When Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced Friday that the conference could split up into two divisions to support the return of the conference title game in 2017, he did all of us in the content business a big favor. There’s no easy, obvious, consensus way to divvy up the Big 12 into five-team groups, so I’ve spent a lot of time dreaming up some rather exciting solutions. If the Big 12 uses any of these, I’ll be expecting a hefty consultant fee.
The SWC/Big Eight 2.0 Plan
A sensible starting point. The five former Big Eight foes have a long history together. The four Texas schools do, too. Honoring their heritage with these divisions would be swell, and they’re not terribly unbalanced either. This is a geographically convenient option for everybody…except West Virginia. Then again, there is no geographically convenient answer for WVU unless the Big 12 someday expands. So we can’t fret over that.
The Parity Plan
You end up with divisions like this when you try to overthink long-term parity. For this setup, I sorted the Big 12 teams from one to 10 based on how many games they’ve won as members of the conference. So Oklahoma (191 wins) and Texas (181) were at the top of the list and TCU (34) and West Virginia (26) were at the bottom. Then I divided them up as evenly as possibly. The results were just OK.
The Competitive Balance Plan
If you want to boost the Big 12’s College Football Playoff odds, maybe go with this plan. The teams in the “Competitive Division” have won 13 of the last 14 Big 12 title trophies. The champion of that division gets to face the best team from the “Balance Division” in the conference title game and then rolls on to the playoff. And when a program in the “Balance” rises up as a powerhouse? Simply promote them up to “Competitive” status and send down the least-successful “Competitive” team.
The U.S. News Rankings Plan
If we’re not going to divide up the Big 12 teams by their on-field reputation, how about their academic reputation? Using the Best Colleges rankings from the fine folks at “U.S. News & World Report,” I’ve grouped the Big 12’s top five rated universities -- Texas, Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma and Iowa State -- together in one division. Pretty easy to name these, too: the “Smarties Division” and “Parties Division.”
The Man vs. Wild Plan
I do love the idea of dividing up the Big 12 by its mascots, and it actually works! But let’s improve upon the standard animals vs. non-animals arrangement. One important fix: K-State belongs on the “Man” side, because Willie the Wildcat is in fact a human with a cat’s head. And the “Wild” name is a better fit for a division that features a bear, a bird, a frog, a steer and a meteorological phenomenon.
The Draw From a Hat Plan
As the great Harvey Dent once said, the only morality in a cruel world is chance. It’s unbiased, unprejudiced and fair. So I threw 10 scraps of paper into a hat. This is what my hat came up with. Pretty good, right? If Bowlsby does decide to conduct this exercise, he could draw names from the oversized cowboy hats worn by Pistol Pete or the Red Raider. Or how about the Mountaineer’s coonskin cap? How do we pick the One True Hat? All right, that’s it, we’ve found our winning plan.