CBS Sports and ESPN are now reporting that conferencetitle game deregulation is very likely in the cards and could start as early as 2016- meaning that the Big 12 will be able to host a championship game with only ten teams. There are, of course, obvious positives and negatives to this decision: On the plus side, a conference title game means yet more cash for member schools and it helps level the scheduling playing field a bit- this year, for example, it would have provided a clear winner of the TCU/Baylor debate and likely pushed one of the two of us into the playoffs . On the negative end, the financial outcome will likely not be as great as other conference title games (with the Big 12's round robin schedule, the title game is a guaranteed rematch) and it will be the title game with the toughest possible matchup most years (Unlike conferences with divisional alignment, there will be no chance of a 6-6 Colorado winning the weaker division and earning a title game spot. It's guaranteed to be the second best team in the conference) which may be an impediment to the conference's playoff positioning more often than it is a boon. However, the biggest result of this decision is likely something else entirely, because it affects expansion in a big way.
Expansion is a bit of an inflammatory word in college football at this point, mentioning it in regard to some conferences (The Pac 12, B1G and SEC) makes Baylor fans start stampeding to Kenn Starr's office to draft depositions and , while mentioning it in regard to the Big 12... makes us get a lot of pageviews from wildly optimistic BYU Cougars, Cincinnati Bearcats, Houston Cougars, Memphis Tigers and UCF Knights fans (Hi guys!). For fans of those teams (or just any fans of Big 12 teams who would like to see us expand), the title game deregulation is their worst nightmare. If the Big 12 doesn't need to expand for a title game, not only does the conference get the additional revenue from a title game, but it keeps the current TV deal from being diluted any more with additional teams- which may be the most important point of all for the simple reason that it should keep Texas happy. Yes, despite what Oklahoma fans may want to believe, the Big 12 is the Texas conference (and that's not referring to the state), and the conference's long term survival is entirely reliant on what the Longhorns want- they're the marquee program that can happily join any conference they like, and they're the only program that the Big 12 absolutely cannot afford to lose without being relegated to AAC-ish but with a nice TV deal. Happily for the other Big 12 members, Texas' primary motivation is no great secret- they want to be the richest program in college football- and this title game deregulation means another wheelbarrow full of cash in the coffers in Austin, which is just as good for TCU as the similarly sized wheelbarrow that will be arriving in CDC's office. As long as Texas can dive in their Scrooge McDuck-esque vault of cash and have the biggest voice at the table when conference matters are discussed, they're happy, and a happy Texas means a stable Big 12- which should be the highest priority for every member of the Big 12 that doesn't have a safe landing spot in the event of Texas moving on (everyone except Oklahoma and probably Texas Tech). So if you're a fan of any team in the Big 12, celebrate, today is a great day for you! If you're a fan of one of those hopeful expansion candidate schools... how about that guaranteed spot in one of the new year's bowls for your highest ranked champion? Pretty sweet, huh?
What are your thoughts on a title game for the ten team Big 12 conference? Do you think that this will be enough to keep the conference stable in the future?