IRVING, Texas (AP) – The Big 12 is bringing back its football championship game in 2017, regardless of whether the conference expands from its current 10 members.
Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Friday that university presidents and chancellors unanimously voted to approve “in concept the re-implementation of a championship football game.”
As expected, there was no resolution from the conference on the topic of expansion.
“We certainly consider there to be an array of options,” Bowlsby said as the league wrapped up three days of meetings. “We saw compelling data and had good discussions about the championship game. I think it’s fair to say, I think, there were still some questions raised about whether adding members was going to be the right thing or if in the end it was going to be dilutive.”
A championship game is expected to generate an additional $27 million to $28 million per season for a league that for 2015-16 will split a record $304 million in net revenue – or about $30.4 million per school.
Oklahoma President David Boren, the chairman of the league’s board of directors, said the revenue “shows the strength of the conference and the well-being of the conference and our ability to continue to improve every year.”
This is the 10th consecutive year of revenue increases from the league’s deals and money from the College Football Playoff, bowl games and NCAA Tournament games. The teams split about $252 million for 2014-15, but this is the first year that TCU and West Virginia both get full shares since joining the league in 2012.
Those figures don’t include third-tier broadcast rights, such as the $15 million a year Texas gets from ESPN for the Longhorn Network or money Oklahoma makes from its own network.
The Big 12 abandoned its conference title game after the 2010 season, when realignment stripped the league of four schools – Missouri, Texas A&M, Colorado and Nebraska. The Big 12 added West Virginia and TCU and has been a 10-team conference, playing a nine-game, round-robin football schedule ever since.
How the conference will decide which teams play in the championship game and a scheduling format are still to be determined.
“We have a lot of details to work out,” Bowlsby said.
The Big 12 hired consultants to analyze whether bringing back the championship game would increase its chances of making the playoff and its revenue. In both cases, the answer came back yes.
“The presentation as the commissioner said our consultants on the value of the championship game both in terms of providing a 13th-data point (game) to help our chances of getting into the football playoffs was very, very convincing, ” Boren said. “Also, very helpful in terms of our financial position in increasing the revenue distribution per school.”
After the Big 12 was left out of the first playoff, the conference began looking into reviving the championship game and petitioned for a change to NCAA rules to do it with a 10-team conference. The NCAA recently approved the Big 12’s request to allow conferences to hold football title games with less than the previously required 12 teams split into two divisions.
The Big 12 did reach the playoff last season when Oklahoma won the conference title outright. The previous season Baylor and TCU shared the conference title and both were left out.
Boren agreed with Bowlsby that the data presented about a championship game was compelling with the competitive and financial advantages it would provide.
As for expansion, Boren said the board of directors was committed to talking as a group toward the end of this summer. But he said leaders would be deliberate in the process about deciding whether to add teams.
“We have to wait and see where the data takes us,” he said, adding that they want to be careful about what would be enhancing to the conference for long term. “It’s a matter of more data, more comparative data.”