Big 12 football championship game returns in 2017

The Big 12 will have a football championship game once again, starting in 2017.

Citing that is a competitive and financial advantage, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Oklahoma president David Boren announced Friday afternoon the Big 12 football championship game will return in 2017.

They announced it was a unanimous vote among the member schools with the telecast alternating between ESPN and FOX.

“We went through a process that made it an obvious and unanimous choice,” Bowlsby said. “With the research and work we’ve done, we’re better off with a game than without.”

The Big 12’s final championship game was won by OU over Nebraska in 2010, but the championship game has not always been kind to the conference’s perceived best team.

Bowlsby reiterated that there were five occasions where the lower-ranked team won the championship game. In title games involving national title contenders, the favorites only had a 6-5 record in the Big 12 championship game.

There are still a number of things to be worked out, including whether or not the conference will expand from its 10 member schools and whether or not it will divide into divisions.

One proposal on the table is for two five-team divisions and the possibility of keeping the round robin schedule where schools play every school in the conference.

Bowlsby and Boren said it obviously wouldn’t be optimal for another situation like 2015 to occur. Last year OU defeated Oklahoma State 58-23 in the Bedlam rivalry in Stillwater, Okla., in what served to be a de facto conference championship game.

Under the new structure, it would have meant the Sooners and Cowboys would have played again the following week, most likely at a neutral site.

“There’s risk,” Bowlsby said. “We have certainly taken that into account.”

But the pros outweigh the cons in this instance. Bowlsby and Boren said the revenue generated from a conference championship game is nearly $30 million.

And the revenue for the conference this last year was $304 million or $30.4 million to each school. That figure, which is around 20 percent more than last year, puts the conference No. 3 in the pecking order.

The revenue is less than the SEC and Big Ten conference but more than the revenue for the Pac-12 and ACC.

Boren said he could not comment if OU and Texas would be in separate divisions, simply saying the Red River Showdown at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas will be preserved. When the Big 12 had divisions before, the Sooners and Longhorns were in the Big 12 South so they never met a second time during the season.

A talking point throughout the discussion of the championship game has been the idea that the 13th data point means a lot in trying to secure a spot in the college football playoff.

The Sooners were the conference’s first representative in the playoff last season, while the conference was shut out the year before.

“The proof is in the pudding,” Bowlsby said. “We’re two years in and batting .500.”

Nothing has been finalized whether or not the title game would be at a neutral site, a revolving site or at the home campus of the top-ranked school.

Another major conference issue has been the talk of a Big 12 conference network. Boren has led the charge in this regard for a while but has completely changed his tune.

“The marketplace has decided that issue for us,” Boren said. “This is not the time for us to consider going forward. That boat has sailed.”

Boren referenced the way technology has been changing and the way people consume the product is completely different than it was before, even five years ago.

There’s no way to know the direction technology will go, but it has sort of made the thought process of a conventional Big 12 Network now obsolete.

Expansion remains a major issue as well with the conference. Nothing was obviously decided this week as it was more of a data-gathering session. The hope is for the conference to come together once again as a group and talk before the end of the summer.

“We don’t know if there is an expansion process, still evaluating that,” Bowlsby said.

Common sense would dictate it’s on the horizon or else the five-team divisions don’t exactly make the most sense in the world.

But if there is more expansion, Boren said those schools have done their job. Now it’s up to the Big 12 to figure it all out.

“I don’t think they need to do anything,” Boren said. “We don’t need any more phone calls, material in the mail.”


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