STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Now the Big 12 Conference has a real debate to settle after both of its co-champions were left out of the four-team playoff.
After weeks of talk about whether Baylor or TCU deserved to be in the playoff, neither made it Sunday, and the Big 12 may be reconsidering how to declare its champion.
“That will cause us to go back to the drawing board a little bit and talk about whether or not we need to think about a different model,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN after the final playoff ranking.
The Big 12 is the only of the big-five leagues without a championship game, but it also the only one where every team plays each other in a round-robin schedule. Baylor and TCU (both 11-1, 8-1 Big 12) were declared co-champions, even though the Bears beat the Horned Frogs 61-58 on Oct. 11.
Baylor was fifth in the final playoff ranking, with TCU sixth. The Bears had been behind TCU in the first six weekly rankings, which began 2 1/2 weeks after they played each other.
The top four were Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State, all who won conference championship games.
“It’s clear that we were penalized for not having a postseason championship game,” Bowlsby said. “It would have been nice to have been told that ahead of time because we made the impression that we had a different model, but it wasn’t one that was going to penalize us, and I think it’s clear that it did.”
Both Baylor and TCU still made it into one of the New Year’s six games.
The Frogs will play in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 against Mississippi (9-3) from the SEC. Baylor is going to the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day against Big Ten team Michigan State (10-2).
TCU was third in the playoff ranking before its 55-3 win over last-place Iowa State on Saturday to claim a share of the Big 12 title in only the Frogs’ third year in the league. Baylor was sixth before a 38-27 win over Kansas State (9-3, 7-2) to get a share of its second consecutive championship.
Bowlsby presented championship trophies to both teams after their respective games, those celebrations coming about seven hours apart.
Baylor coach Art Briles made it clear that he believes the Bears should be considered the league’s “One True Champion,” living up to the league’s slogan. He had a rather brisk conversation about that with Bowlsby on the podium in the middle of the field during the celebration.
“There’s one true champion and it’s the Baylor Bears,” Briles screamed to the fans, then making that case again in his postgame interview and before Sunday’s selections.