Nothing about this surprises me.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby entered the College Football Playoff meetings this week seeking definitive answers on how much a 13th game helped Ohio State get picked over Baylor and TCU. Bowlsby ended Wednesday with as close of a statement as he has ever made that the Big 12 will add a conference championship game.
Bowlsby wouldn’t definitively say the Big 12 will add a championship game in 2016 if a new NCAA rule allows 10-team members to do so. But given the knowledge he has now, Bowlsby said, “I surmise we would probably move in that direction.”
Bowlsby said he was told this week by CFP selection committee chairman Jeff Long that 13 data points are better than 12. Ohio State blew out Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game on the final week last season while Baylor and TCU won their final regular-season games in round-robin play.
“What we heard is if we don’t go to a championship game we’re at a disadvantage,” Bowlsby said. “All things being equal, 13 games are better than 12 games. That’s what we heard. So that gives us clear enough direction that we’re coming in at least at a modest disadvantage. We need to do whatever we can to mitigate that.”
This is a dumbass move on a number of levels. First, and most significantly, the Big 12 plays a round robin conference schedule. It doesn’t need a playoff to determine a true champion; the regular season takes care of that.
Second, it’s like these guys have the shortest memories on the planet.
The Big 12 played a conference championship game from 1996 to 2010 and was hurt in the BCS era more than any conference by having a national contender lose that game.
And if there’s any cosmic justice, or if the football gods have a perverse sense of humor, that’s exactly what’ll happen in the first Big 12 championship game.
Along those lines, it ought to be a concern when Jim Delany gives you advice that makes sense.
However, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany cautioned that conference championship games “cut both ways” – sometimes helping a league’s best team and sometimes costing it with an upset loss.
One of the lessons learned from the Bowl Championship Series Era was that the constant alterations to that ill-fated system eroded public confidence.
“We probably made some mistakes by tweaking, to be honest,” Delany said.
Of course, it’s only fair to note that Bowlsby is probably working from a lower bar in terms of public confidence than the BCS was at the start.
Now, this isn’t totally the fault of the Big 12. Jeff Long’s hands have some dirt on them, too.
Bowlsby said he was convinced after the commissioners met with selection committee chairman Jeff Long, the Arkansas athletic director, that the Big 12’s champion might need to play a 13th game — a conference championship game — in order to be seen on equal footing with other playoff contenders. (Reached by phone later, Long declined an interview request.)
Again, never mind that the Big 12’s selection of its conference champion doesn’t require a championship game. It’s all about the data points for the selection committee.
But Bowlsby still is playing the hand he’s dealt here. His coaches like soft non-conference schedules. His presidents like cutting the revenue pie into just ten pieces. And a championship game will enlarge that pie a little more. It’s a win-win. Until the league’s best team loses.
UPDATE: Bill Connelly elaborates on the history repeating aspect of what’s coming.