College Confidential

Numbers show larger-than-expected benefit to Big 12 expansion, per report

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and other league officials have significant data to digest regarding the benefits of league expansion.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and other league officials have significant data to digest regarding the benefits of league expansion. AP

The numbers pointing toward a benefit in the Big 12’s annual College Football Playoff pursuits for an expanded league have taken another jump, based on a report.

Information will be presented today in Phoenix to Big 12 administrators and football coaches from independent researchers showing the league has a 10 to 15 percent better chance of reaching the CFP in a given year if it expands from its 10-team model and holds a conference championship game in football. The new numbers represent an increase from a Monday report of a 4 to 5 percent uptick for an expanded league.

The CBS report said the smaller increase, discussed Monday by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby with reporters covering spring meetings that include representatives from multiple conferences, reflected only the impact of adding a championship game rather than a title game plus expansion.

Information reflecting the larger bump in CFP probability, derived by researchers at Chicago-based Navigate Research, is scheduled to be presented today to Big 12 administrators at the session in Phoenix. That information, per the CBS report, will be based on a league model that includes 12 teams playing an eight-game conference schedule and staging a league championship game. Researchers ran 40,000 simulations to come up with their probability assessment for a conference that already is home to TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

The same information will be used by Big 12 presidents in forming long-term league policies, including the possibility of expansion, during the league’s spring meetings, May 31-June 3 in Irving. The potential for expansion has triggered lobbying efforts by multiple schools interested in being part of an expanded Big 12, with the most prominent candidates including Brigham Yong, Cincinnati, Houston, Central Florida and Memphis.

For five-plus years, expansion and/or realignment has been a recurring debate in a league that has lost Texas A&M, Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado to other leagues since 2011. In an April 20 interview with the Star-Telegram, Bowlsby acknowledged that the analytical data appeared to be trending in a direction that would suggest an uptick in CFP probability by playing a league title game. At the time, Bowlsby also said: "Just because we get some indication that there’s a slightly better chance of getting in if you have a championship game doesn’t mean we’re going to do it."

Having evidence of a double-digit spike in playoff potential, on the other hand, could lead to action on the expansion front.

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