With TCU and Baylor just missing out on the first college playoff, the Big 12 conference went straight to the drawing board to come up with a resolution to avoid this type of omission in the future. While expansion was the most logical answer for some, BlueGoldSports.com has been able to confirm that Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will petition the NCAA to deregulate conference championship games.
This effectively puts to rest rumors of expansion, at least for the time being. With the support of the ACC Conference, the Big 12 will petition the NCAA to allow a conference championship game with only 10 teams.
Rules currently require that in order to have a championship game, a conference needs to have at least 12 teams and 2 divisions. Both the Big 12 and ACC have petitioned the NCAA for deregulation in the past, but the petitions did not reach a vote because of other NCAA issues at the time.
Bowlsby now apparently believes that with autonomy in place there will be a better result. He recently stated in an interview with Dan Patrick that if the NCAA voted to deregulate, he expects it within the next 6 months. That would allow the Big 12 to have a conference championship game as soon as the 2015 season .
However, allowing the Big 12 to have a championship game does not necessarily mean the conference will choose to have one. Bowlsby has also stated recently that it would merely give the Big 12 an additional option moving forward. Scheduling will be another issue the conference will discuss in the future. With SOS being so important in the eyes of the committee non-conference games should be scheduled accordingly. Baylor ended the season with a strength of schedule ranked at 113, for comparison WVU’s end of the year SOS was 29.
The conference may also address how they schedule conference games as well. Without a championship game the conference may be better served to save marquee conference matchups til later in the season. It seemed at times the committee took the “what have you done lately” approach instead of looking at an entire body of work. This could be a reason TCU dropped from 3 to 6 in the final poll.
Even if the Big 12 decides to implement a championship game, the conference will NOT split into divisions. The conference would keep the round robin schedule and presumably have the two teams with the best record play for the championship.
Another option would be to have the two highest ranked teams play in the championship, giving the conference that 13th game against a quality opponent that Jeff Long recently eluded to.
The reason the conference has decided to petition for deregulation instead of expanding is simply money. There are currently no teams outside the Power 5 that would warrant the same Big 12 Conference per team payout at 12 as it does at 10.
Schools such as Cincinnati and BYU have petitioned the Big 12 for inclusion, but with a reform in the NCAA bylaws regarding a conference championship there is no compelling reason to add more teams.
Bowlsby was recently criticized for not promoting one Big 12 champion to the committee. Instead, Bowlsby named TCU and Baylor co-champions. Brian Ethridge of BearsTruth.com maintained that the matchup between Kansas St and Baylor was essentially a conference championship game. The winner of that game would receive at least a share of the Big 12 Title.
Ethridge went on to point out that crowning TCU earlier in the day weakened the importance of the Baylor victory later that night. Perhaps the conference should have taken that into consideration when making their selections the following day. Both Baylor and TCU finished 11-1 overall, and 8-1 in the conference. Baylor won the head-to-head matchup between the two earlier in the season.
Ethridge also made a very good point in stating that being included in the college playoff is, “more about prestige than money in this system”. He noted that the Big 12 conference missed out on approximately $3 million by not having a team represented in the playoffs.
This comes out to only $300,000 per team, which in a conference with multi-million dollars in revenue is merely a drop in the bucket. However, a conference championship game would also yield a financial return to each of the 10 schools in the Big 12.
So to recap, although numerous schools have contacted the Big 12 about admission into the conference there will be no expansion. The Big 12 is looking at all other avenues including deregulation and scheduling.
A special thanks to Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News and Brian Ethridge of BearsTruth, part of the 247 network, for their input into this article.
Article photo courtesy of CBSSports.com