There might have been no football games played Wednesday, but the Big 12 secured one of the biggest wins of the season. The NCAA approved a proposal allowing FBS conferences without 12 members to hold conference championship football games. Simply put, the Big 12 now has the right to hold a conference game with their 10 team format. The previous rule required there to be at least 12 teams and a 2-division setup for a conference to hold a Conference Championship game. With the Big 12 going to 10-teams after the loss of 4-teams over a 2-year span, the Big 12 lost their title game.
The following was adopted with the Council's vote:
One conference championship football game conducted in either of the following ways:
i) A game between division champions of a member conference that is divided into two divisions (as equally balanced as possible), each of which conducts round-robin, regular-season competition among the members of that division; or,
ii) A game between the top two teams in the conference standings following a full round-robin regular-season schedule of competition among all members of the conference.
This is a tremendous victory for the Big 12, but this does not mean there will be a Big 12 title game in 2016. “It is too early to speculate on the impact this will have with our member institutions regarding a football championship game,” commented Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
This just gives them the option of one, without having to make the difficult decision on expansion. With 10-teams, the Big 12 would have had to add two teams and create seperate divisions to be able to host a championship game. Through two years of the College Football Playoff, the "13th data point" has become a larger mark against the Big 12 than they initially believed it would be.
In 2014, the Big 12 was left out of the playoffs as Baylor and TCU finished 5th and 6th, with Ohio State jumping into the playoffs due to a dominant victory over Wisconsin. In 2015, Oklahoma fell to 4th place after the Michigan State Spartans won a tough game against Iowa in the Big 10 Championship. In both cases, a Big 12 team fell a spot to a team that won its conference championship.
The positives to a championship game are numerous, including the possible financial impact the game could have on the conference. Estimates are as high as $25-$30 million in additional revenue for a game pitting the two best Big 12 teams on the last week of the regular season.
However, there are negatives to it as well. In previous title games, the favorite has been just 6-5. In 2015, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would have met in consecutive weeks, following the Sooners dominant victory in Stillwater. If the Sooners were to be upset though, the Big 12 would have been without a playoff team for the 2nd year in a row. WIth the Sooners sitting the last week of the season out, they were secure in one of the 4-spots.
The best news is that this will not force the Big 12's hand into HAVING to expand to simply get a conference title game and that "13th data point". The Big 12 could still decide to expand, or they could decide to not hold a conference title game for the foreseable future. The choice is theirs though, and that is a big win for the confernce.
Big 12 Commissioner said in a statement “I appreciate that what was acted upon today takes into account our unique 10-team, full round-robin scheduling model. However, this vote does not automatically mean the Big 12 will implement a football championship game. Our membership will continue to analyze its pros and cons, as we now know the requirements should we decide to go down that path."