This time last week, the Big 12 seemed to be sulking into a corner to put writing on the wall: A Big 12 championship game was coming, and the league commissioner was beholden to the warnings of the College Football Playoff committee and not the foundation of his conference structure.
Bob Bowlsby had just met with and listened to the CFP folks, which was a necessity because if the league was going to make a dramatic and seemingly unwanted change to re-introduce a conference championship game, then it had to be compelled to move in that direction. Someone in the CFP room absolutely had to say, “League, you cost yourself a spot in the playoff last year and the status quo will continue to haunt and hurt your membership going forward.”
Well, it looked like the CFP compelled Bowlsby and the Big 12.
Bowlsby wouldn’t definitively say the Big 12 will add a championship game in 2016 if a new NCAA rule allows 10-team members to do so. But given the knowledge he has now, Bowlsby said, “I surmise we would probably move in that direction.”
Bowlsby said he was told this week by CFP Selection Committee chairman Jeff Long that 13 data points are better than 12. Ohio State blew out Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game on the final week last season while Baylor and TCU won their final regular-season games in round-robin play.
“What we heard is if we don’t go to a championship game we’re at a disadvantage,” Bowlsby said. “All things being equal, 13 games are better than 12 games. That’s what we heard. So that gives us clear enough direction that we’re coming in at least at a modest disadvantage. We need to do whatever we can to mitigate that.”
Not to repeat myself repeating myself, but changing right now felt like a terrible idea … which is different from saying changing ever is a bad idea. I think it’s a bad idea overall, but it’s especially bad when it’s a forced and/or reactionary adjustment based on the smallest available sample size. If time proves the process wrong, then you can’t ignore that. But similarly, you can’t assume a problem exists when there’s little evidence to support that.
The whole “13 data points are better than 12” idea sounds really good. It’s a talking point. It resonates. It’s also true. So let’s accept and apply that standard.
If 13 > 12, then isn’t 2 > 1? Of course it is. So let the second season of the CFP unfold and let the Big 12, which damn near had a team in the top four last season if not for variables that, I think, would have still prevailed if the conference had a championship game, see if it happens again or if something different happens. You can’t establish trends with one event.
And, lo, the Big 12 will not. At the conference meetings — which began yesterday and conclude today and no longer exist to expand and realign but to govern and keep house — the league announced it would acknowledge logic and would not jump into a championship game.
“I think we all believe that one year is not a long enough trial to draw any conclusions,” Bowlsby said. “We may find ourselves in better shape than some other conferences as a result of our model rather than in spite of our model.”
Bowlsby met with league athletic directors Tuesday morning and coaches Tuesday afternoon during the league’s spring meetings.
The Big 12 was upset when TCU dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 in the final CFP Rankings despite beating Iowa State by 52 on the last day of the season. Baylor, which beat TCU and ultimately shared the Big 12 title with the Frogs, finished fifth. An upset in one of the other conference title games might have allowed one or both into the top four.
“We were so close to being golden,” Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt said.
When asked if he overreacted to Long’s interpretation, Bowlsby said, “Maybe I did. I’m not immune to that.”