Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is well aware there could be a year where the conference’s championship game negatively impacts a team’s playoff hopes or doesn’t have any implications whatsoever.
The Big 12 reintroduced a conference title game in 2017 despite each team in the conference playing each of the other nine teams in the regular season. Oklahoma has won the first two championship games — the Sooners beat TCU in 2017 and Texas a year ago — and has gone on to the College Football Playoff in each of those seasons.
But it’s a near-guarantee that the winner of the Big 12 title game will miss out on the College Football Playoff sooner or later. And while Bowlsby still heartily endorses the title game’s reincarnation, he’s aware of that fact.
“We believe in the one versus two model,” Bowlsby said at Big 12 media days on Monday. “We're the only ones that can guarantee that we're going to have our two best teams playing each other.”
”Having said that, I'm not naive enough to think there isn't going to be a year when our co-champions are or our first and second place teams are 9-3 and 8-4 and at that point it takes the luster off of it from a national championship game standpoint, but it isn't going to diminish the competition. I think we have had good match-ups ... I think the championship game is the right thing at the right time for our conference. I think it is the right thing to do one versus two, even though there is some risk in that, and, you know, the fans have turned out. It was fun last year to be able to announce that we had set a record in terms of all-time conference championship attendance. So I think it's all good. Is there a potential downside? Sure there is. Name a place where there isn't some downside to go along with the upside.”
Oklahoma and Texas are favored to meet in the conference title game again in 2019.
No talks about conference expansion
The first question to Bowlsby was about potential Big 12 expansion. He made sure to note that. And no, the Big 12 is not looking to expand.
“That would be the seventh year in a row we have been asked that question first, so congratulations. You are setting records,” Bowlsby said to the person who asked the question. “We have had no expansion discussion at any level. We like the ten we have. We think the full round robin is the right way to conduct competition and in the case of our basketball, full double round robin. We are distributing record revenues and we have heretofore unanticipated media opportunities and I don't expect that to be an active topic on anybody's agenda within the conference anytime in the foreseeable future.”
Conference launching Big 12 Now
The Big 12 officially unveiled its ESPN+ channel on Monday titled Big 12 Now. The channel on ESPN’s paid streaming platform will include events from eight of the 10 schools in the Big 12. Texas is not included because it has the Longhorn Network and Oklahoma currently has a contract with Fox for its third-tier rights that includes a pay-per-view football game per season.
“The product has evolved to the point where it's very high quality and very reliable in terms of your ability to get on and get it,” Bowlsby said of the streaming service. “While all of our schools were doing their own thing, I think we coalesced around the concept that what [Major League Baseball Advanced Media] and ESPN+ were doing was something that, one, could be aggregated and, two, could make the sum of the parts bigger than the sum of the parts.”
One football game per season from each of the eight schools participating in Big 12 Now will be on the network. In addition to non-revenue sports events from the participating schools, Big 12 Now will also be the site of “all [men’s basketball] regular season and exhibition games from the eight participating programs that are not distributed on ESPN’s traditional television networks”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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