TCU

Acknowledging ‘reality,’ Big 12 agrees on tiebreaker for football

TCU coach Gary Patterson and Baylor coach Art Briles shake hands as they wrap up their pre-game conversation on Oct. 11 last year. Baylor won the game, but the teams both ended the conference season with one loss, sharing the Big 12 championship.
TCU coach Gary Patterson and Baylor coach Art Briles shake hands as they wrap up their pre-game conversation on Oct. 11 last year. Baylor won the game, but the teams both ended the conference season with one loss, sharing the Big 12 championship. Star-Telegram

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will never need to visit two stadiums on the last day of the season again.

He will hand out only one trophy in football next year.

The league agreed on a championship tiebreaker Wednesday during its meetings at the Arizona Biltmore hotel, acknowledging that the “conference champion” label will help its top team land a spot in the College Football Playoff.

“One of the four criteria they use is championships won,” Bowlsby said. “It’s one of the things we said we were going to take into account, and we need to.”

Bowlsby presented championship trophies in the regular season finales in Fort Worth following TCU’s win over Iowa State and in Waco after Baylor’s win against Kansas State.

The coaches had voted every year of the league’s existence to award co-championships, and the lack of a single champion is believed to be part of the reason neither TCU nor Baylor stacked up against Ohio State for the final spot in the four-team playoff. In addition, Ohio State had the benefit of playing and winning an extra contest, the Big Ten championship game.

“They’ve never told us having co-champions last year cost TCU or Baylor the access,” Bowlsby said. “What they said instead was Ohio State impressed the committee, and they felt they got the right four in.”

Head-to-head will be the first tiebreaker, and if that was the case last year, Baylor would have been the champion by the benefit of its 61-58 victory over TCU.

In the case of three or more teams tied for first place (or any place), the team with the best record against the next highest team will emerge. If the next highest place is also a tie, head-to-head will break that tie. If the next highest place is three-or-more team tie, the team in the higher tie with the best record against the three or more teams in the lower tie will emerge.

The next tiebreaker for three or more teams is scoring difference in the games against the teams in the tie. The team with the biggest margin between points scored and points allowed in the tie wins the tiebreaker.

If the three or more teams remain tied after those steps, the conference will pick the champion in a draw.

“Both the football coaches and athletic directors were unanimous,” Bowlsby said. “There were four options, ranged everything from strength of non-conference schedule to victories over the highest CFP-ranked team to some other nuances. But generally speaking, the one we adopted is the one that we think is most clear-cut, most understandable and unequivocably breaks ties.”

Bowlsby said there was some apprehension about the scoring difference tiebreaker because it could lead to running up the score, but that it is unlikely to come down to that often.

“It gave us some comfort that a 21-7 win is more valuable than a 48-41 win,” Bowlsby said. “We were concerned, does it favor a defensive or an offensive team? But in the end, absent any other way to break the tie, it’s as good as any.”

Baylor coach Art Briles said it ought to work out.

“I hope we’re involved, that’s all,” he said. “It’s a lot of speculation. But I think we’re moving in the right direction. No question.”

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy appreciated that it was a unanimous vote.

“I feel strong that it’s moving in the right direction,” he said.

Bowlsby said some disagreement probably remains among the coaches about dropping the co-championship. But he said circumstances make it necessary.

“They acknowledge the reality that absent a championship game, we don’t want to be different in two ways — that we can’t get to one champion and that we also don’t have a championship game,” he said. “I think everybody acknowledged the reality of having to take this step.”

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

Twitter: @calexmendez

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