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Conference expansion talks heat up again

Big 12’s snub for a playoff bowl prompts expansion talk

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Big12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
Big12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

When the dust settled following Sunday’s selections and pairings of the four college football playoff teams, one thing was made clear in the aftermath: The Big 12 got penalized for not having a conference championship game.

The champions from the four other P5 leagues all had a selection in the final four. Alabama (SEC), Oregon (Pac-12), Florida State (ACC) and Ohio State (Big 10) all won conference titles and all received a berth in the national championship playoff bowls. But the Big 12, who tried to split their championship between TCU and Baylor in order to up their selection chances, was left on the outside looking in.

That snub followed a rash of last minute television adds trying to convince the football world that the Big 12 has "One True Champion" without the need for a championship game. That left them trying to explain how that does not contradict a conference that is suddenly left with two co-champions, both with 11-1 records. It didn’t work. Instead both their champions were left out of the playoffs.

That is a tough lesson but one not lost on Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. "It's clear that we were penalized for not having a postseason championship game," he told ESPN's Rece Davis. "It would have been nice to have been told that ahead of time."

At the very least Bowlsby should have seen this train coming. Of course, now he says he did. But Bowlsby can not be solely blamed for the Big 12's predicament. The Big 12 presidents have chosen money and greed over expansion---some because they do not want to share its pot of gold with more institutions, and others who did not want to put at risk a postseason opportunity by putting its best teams at risk in a conference title game. Now both of those reasons have backfired.

Bowlsby says the Big 12 may have to "go back to the drawing board" with its 10-team concept after not being selected for the College Football Playoffs. His conference has two options. The first is to ask the NCAA to change its rules or grant a waiver to allow a championship game for the 10-team league. At present those rules call for a conference to have divisions of at least six teams in order to stage a championship game. That seems unlikely considering that the Big 10, the AAC , and the SEC have all expanded to 14 members each and the Pac-10 expanded to become the Pac-12. Don’t expect any sympathy from those powers for a 10 team conference looking for a favor and an edge.

The second option is to expand to 12 members by adding two more institutions, and some are suggesting expansion to 14. If the league decides to expand, it is not clear who would be included or which geographical direction the conference would take. All the usual suspects are in the conversation including BYU, and both Boise State and Colorado State of the Mountain West Conference. Others whose names are cropping up on the internet have been Cincinnati, Memphis, and/or a move into the SEC’s back yard by inviting Central Florida.

The mention of the Mountain West powerhouses is not good news for the conference. However it would seem that both would be longshots, even if one were considered as a travel partner for BYU should the Cougars be in the mix. BYU has already been passed over for membership in 2011, but has lobbied hard since for a second look.