<
>

Jilted Big 12 must make changes

Near the end of Baylor coach Art Briles' news conference Sunday, after he had been asked more than a few times to describe his feelings about the Bears being left out of the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff, he'd apparently had enough.

"We're in a room that feels like we just lost a football game," Briles said. "That to me is a travesty. That's what I hate. We won a big game last night, and we're Big 12 champions. Get happy or get your ass out.

"That's the way I feel. I mean, seriously. I mean, my goodness, somebody ask me about winning. We won. Our guys are good."

On Saturday night, the Bears defeated Kansas State 38-27 to earn a share of the Big 12 championship with TCU, which was a 55-3 winner over Iowa State earlier in the day. It was the second straight season in which Baylor won at least a share of the Big 12 title.

But on Sunday, both teams were left out of the College Football Playoff, as Big Ten champion Ohio State was chosen by the 12-person selection committee for the fourth and final spot.

In the first year of the playoff, the Big 12 is the only Power 5 conference that will be watching from home.

"I'm like everybody else," Briles said. "I certainly would have liked to have been in it, but it didn't work out that way. What am I going to do? Moan and whine we're not in? We'll move on and take it from there. I don't think it makes any difference what I say now."

The Bears and Horned Frogs certainly have every right to be angry. They could each argue they are among the top four teams in the country and deserve a spot in the playoff.

But the Big 12 has only itself to blame. It is the only Power 5 league that doesn't stage a conference championship game and didn't have an outright champion this season. Its two best teams, Baylor and TCU, were further flawed because of relatively soft nonconference schedules compared to Ohio State.

If the Big 12 doesn't make some pretty dramatic changes soon, it might continue to lag behind the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC if its champion doesn't finish undefeated in future seasons.

"It's a process for everybody, not just for all the teams that are in it," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "I think it's a process in learning through the committee. I think whatever mistakes, if there were any made, they'll learn from it. Like anything we do, we're all going to learn from it and make it a better system."

During an interview on ESPN on Sunday, selection committee chairman Jeff Long made it pretty clear that the Bears and Horned Frogs were hurt by not playing in a conference championship game. The Buckeyes crushed No. 13 Wisconsin 59-0 in Saturday night's Big Ten championship game, a victory that propelled them past the Bears and Horned Frogs on the final ballot.

The Big 12 doesn't stage a conference championship game because it has only 10 member schools after losing four to other leagues. In 2011, Colorado left for the Pac-12 and Nebraska went to the Big Ten. Missouri and Texas A&M departed the Big 12 for the SEC the next year.

The league invited TCU and West Virginia to join as replacements but decided to stay at 10 teams instead of returning to 12.

Under current NCAA rules, a conference must have at least two six-team divisions to stage a conference championship game. A league with fewer teams can apply for a waiver from the NCAA to have one.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Sunday that he and ACC commissioner John Swofford have already talked to the other Power 5 leagues about getting the Big 12 a waiver.

"It's clear that we were penalized for not having a postseason championship game, and it would have been nice to have been told that ahead of time," Bowlsby said. "We made the impression that we had a different model, but it wasn't one that was going to penalize us. I think it's clear that it did, and I think it was even said that it did. That will cause us to go back to the drawing board a little bit and talk about whether or not we need to think about a different model."

Bowlsby said the Big 12 might have to explore the possibility of adding at least two teams to expand to 12 members. BYU officials have openly expressed their desire to join the Big 12, and Cincinnati and Boise State might be other possibilities for Big 12 expansion.

"We may get a change that would allow us to have a playoff of fewer than 12, but I think this situation will certainly be a catalyst for discussion and we'll have to weigh whether this is substantial enough to add institutions," Bowlsby said. "Those are multifaceted decisions, and it isn't just about having a conference football playoff. But it's certainly a major consideration."

Briles said he believes the Big 12 hurt the Bears and Horned Frogs by presenting them as co-champions to the selection committee. Both teams finished 8-1 in Big 12 play, but Baylor would have owned a tiebreaker by defeating TCU 61-58 on Oct. 11.

"I think the waters got muddied a couple of weeks ago [by] saying we'd be presented as co-champs," Briles said. "I think that hurt the cause for both of us, quite honestly."

Bowlsby's decision to present co-champions to the selection committee, which was perhaps a move that he believed might bolster both teams' résumés, blew up in his face. At the very least, it was an ill-fated PR move to keep both the Bears and Horned Frogs happy. He passed the buck to the selection committee, which ended up passing on both.

He said the Big 12 rule that declared the Bears and Horned Frogs as co-champions was already in place and couldn't be changed midseason.

"I am sure we will talk about whether or not we want to leave the two teams tied," Bowlsby said. "We do that in all of our sports. Our coaches have voted on it, [and] it was unanimously adopted by our ADs. You can't change it in the middle of the year.

"I don't know what the impact was, but it was the rule we were left to deal with. We'll probably talk about whether or not we want to leave it that way going forward."

Bowlsby said he would also continue to encourage Big 12 athletic directors and coaches to schedule arduous nonconference games. Baylor's nonconference schedule (SMU, FCS foe Northwestern State and Buffalo) was ranked 128th by ESPN's Football Power Index; TCU's (FCS opponent Samford, Minnesota and SMU) was ranked 116th.

"I've talked to our athletics directors about it, and we've even talked about the scenario where you don't want to be fifth or sixth or seventh and have a weak nonconference schedule and have that be a portion of the reason you didn't get selected," Bowlsby said. "I think this is going to be a wake-up call for our schools, as well as other schools around the country. The committee has made it clear that nonconference strength of schedule is going to be something they're going to evaluate."

Like Briles and Patterson both said, their teams could have made the committee's decision easier by winning all their games.

"I knew it was going to be close," Briles said. "I think that was apparent just by the way the whole situation came down. I hate it for the Big 12. I think the Big 12 is a great conference. I don't think there's any doubt that it's certainly one of the stronger leagues in America."

Patterson, no stranger to being an outsider from the days when TCU was not in a Power 5 conference, had one plan to assure his team could get in.

"If we wanted to control our destiny, we needed to be undefeated," he said.