The Big 12 might not be great at slogans. But it's good at finding loopholes.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby finally clarified Monday that "One True Champion" -- the grandiose slogan the league has trumped-up on TV commercials this year -- doesn't actually mean, well, one champion.
Instead, Bowlsby confessed the slogan smacks of the league's nine-game, round-robin schedule. Not about the league crowning one champion at the end of the season.
"'One True Champion' is really about everybody playing everybody," Bowlsby said. "A loss is a loss, a win is a win. We believe that playing everyone every year is the right way to determine a champion, even if ends in a tie."
And so, the Big 12 is left in need of a new motto that isn't the laughingstock of college sports (I recommend, "We play everybody!" which gets the actual point across).
But not necessarily a new format.
Going into the final week of the season, the Big 12 is the only conference still able to slap the "conference champion" label on multiple teams. Bowlsby said the league will officially put the TCU-Baylor debate in the hands of the College Football Playoff selection committee.
Should No. 5 TCU and No. 7 Baylor both win on Saturday and finish tied at 11-1, Bowlsby said the Big 12 would inform the 12-member selection committee it has co-champions, despite Baylor's 61-58 win over TCU on Oct. 11.
Playoff director Bill Hancock has said the committee will recognize all conference champions, in whatever form they are produced. And playoff selection committee chairman Jeff Long has maintained that conference championships will be a factor in determining which four teams make the playoff. That means while the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC will be left with only champ to lay at the feet of the committee after this weekend, the Big 12 will offer "two true champions," seemingly increasing its chances for playoff inclusion.
Is the league gaming the system?
That appears obvious. But the playoff format, as currently constructed, allows for the Big 12 to submit co-champions to the committee.
"It's not our prerogative for us to tell them who is our best team," Bowlsby said. "It's not within our prerogative to bind the selection committee that way."
But by dodging the prerogative, the Big 12 is able to prop up TCU and Baylor, instead of just Baylor. Whereas, had Mississippi State prevailed in the Egg Bowl this past weekend, the SEC would be left advocating Alabama (assuming the Tide handle Missouri) as its only champion, even though the Bulldogs would have been 11-1 in the rugged SEC West.
"Our model is different," Bowlsby said. "Time will tell if it is an inferior model, a superior model, or neutral."
The Big 12 model, however, is beginning to look superior in a season in which it claims two playoff worthy teams.
In addition to holding the head-to-head edge over TCU, Baylor has the best win of any playoff contender with its victory over the Horned Frogs. But in turn, TCU has the best loss, on top of five wins over ESPN FPI Top 45 teams. That's two more than either Baylor or No. 6 Ohio State has.
By submitting Baylor and TCU to the committee as co-champions, the Big 12 is able to reward Baylor without punishing TCU for its head-to-head defeat.
"[The committee is] going to select who they think is the best team," Bowlsby said. "This is an important distinction. Because the committee's charge is not to select the most deserving teams. The committee's responsibility is to select the four best teams based upon their objective and subjective criteria."
We'll find out Sunday whether Baylor or TCU or both or neither passes the committee's criteria test.
But while the "One True Champion" slogan proved to be buffoonish, the league's two true champion format could prove opportune.