The Big 12 football championship game is back.
League officials announced Friday that the game will return for the 2017 season, with the site to be determined. A possibility exists that the league could play the 2017 season in two five-team divisions, said commissioner Bob Bowlsby, although a final decision has yet to be reached.
Bowlsby said Fox and ESPN will alternate telecasts of the games, with Fox showing the 2017 contest. ESPN will handle the telecasts in even-numbered years through the 2024 contest. Bowlsby said he envisions holding the game at neutral sites but acknowledged bids might be taken for venues at campus sites.
The league has been the only conference without a championship game in football during the College Football Playoff era. In 2014, league co-champions Baylor and TCU were both omitted from the playoffs with 11-1 records. Last season, Oklahoma won an outright title and made the playoffs as the No. 4 seed with an 11-1 record.
Data provided by independent analysts showed the league’s chances of making the playoffs on an annual basis would increase by as much as 20 percent, said Oklahoma president David Boren, chairman of the Big 12 board of directors. That information, Boren said, led to Friday’s unanimous vote to approve the title game.
After having a championship game in the first 15 years of the league’s existence, the Big 12 has not held a championship game in football since adopting its current 10-team configuration for the 2011 season.
In other league business, league officials announced it would distribute $304 million to its members from conference-generated revenues. That is an average of $30.4 million per school and, for the first time since joining the league four years ago, both TCU and West Virginia received full shares of the league-distributed earnings.
Each Big 12 school has independent deals for additional TV rights, the best known of which is the Longhorn Network that produces $15 million for Texas. Oklahoma made a profit of $5 million last year on its additional rights agreements, Boren said.