Should No. 5 TCU and No. 7 Baylor both win Saturday and each finish the season 11-1, Bowlsby said the league would inform the 12-member selection committee it has co-champions, in spite of Baylor's 61-58 win over TCU on Oct. 11. The committee has had TCU ranked ahead of Baylor for all five of its rankings this season.
"That's the prerogative of the selection committee," Bowlsby said. "It's not our prerogative for us to tell them who is our best team. They can choose from an array of teams that are available and qualified for the playoff.
"It's not within our prerogative to bind the selection committee that way. They're going to select who they think is the best team. This is an important distinction. Because the committee's charge is not to select the most deserving team. The committee's responsibility is to select the four best teams based upon their objective and subjective criteria. And each one of the committee members may feel different about how exactly that process works. ... They can certainly select from any of ours."
Only if TCU and Baylor are both left out of the top four would the league acknowledge Baylor's head-to-head win over TCU. By contract, displaced conference champions are guaranteed spots in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Vizio Fiesta Bowl and Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. Bowlsby said the league would then use Baylor's win over TCU to determine which team would play in a New Year's Six bowl.
"The only reason we apply the tiebreaker later on is because we have to, we're the ones who designate who goes into one of those host bowls," Bowlsby said. "In the case of the College Football Playoff, they're the ones who designate who goes into those games."
"We wouldn't be designating our champion," he said. "We would be designating our representative to the host bowl."
TCU finishes the season Saturday against Iowa State, which is winless in league play, and Baylor is at home against No. 12 Kansas State in the game that will either prolong or end the Bears' playoff hopes.
Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw said Monday he believes his football program would be deserving of a playoff spot if it defeats Kansas State.
"It is an incredible platform for us to make our case," McCaw said before Bowlsby announced the conference's decision. "We would be a Big 12 co-champion with a tiebreaker over TCU. It would give us three top-15-quality wins. We would have the strongest resume among those under consideration."
McCaw believes a head-to-head defeat of TCU will be key.
"The whole concept of a playoff is determining a champion on the field," McCaw said. "If it's on the merits of what was done on the field, you would think if there's already been a game it should weigh heavily."
To bolster its case, Baylor has hired a public relations firm to advocate for a spot in the playoff. An associate for Kevin Sullivan Communications said his firm was hired last week and has also been charged with setting up media interviews for McCaw.
The Big 12 is the only conference among the Power 5 (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12) that doesn't have a conference title game. Instead, the 10-team league uses a round-robin format to determine its champion. It's slogan, "One true champion," has been called into question now because of its willingness to declare Baylor and TCU co-champions.
"'One True Champion' is really about everybody playing everybody," Bowlsby said. "That's the right way to do it."
"We believe that playing everyone every year is the right way to determine a champion," he said, "even if ends in a tie."
ESPN's Joe Schad and Jake Trotter contributed to this report.