-ncaa-conference-championship-vegas-scholarships-transfers-2023 Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pac-12’s football championship game will no longer automatically feature the North and South division winners after the NCAA relaxed its rules on who can play in conference title games.

Shortly after the NCAA announced the change, the Pac-12 said it will use conference winning percentage to determine which two squads meet for the league title in Las Vegas.

Since its inception in 2011, the Pac-12 title game has had the North and South champs meet for the crown, resulting in unranked schools playing on multiple occasions. Per the league, five of the first 11 title games would have had a different team in them under the new format, including in 2020 when Colorado would have replaced Oregon (who filled in for Washington after it didn’t have enough players due to COVID) as Utah’s opponent.

The 2014 title game, in which Arizona lost to Oregon, would not have been affected by the change.

Also Wednesday, the NCAA announced that for the next two recruiting cycles there is no limit on the number of “initial counters” for football, meaning teams can sign as many high school and junior college prospects (and transfers) as it chooses as long as it remains under 85 total scholarships. Previously the annual limit of initial counters was 25, though for the 2022 recruiting cycle teams could replace up to seven players who had entered the NCAA transfer portal.

Arizona, which is estimated to have 83 scholarship players entering the summer, has only seven scholarship seniors on the roster. But the combination of potential NFL draft early entrants and the inevitable portal departures could leave the Wildcats with more than 25 slots to fill.

Counting transfers, Arizona has signed 29 new scholarship players for 2022.