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Football

WILLIAMS: Sifting through the current state of the Big 12

AMES — In case you missed it, last night during the league’s spring meetings being held in Phoenix, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told members of the national media that the league would not push for a championship football game in the near future.

This was a complete change of tone compared to what Bowlsby had said a week prior, following meetings with the College Football Playoff committee.

As expected, the Big 12’s decision has caused a great deal of debate and rightfully so. It’s a complex issue, as are a few other topics that are commonly tossed around on the blogosphere regarding the league and its future.

In this column, I’ll hopefully clear up a few items that I see the most – starting with that championship game.

Will the Big 12 be penalized for not holding a championship game?

There are definitely two sides to this debate.

On one hand, a guy can say that the Big 12 took a bad beat last postseason. Not having a 13th game absolutely hurt the league during the inaugural year of the College Football Playoff. A 13th game meant that Ohio State had one final chance to impress the committee, which it did, by thrashing a good Wisconsin team.

Contrary to that, the Big 12 was also very close to having one and potentially two teams in the dance. Had Florida State lost one of its half-dozen close contests throughout the season, (in my opinion) that would have been a spot. Had Ohio State simply beaten Wisconsin by 10 points, that might not have been enough to push them into the mix.

Yes, a 13th game counts. But it can also count against you. 

In 2014, that wasn’t the case for any of the leagues that play the title game. At some point though, an upset is going to occur and somebody is going to left out of the big show because of it. This is inevitable. 

Four times in the history of the former Big 12 championship game, upsets went down that that likely kept the league out of the BCS title game. Don’t forget that very important point. 

Imagine the outcry if…

…The above hypothetical would have played out and without playing a championship game, the Big 12 would have gotten two teams into the Playoff, the following conversation would have gone like this:

“It’s not fair that the Big 12 only has to play 12 games while we are playing 13.”

That’s why…

…In a perfect world, everybody will eventually be on the same playing field. All leagues will play the same number of non-conference games. Sorry UNI, but FCS teams will be squeezed out of the Power 5 non-conference equation. All leagues will either have a championship game or won’t.

Why doesn’t the Big 12 expand?

Two main reasons… 

1) There still aren’t any quality options that move the needle, financially, for the league’s television partners. It amazes me that some media members who cover the league do not understand this. In fact, one source recently told me that if the Big 12 were to add two schools at this time (pick a school, any school that isn’t Notre Dame), the take home pot would likely decrease anywhere from $3 to $6 million per.

It’s that whole slicing the pie 10 ways instead of 12 thing.

2) There is a misconception out there that if the Big 12 were to get back to 12 schools, the league would go back to playing four non-conference games.

This absolutely is not true.

The reason that the Big 12 was able to land the deal that it landed was predicated off of playing nine non-conference games. The television partners don’t want non-conference games. They don’t want to have to televise nine Cincinnati or South Florida games either. Sure, it’d be great for Iowa State to have four non-cons again but this isn’t realistic. The nine game conference schedule is here to stay no matter how many teams are in the league.

Final points

As far as the championship game decision goes, again, this is all debatable. 

If the Big 12 is the odd man out again due to a similar circumstance, then change is probably on the horizon. But with the way things are set up, we know that some conference (including Notre Dame) is always going to be left out. If the Big 12 would have gotten two teams in last year, then two leagues would have been left out.

Unfortunately, there isn’t data to fall back on here. 

The Big 12 is simply choosing to not panic after one year and it will proceed with caution going forward. 

I can’t say that I blame the league’s decision makers either. 

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