Bowlsby defends Big 12, 'One True Champion'

When the Big 12 Conference announced its rebranded slogan of "One True Champion" last summer, it was the league's way of reminding everyone that - unlike the other Power 5 Conference that are split into two divisions and have a conference title game - the Big 12's 10-team, round-robin style was the best way of handling finding a conference champion heading into the College Football Playoff era.

But as we head into the final weekend of the season, the Big 12's last regular season games and conference championship games for the other conferences on the horizon, it's easy to say that (on the surface) that motto is starting to backfire on commissioner Bob Bowlsby and the rest of the Big 12.

With victories over Iowa State and No. 12 Kansas State, respectively, this week, No. 5 TCU and No. 7 Baylor will end the season as the league's co-champions. The league that touts using the round-robin system to find "One True Champion" will have two champions.

And it likely could cause the conference to miss out on a spot in the College Football Playoff.

"It's more about the model by which we determine who wins our league. 'One True Champion' is really about everybody playing everybody. That's the right way to do it," Bowlsby said, defending the conference on the Big 12 teleconference Monday. "There's nobody who is going to be able to look at the Big 12 and say, 'Well, it might have been a different outcome if they had played Institution X, Y or Z.' We play everybody every year, there are no days off. You're not going to be able to look forward to not playing someone or being able to schedule around them.

"Our coaches decided we'd like to have co-champions. We believe playing everybody every year is the best way to do it, even if it ends up being a tie."

If that is the case after this weekend, the Big 12 will tell the College Football Playoff selection committee that the league has a co-champion - allowing the members of the committee to choose who they feel is the best in the league to earn a spot in the top four and make it to the playoff. If no teams are selected into the playoff field, the Big 12 will then move on to the head-to-head tiebreaker to determine the league's representative in one of the New Year's Six bowl games.

In the future, that New Year's Six bowl will be the Sugar Bowl, which is being used as one of the semifinal host sites this season.

"It's not our prerogative of the selection committee. It's not our prerogative to tell them who we think is our best team, they can choose from an array of teams that are available and qualified for the playoff," Bowlsby said. "They're going to select who they think is the best team. This is also an important distinction because the committee's not charged with selecting the most deserving teams, their responsibility is to select the best four teams based upon their objective criteria."

It's getting to the point in the season where many teams and conferences are beginning to make their cases publicly about why their teams deserve to be chosen to make it to the playoff. And as the politics begin to heat up, Bowlsby still believes that the Big 12 - both because of the quality of its football and because of the exposure it gets through television deals with ESPN and FOX - is in good enough shape that the league doesn't need to do much out of the ordinary to try to get the league in the forefront when people talk about college football and the College Football Playoff.

He'd rather let the play of the league's best, the ones who deserve to be in that top four, speak for themselves with their play this weekend when the spotlight is on. As a former member of the NCAA basketball tournament selection committee, he knows that matters way more than anything a public relations specialist can say about a team because results don't lie.

"We will be on two national broadcasts this weekend. Instead of having one championship game, we're going to have two games that mean something on the national airwaves," Bowlsby said. "Are we all politicking? Sure, I guess we are. I think there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. Having been on the basketball committee for five years, I know that a lot of politicking falls on deaf ears and sometimes has a negative effect on how committee members view your team.

"The resume speaks for itself. Would we like to have more exposure? Sure, we always would. But I think it's widely acknowledged that the Big 12 has good football teams not only at the top but throughout our ranks."


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