After a day in the desert together, the Big 12 cooled off on the idea of a championship game in football.
Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the athletic directors continued to show restraint since TCU and Baylor were left out of the inaugural College Football Playoff, leapfrogged by an Ohio State team that got a huge push out of its overwhelming victory in its conference championship game.
“I think we all believe that one year is not a long-enough window or a long-enough trial to draw any conclusions,” Bowlsby said Tuesday at the Arizona Biltmore hotel, where the ADs and football coaches spent the first of two days meeting. “I think we may find ourselves in better shape than some other conferences as a result of our model, not in spite of our model.”
Last week, the conference appeared to be steamrolling toward a championship game after Bowlsy learned at the CFP meetings in Irving that the 13th game made a difference for Ohio State. He told reporters that, all things being equal, the Big 12 was at a disadvantage without a conference championship game. He said he “surmised” that the conference would move to add a title game.
But Tuesday, the athletic directors greeted him with a more measured response.
“They were pretty thoughtful,” Bowlsby said. “When we met the Monday after the selection show, there were a few raw nerves. I thought it was potentially a really hard meeting. But they really did a good job. Even the TCU and Baylor people that were right in the middle of it were very thoughtful and introspective and said, ‘You know, one year doesn’t make a trend. Let’s see how this goes forward.’ “
Bowlsby appeared relaxed and even joked with reporters, who wondered if he might have overreacted last week.
“Maybe I did,” he said with a smile. “I’m not immune to that, I guess.”
The athletic directors will meet with the football coaches on Wednesday to gather their opinions on the championship game and other issues, in addition to agreeing on tiebreaker rules; the coaches agreed not to name “co-champions” next season. The ADs will take their findings to the school presidents in meetings May 27-29 in Irving, where the recommendations will be voted on.
The coaches are split on the need for a 13th game, but generally agree that one year is a small sample.
“We don’t know if last year wasn’t an outlier,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “We know more what the criteria is. We didn’t know a year ago that the 13th game was going to matter that much.”
Bolwsby said the conference will continue to push for a change in the NCAA rule that requires two divisions of six teams or more for a league to stage a championship game, but added, “You shouldn’t draw any conclusions from that.”
If the Big 12 wanted to hold a championship game, it could push for an expedited rule change under the Power 5 conferences’ autonomy guidelines.
“I have not encountered a single FBS commissioner who has expressed opposition to it,” Bowlsby said.
The athletic directors agreed to keep the nine-game conference schedule rather than trimming back to eight games, Bowlsby said. They also expressed no interest in expansion for the sake of a championship game.
Bowlsby said the Big 12 athletic directors are not necessarily finished talking about a championship game.
“If we want to revisit it, I’m sure we will,” he said. “It’s easy to get a robust debate going; we don’t all agree on everyhing. I think, on the main, we’re pretty happy with where we are.”
So the question isn’t going away for the Big 12. Even in coming years, the league will continue to weigh the risk of a championship game in football.
“That’s the kind of qeustion we have to ask ourselves: is the gain worth the risk? And is the disadvantage so significant that we have to do something to respond to it? And I think the jury’s out on that.”
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407