The conference title game is a big mistake for the Big 12.
The Big 12’s annual spring meetings on Friday produced a surprising announcement. Beginning in 2017, a conference title game is returning to the Big 12.
Expansion talk has dominated the offseason headlines in the Big 12 this year, but the meetings were expected to conclude without much news about the future of the conference.
Instead of expansion, the Big 12 decided to follow the money and institute a conference title game after the 2017 season.
Yes, the same conference that plays a round-robin schedule will feature a rematch in the title game. Rematches happen in conference title games in other leagues, but the Big 12 is guaranteed a rematch every year with its current setup.
But it gets better: Without expansion, the Big 12 will have two five-team divisions.
Division 1: Texas, Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech, West Virginia
Division 2: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State
Sure, the extra $30 million is good news for the conference and its 10 members. But the extra game could hurt more than it actually helps.
Consider this scenario: Oklahoma is 12-0 and ranked in the top four of the College Football Playoff. The Sooners win their division and take on a 9-3 Texas team ranked anywhere in the 15-20 range in the playoff rankings. The Longhorns upset Oklahoma, leaving the Sooners at 12-1 and out of the playoff.
On the flip side, there could be some benefit. An 11-1 Oklahoma team just outside of the playoff could pickup an extra win that vaults it into the top four.
However, just having a title game doesn't guarantee any help to the champion. Rather, it could cause more harm to its No. 1 team with an upset loss. Need evidence? Take a look at the history of the Big 12 title game from 1996-2010.
So to recap, the Big 12 – a league that already has a perfect conference schedule (round-robin) – is bringing back a championship game that could hurt more than it actually helps.
The only way this makes sense? Expansion. Go to 12 or 14 teams and perhaps drop to an eight-game conference schedule.
The extra money coming into the league will be a boost to all 10 members. However, shouldn’t creating the best and most favorable path to a playoff spot be the top priority?
Instead, the Big 12 (which has a history of strange decisions) chose the wrong path once again.