News circulated late last week that the Big 12, for the first time since downsizing to 10 members, will be getting a conference championship game back in the year 2017. Since dropping to 10 teams, the conference stated it was the only one to give a true champion due to their round robin format. This worked unfavorably for them when they saw both TCU and Baylor miss the College Football Playoff two years ago after being hindered by the lack of a final impression on the selection committee. NCAA rules proclaimed that a conference must have 12 teams to have a conference championship, which obviously prevented the Big 12 from having such a game. Even though Oklahoma was the Big 12’s bid to the playoff last year, the conference was still snake-bitten by the snub from two years ago and decided to seek approval to regain a conference championship game. They were granted approval. This shouldn’t be the case, though, and here’s why:
The Big 12 gets an unfair advantage from having a championship game without conference divisions. For example, the SEC or BIG 10 have two divisions a piece, meaning the best two teams in the conference often don’t play each other in the title game. Say Alabama, the #1 team in the country gets upset by #14 Tennessee. The SEC then loses a bid to the College Football Playoff (barring something catastrophic). However, the Big 12 has no such worries. Their two best, and likely highest ranked, teams will be in their conference title game. There’s no worry about getting a team into the playoff when #3 Oklahoma is playing #4 TCU. Refer back to the SEC example: if #1 Alabama is playing against #6 LSU, then they likely get a team in the playoff either way. Alabama and LSU are both in the SEC West, though, making this impossible.
For those who say Alabama doesn’t deserve to make it if they lose that game anyway – I tend to agree. However, that’s not the point I’m making. In this hypothetical scenario I mapped out, the SEC as a conference is getting hurt, and that’s the issue. Conferences don’t just make revenue off teams in the playoff; they get exposure for their teams, advertisement time to national audiences, and a chance to prove their conference is the best in a head-to-head format. This is majorly important, and the Big 12 is essentially being allowed to game the system.
I prefer the division system of deciding who makes the conference championship game rather than a simple “top 2” in the conference because teams who get there have won a head-to-head round robin against their division to get to that point. There are no debates — everything is solved via head-to-head matchups. Eliminating divisions would seriously diminish some of the major rivalries of college football, such as Alabama vs Auburn and Michigan vs Ohio State. Divisions guarantee that these two teams play every year, and it would truly be a college football travesty if they didn’t. At this point, though, I’d just settle for uniformity amongst the conferences. Make a rule, and make it the same for everybody. Don’t give the Big 12 special treatment because they’re a power conference with fewer teams. There is a laundry list of things the NCAA gets wrong consistently, but this one has the easiest fix: make every conference use the same rules, and give a fair playing field to all the conferences.