In efforts to help the Big 12 rebound from having both of its co-champions snubbed for berths in the inaugural College Football Playoff, Commissioner Bob Bowlsby took an unusual step Monday.
He told a national radio show that he would have chosen TCU over Baylor for a spot in the four-team bracket if he had been part of the 12-member selection committee. Bowlsby made his comments to guest host Chris Mannix on the Dan Patrick Show, where the commissioner acknowledged surprise that TCU (11-1) fell from No. 3 to No. 6 in the CFP’s final rankings.
The Frogs finished behind No. 5 Baylor (11-1), with the last two playoff spots going to No. 3 Florida State (13-0) and No. 4 Ohio State (12-1).
Asked which team he would have voted into the playoff mix, if given a chance, Bowlsby responded “TCU” without hesitation.
“The only reason I say that is because I thought they were in a better position to stay in there,” Bowlsby said. “The committee made a statement by making them third, ahead of an undefeated Florida State [in the previous set of weekly rankings].
“It seemed like they were better positioned to stay there. Obviously, in a perfect situation, I thought Baylor and TCU were both good enough to be in.”
But committee members decided otherwise. In explaining their rationale, they cited the fact that the four playoff participants played 13 games because of conference championship games in their respective leagues.
The Big 12, because of its 10-team configuration, cannot stage a conference championship game under NCAA rules. Its co-champs went into playoff deliberations working off 12-game rèsumès and fell short.
During Sunday’s playoff announcement, selection committee chairman Jeff Long made it clear that Ohio State’s 59-0 rout of Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship helped the Buckeyes improve from last week’s fifth spot and into the playoff mix over both Big 12 co-champs.
“It was a 13th game against a highly ranked opponent,” Long said of the Buckeyes’ romp. “It had an effect. It was significant. I can’t say that it wasn’t.”
As he mentioned during a Sunday teleconference with reporters, Bowlsby acknowledged on Monday’s radio show that Big 12 officials must re-visit some policies and procedures if league champions are going to be disadvantaged by playing only 12 games.
Bowlsby is spending Monday and today in New York for the National Football Foundation’s annual awards dinner. Part of the agenda, he said, includes meetings with Big 12 athletic directors, and he predicted “an early topic of conversation” will be the league’s CFP predicament moving forward with 12-game schedules.
As things stand, NCAA rules allow championship games only in leagues with at least 12 members, where schools are divided into divisions and play a round-robin schedule within each division. The Big 12 and ACC have sponsored NCAA legislation aimed at loosening those restrictions to allow leagues with fewer than 12 members to stage a title game, if desired.
Bowlsby said he anticipates the proposal will “likely get acted upon in the next six months.” Whether that would give the Big 12 time to put in a 2015 title game, if it chooses, is unclear.
What is clear to Bowlsby is that adding a title game to the league’s schedule would be much simpler than adding two members and recapturing the league’s original 12-school configuration.
“Conference expansion is a multifaceted decision process and certainly goes well beyond whether you have a postseason football game or not,” Bowlsby said. “It certainly would be one of the things we talk about. But there are a lot of other factors involved.”
Eventually, the votes required to make any meaningful changes to Big 12 bylaws rest in the hands of the league’s athletic directors and university presidents. Bowlsby said he plans to facilitate as much discussion as possible between those parties in the near future to make sure the league does not endure another CFP shutout if a pair of co-champions share next year’s football title, too.
Asked about the biggest message he took away from Sunday’s snub, Bowlsby said: “A 13-game portfolio may have a slight edge over a 12-game body of work with the committee. If so, we’ve got to acknowledge we’re going in with a slight disadvantage and we need to correct it.”
But in the meantime, TCU fans can cling to bragging rights over Baylor fans in knowing the Big 12 commissioner would have chosen the Horned Frogs as the proper playoff choice from his league if he’d been part of this year’s selection committee.
Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760