STILLWATER, Okla. — Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby says the league likely will seek permission from the NCAA to hold a championship game even though it doesn’t have the 12 members required under the current rules.
Down to 10 members after the departure of Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Texas A&M in recent years, the Big 12 was forced to do without a championship game the last two seasons. Kansas State and Oklahoma tied for the championship with matching 8-1 records in conference play last season, and the Wildcats earned the automatic BCS berth after winning the head-to-head matchup.
Oklahoma got left out of the BCS when Northern Illinois made a late charge up the rankings.
Bowlsby had said before this week’s Big 12 athletic directors’ meetings in Dallas that he expected the topic of pursuing the return of a championship game to come up. With shifting membership, Big Ten and Pac-12 added conference title games in recent years. The SEC and ACC already had them.
“At a time when lots of deregulation is taking place, it seems a little bit odd that the NCAA would be describing how we determine our champions,” Bowlsby said Wednesday night, when he watched the Iowa State-Oklahoma State men’s basketball game.
“I think it’s reasonable to say if you’re going to have a champion that you’re going to have to designate it in one fashion or another. But to say it has to be between 12 schools or that there has to be divisional play or there has to be a round-robin, we’re deregulating lots of things and that certainly is a candidate.”
As he has done repeatedly, Bowlsby reiterated that the league is comfortable with proceeding forward with 10 members because conference members are receiving high payouts per school and pleased with their access to the postseason.
“We are unconvinced at this point that larger is better,” Bowlsby said.
While the league is not currently considering expansion, Bowlsby said it was looking at working with other conferences for partnerships on such things as strengthening nonconference schedules in football and men’s basketball.
“One of the things we know is that the months of October and November in the football season are about as good of sports as you’re going to get. Every game is important and every weekend is something exciting. The month of September is not necessarily that way,” he said. “It gives us a way to fortify our nonconference schedule in some important ways, too.”
He said that could also mean more marquee nonconference games outside of the first month of the football season.
“We, as a rule, haven’t played very many nonconference games after the first of October,” Bowlsby said. “And so, the thought of choreographing games into the later portion of the season is pretty interesting from a TV standpoint, too.”
KEVIN LONNQUIST’S TAKE:
There’s no reason to think why the NCAA won’t grant the Big 12 its waiver and allow it to play a championship game. If it’s giving waivers to 6-7 teams to play in bowl games, why break the pattern?
There are lots of reasons why the Big 12 would want to have a championship game. But it really comes down to one thing — money. Now, the conference publicly won’t admit it but there were probably a few in Dallas with egg on their collective faces when Oklahoma and Kansas State shared the conference championship, in spite of the Wildcats winning the head-to-head meeting. They probably don’t want to have that again.
For what it’s worth, those three games on Dec. 1 of last year had great theater to them. And it gave the conference great exposure in three different locations. Baylor won a shootout with Oklahoma State. Kansas State held off Texas to clinch the BCS berth. Oklahoma had to hang on in the final seconds to win at TCU.
Back to the money, a conference championship game is indeed a revenue windfall. But I have a hard time believing that it will make the same kind of money that the SEC’s does. And since the membership is at 10 and it’s a round-robin format, the conference would need to decide if it wants to go back to a neutral location — Cowboys Stadium would gobble that up in a hurry — or play at somebody’s home field like the PAC 12 does.
Then it has to be really clear on how the tiebreakers will be established in the event you have three or more teams ending up with the same record. When that happens, you’re still going to have somebody pretty sore about the outcome.
Now, Bowlsby has said that the conference is not in favor of expansion and would like to explore alliances with another conference (perhaps the Atlantic Coast Conference). Having written what I wrote earlier, don’t dismiss the idea that if an alliance is formed to play games against each other in September that the postseason championship game could also involve those two conferences.
There is so much volatility in college athletics that the shelf life of this story and the subsequent take could last about a week. At least it’s not dull.