AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Two days after Alabama’s latest national championship, a vote at the NCAA’s annual convention could have a huge impact on which teams make the College Football Playoff going forward.
A proposal by the Big 12 Conference set for consideration Wednesday in San Antonio would deregulate how conferences conduct their championship games. It would let the 10-team Big 12 play a title game without being forced to break into divisions or expand — and it would allow the other major conferences to potentially tinker with their championships as well.
If the Big 12 doesn’t get what it wants, it could be forced once again to consider adding teams.
“We’d like the (current) rules to go away in order to set our own,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “We ought to have a local prerogative.”
Conferences are currently required to have at least 12 members and two divisions in order to stage a title game between division winners. The Big 12 hasn’t played a title game since it shrunk after the 2010 season, plays a round-robin league schedule and has shown no real appetite for expansion.
That formula hurt the league in 2013 when Baylor and TCU were both left out of the playoff. Oklahoma made it in this year, but its lack of a 13th game was seen as a reason why the Sooners dropped from the No. 3 seed to No. 4.
The Big 12’s push for change appeared to be heading for approval by the Division I Council, a 10-member group that includes representatives of the 10 football-playing conferences. But an amendment proposed by the Big Ten to keep divisions and play champions — and outright opposition from the Southeastern Conference — have the Big 12 fighting to keep the plan alive or find an acceptable compromise.
“The legislation currently identified, those proposals are not something we are inclined to support,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “We do have an interest in understanding the Big 12’s current situation, that if they have an interest in a championship game or finding if there’s another alternative legislatively that can be pursued.”
Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford said his league supports the Big 12’s proposal. He brushed off suggestions his league could scrap its current title game setup and divisions if the deregulation plan is approved.
“I’m not sure it affects our league whether it passes or not. Our support has been philosophical in nature. Conferences should have autonomy and complete autonomy,” Swofford said. “The likelihood of us changing anything is very minimal based on the conversations we’ve had the last couple of years.”
Bowlsby said this week he could accept a compromise if it leaves the Big 12 with flexibility. One idea that has been floated: a league with only 10 teams and no divisions must guarantee its title game matched its No. 1 and No. 2-seeded teams.
And would a vote its way even guarantee the Big 12 holds a title game? Bowlsby said there has been no league vote on that yet.
“That’s going to be up to our athletic directors, presidents and chancellors,” Bowlsby said. “We haven’t counted the votes on that yet.”
Potential expansion would seem the bigger concern if the Big 12 doesn’t get what it wants. Bowlsby said it would “certainly have to be an option to consider,” but it’s not one the league has opted for in the past.
A push to add teams came after the league was shut out of the 2013 playoff, but may quiet down in the wake of Oklahoma’s playoff appearance.
New Texas athletic director Mike Perrin said he’s intrigued by the possibility of a Big 12 title game, but wouldn’t take a position on potential expansion. He noted two things he likes about the league — its geography and schedule.
“I like that we’re a heartland conference with a great member in West Virginia … and maybe I’m just old school, but I like the round-robin schedule. I like that everybody plays each other every year,” he said.
AP College Football Writer Ralph Russo contributed from Scottsdale, Arizona.