It's being widely reported at this point that Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 commissioner, is reaching out to the NCAA to revisit the rule requiring a conference to have 12 teams in order to hold a conference championship.
The rule (NCAA Rule 188.8.131.52 (c)), pulled straight from the NCAA website, reads as follows:
(c) Twelve-Member Conference Championship Game. [FBS/FCS] A conference championship game between division champions of a member conference of 12 or more institutions that is divided into two divisions (of six or more institutions each), each of which conducts round-robin, regular-season competition among the members of that division;
Essentially, Bowlsby is asking that the NCAA revisit this rule and possibly amend it to state that a 10-team league could hold a conference championship game.
This is interesting because it would allow the Big 12 to continue to use its current round robin format, where a school will play every team in the conference, while creating a large influx of extra cash, which would make Deloss Dodds clap like a happy seal.
Honestly, outside of the revenue a conference championship game would bring, I don't really see the point of adding the game with the conference in its current format. If every team already plays each other, then the conference game is going to be a replay between the top two teams in the conference, one of whom has already beaten the other.
So what, then, would be beneficial about playing the game? All it does is give a team that doesn't have as strong of a resume an opportunity to clinch a BCS birth.
If this had been in place this season, we would have gotten a rematch of Kansas State vs. Oklahoma. If Kansas State wins, great, they've beaten the same team twice, so what does that do for their resume? Nothing. they're already in a BCS game. They get nothing by beating Oklahoma a second time, but risk everything.
And what if Oklahoma had won? They would have faced off against Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl, great. But they've also worked their way into a 1-1 "series" record against Kansas State. However, because their win came at a more important time (during the championship game) they'll get the benefit of going to the Fiesta Bowl.
Also, what happens if there is a clear #1 in the conference, say, a 12-0 TCU, and there's no clear #2 team. What if it's a 9-3 Texas? Or an 8-4 Oklahoma? Does Bowlsby really want to risk knocking an undefeated team out of the National Championship because he so desperately wanted a conference championship game?
Frankly, I don't believe it would make sense to add a conference championship game to the current conference format. In fact, it seems as though a round-robin conference format and a conference championship game cannot coexist.
So, this would mean that the addition of a conference championship game would force the Big 12 to split into two divisions, and eliminate the round robin format.
With only 10 teams, does splitting into two divisions make sense? What would the divisions be?
One would assume the Texas schools would stay together, as would the Oklahoma and Kansas schools. So, that leaves either Iowa State or West Virginia to join the Big 12 South, and the other would go to the Big 12 North.
But what about Texas and Oklahoma? I think it's safe to say they would want to be in the same division to preserve their rivalry. Or would they rather risk it and try to establish a dominance over both of the divisions so they would face off in the conference championship game most seasons?
Also, how would this affect cross division scheduling? With an odd number of teams in each conference, there would most likely have to be a permanent cross-division rival, with the other four teams of each division alternating seasons in pairs. We could assume UT-OU, so that preserves the Red River Rivalry. But who else? Tech and Oklahoma State? TCU and Kansas State? Baylor and Kansas?
So as it turns out, adding a conference championship game would force the conference into the same changes it would make if it was adding two teams. However, the all important revenue split would still be in-tact.
Frankly, I don't believe the Big 12 will go to all of this trouble. The risk of losing a national championship is too great to make it worth the extra revenue.
Or is it?