The Big 12 will remain united — in the standings, at least.
The conference announced Friday it will not split into two 5-team divisions as it brings back its championship game after a 6-year hiatus next year. The league will remain in one group, playing a 9-game, round-robin schedule before pitting the top two teams in the standings for the championship game.
“There are a number of advantages to matching our top two teams,” commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. “Given our round-robin, nine-game scheduling model, it is expected the Big 12 champion will be uniquely positioned for College Football Playoff consideration. I would argue there will be no path more difficult than our champion’s, where it will have played every team in the Conference, faced at least one Autonomy Conference non-conference opponent, and then plays in our championship game. The guaranteed No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup will be a great game for our fans, and it’s hard to imagine a stronger position for a conference champion.”
Given the Texas-and-Oklahoma-centric nature of the Big 12, splitting into divisions was never going to be an easy, fair task for the conference — and a non-sensical one, given that every team will continue to play each other in the regular season.
While we don’t know the considerations upon which they were voting, it is worth mentioning that Big 12 coaches voted to split into divisions according to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.
Big 12’s decision not to have divisions is surprising. Coaches voted 7-3 in favor of splitting into divisions, sources told @ESPN
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) October 28, 2016
The downside of remaining in one unit is that it theoretically increases the odds of two teams playing an immediate rematch on Thanksgiving weekend and then again on Championship Saturday in early December.
The site of the rebuilt Big 12 Championship has not yet been decided; Arlington’s AT&T Stadium, San Antonio’s Alamodome and Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium are in the running. That announcement is expected in the coming weeks.