DALLAS (AP) — The Big 12 has always been different from the other Power Five conferences.
The product of a messy merger between the Big Eight and the Southwestern Conference in the mid-1990s, the Big 12 is by far the youngest of the wealthiest FBS leagues. Fifteen years after it was born, the Big 12 was nearly killed by conference realignment and picked apart by other power conferences.
While the other conferences grew and added championship games, the Big 12 survived by shrinking and getting rid of its title game.
Once again, the Big 12 is looking to try something unique by holding a conference championship with only 10 teams.
Commissioner Bob Bowlsby dropped the news Wednesday at the end of an otherwise ho-hum couple days of College Football Playoff meetings in North Texas. He said after meeting with selection committee chairman Jeff Long that he came away believing that not having a championship game put the Big 12 at a disadvantage in the playoff race.
“If we don’t make changes, we’re potentially going into the season with a short stick in our hand,” Bowlsby said.
The soonest the Big 12 can hold a title game is 2016. First the NCAA must pass a proposal to eliminate the rule requiring a conference to have 12 members and two divisions to have a football championship game. That should happen early next year.
On one hand, Bowlsby’s change of heart seems like exactly the type of knee-jerk reaction he cautioned against after Baylor and TCU missed out on the playoff last season.
On the other, if you can’t beat’ em, join ’em.
Here are some of the pros and cons of the Big 12 holding a championship game.
Playing a conference championship game allows the selection committee to more easily judge Big 12 playoff contenders. The conference had a valid point with its “One True Champion” slogan last year. The best way to determine a champion is to have all the teams play each other. The Big 12 is the only conference that does that, but different is not always better. Playing 12 games when the competition is playing 13 gives the selection committee another variable to weigh. And its job is tough enough.
A Big 12 championship game is redundant.
The most likely format would be to match the first- and second-place finishers. With a full round-robin schedule, that means the championship game will always be a rematch between teams that have played the same conference opponents.
There will be times, such as last season, when the top two teams are close and a rematch seems reasonable. There will also be seasons when the difference between Nos. 1 and 2 is huge. Why should a team that finished with a perfect conference record have to beat one that finished 7-2 a second time?
You say, ‘It happens in other conferences all the time.’ The difference: Conferences with 12 or more teams play imbalanced schedules so one team’s 7-1 league record is not equal to another’s.
A conference championship game eliminates recency bias.
Ohio State’s resounding final statement, 59-0 against a ranked Wisconsin team in the Big Ten title game, was tough to ignore on championship weekend. That same day, TCU beat hapless Iowa State 55-3 and Baylor beat a good Kansas State team, 37-28, at home.
A conference championship game guarantees the Big 12 contenders a big game on a big stage to end the season — when the selection committee is watching most closely.
Why make it harder on yourself?
If Ohio State beat Wisconsin 20-17 or Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston threw one more interception against Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, Baylor probably would have made the playoff. If both of those things happened, maybe both the Horned Frogs and Bears make it.
And there have been plenty of examples dating back to the BCS of teams on the cusp on playing for a national championship that were upset in the conference title game. In the Big 12, remember Kansas State in 1998 and Missouri in 2007?
The 10-team championship game format, with a full round-robin might be tough for some in the conference to swallow. The solution? Add two teams and break into divisions, like the other conferences.
Big 12 teams shared $221 million last year and this season that figure is expected to be around $250 million. Unless the conference can add two schools (BYU? Cincinnati? Central Florida? Boise State?) that bring in substantially more revenue (doubtful) from media partners, the current members will be taking a pay cut.