Big 12 could add title game

Baylor football players hoist the Big 12 title trophy after winning the Big 12 on Dec. 7, 2014. The Big 12 may add a championship game for 2016.  Kevin Freeman | Lariat Photographer
Baylor football players hoist the Big 12 title trophy after winning the Big 12 on Dec. 7, 2014. The Big 12 may add a championship game for 2016.
Kevin Freeman | Lariat Photographer

By Ralph Russo
Associated Press

IRVING — There is a good chance the Big 12 championship game will be making a comeback as soon as 2016.

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he believes the conference will move toward having a championship football game again because not having one puts the league at a disadvantage when it comes to placing teams in the College Football Playoff.

“Having 13 (games) is superior to having 12,” Bowlsby said Wednesday after speaking with selection committee chairman Jeff Long at the College Football Playoff meetings in North Texas.

Bowlsby said he came away from his conversation with Long convinced that not having a conference championship game was a problem for the Big 12 last season and that it will continue to be an issue for the league.

“What we heard was that if we don’t go to a championship game, we’re at a disadvantage,” Bowlsby said. “It kind of gives us guidance to what we need to be doing in the future.”

The Big 12 holds its league meetings next week in Phoenix, Ariz., and Bowlsby said he anticipates plenty of conversation about where the conference wants to go with a championship game.

“If it gives us an opportunity to be on equal ground (with the other conferences), if we are not now, then that’s what we have to do,” Baylor coach Art Briles said.

But first it needs to be allowed to hold one.

NCAA rules do not allow a conference to have championship football game unless it has 12 teams split into two divisions. The Big 12 is the lone Big Five conference that has only 10 teams. The Big 12, along with the Atlantic Coast Conference, is sponsoring a proposal to deregulate championship game rules, which would allow a conference to hold a championship game with any number of teams. If the proposal passes, the Big 12 could implement a championship game as soon as 2016.

Bowlsby has maintained all along the Big 12 was not making the proposal because it planned to hold a title game, but simply wanted the option to do so.

“Now it’s incumbent upon us to make the necessary changes that minimize that disadvantage,” he said. “I surmise we will probably move in that direction, knowing what we know now.”

Baylor and TCU tied for the Big 12 title last season with 11-1 records, but both finished behind Ohio State (12-1) in the final playoff committee rankings. The Buckeyes earned the fourth semifinal spot with a 59-0 victory against Wisconsin the day before selection Sunday. On that same day, the Horned Frogs and Bears were completing their regular seasons with victories. The Big 12 decided to name them co-champions instead of using a tiebreaker to designate one as the champion.

Baylor beat TCU 61-58 in the regular season. The Bears finished fifth in the final playoff rankings and the Horned Frogs were sixth. Going into the final weekend of the regular season, TCU was third, Ohio State was fifth and Baylor was sixth.

When the Big 12 had 12 teams, it played 15 conference championship games. But when realignment cut the conference to 10 teams, it decided to play a nine-game conference schedule with all the teams playing each other. No other Big Five conference could make that claim and going into the first season of the playoff the Big 12 touted its way of crowning a champion as best.

Now, a year after slapping its “One True Championship” slogan on everything related to Big 12 football, the conference is moving toward holding a championship game that would be guaranteed to be a rematch of a regular-season game.

“I do think it’s tough to beat the same team twice in one season,” Briles said.

The Big 12 could conceivably expand to 12 teams, but there seems to be no desire to do that within the conference because it would mean dividing revenues with two more schools that wouldn’t increase what the conference brings in.