Well, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby really created a lot of reaction from his comments during day one of Big 12 media days, didn’t he? The first set of musings the commissioner set forth was that cheating pays in the NCAA. He certainly got people talking about the Big 12, but was it productive? It depends on which side of the argument you’re on.
There was a second set of remarks Bowlsby made that will be an ongoing discussion in the months ahead, possibly longer, and it’s not a new conversation, but since the commissioner brought it up, let’s not dive in.
“The fact that we play everyone in the league is a fact that we play everyone in our league is a nuance that’s not going to be overlooked by the committee,” Bowlsby said.
The question has been brought up to Bowlsby before about possible expansion for the Big 12, but he has repeatedly stated the conference is perfect with its current number. While every other Power Five conference has a championship game, the Big 12 has a round-robin format where every team plays each other once.
The motto for the newly branded conference is “one true champion.” While bold and very telling, the question has been raised if the conference will suffer from exclusion by the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, because they play one fewer game than the other four P5 conferences.
We know that conference championships, head-to-head results and strength of schedule is supposed to be the main criteria, amongst other stats, for the 13-member committee when selecting the four team playoff. So, it stands as an obvious observation to wonder how that will affect the “true champion.”
One advantage the Big 12 has over the 14 member SEC, for example, is if there’s a high-profile game to be had within the league, it will happen (barring complete team collapses). For instance, take a look at last year. Alabama didn’t have South Carolina, Georgia or Missouri on their schedule. Each of those match ups would have had major national title implications for each team. Baylor (2013 Big 12 champ) on the other hand, played Oklahoma (7-2), Oklahoma State (7-2) and Texas (7-2). Of course, we can debate the strength of schedule aspect of the two conferences, but you get the picture.
Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports tackled the idea of the Big 12’s one true champion, and while he brought some valid points to the table, there’s one example that doesn’t hold water. He points to 2011, when Oklahoma State finished 11-1 at .0086 of a point behind Alabama for a BCS Championship berth. He wrote the difference could have been the Tides’ addition of a conference title game on their resume. However, the bottom line is OSU was robbed of a shot to play in the title game against LSU. The Cowboys had two more wins over ranked opponents than Bama, and had more victories over teams with a winning record.
It’s inevitable, with just four spots in the playoff available, and five conferences to choose from, a conference will be left out. Factor in the possibility of two teams from the same conference getting in, and we’re looking at two P5 conferences excluded from the playoff. We won’t truly know what the selection process will look like until it happens, but what about the future of the Big 12?
It could very well be possible the committee will place a heavy emphasis on a team featured in a conference championship game over the round-robin winner of the Big 12, but does that mean the conference must expand with two more teams? It sounds great, doesn’t it? The team to emerge out the Big 12 runs the conference table and enters the playoff with an undefeated league record. But the fact is, a Big 12 team has run the table just five times in nearly 20 years.
If the reasoning is strictly financial, don’t even bother. The Big 12 recently announced eight of its schools would receive $23 million payout this year, while the SEC just announced the team payout is $20.9 million. The SEC team payout is set to increase, and will most likely eclipse all major conferences in revenue, but as long as the conference keeps producing national champs, it will be hard for the ACC, Pac 12, Big 10 and Big 12 to keep up.
Commissioner Bowlsby needs to be a bit more open-minded when it comes to expansion. Let’s say a couple of years go by, and we see the lack of a conference title game hurting the Big 12’s chances of being selected for the playoff. Would he then explore expanding?