With the NCAA soon expected to deregulate conference championship games, the Big 12 would be free to add a title game by 2016. But whether the Big 12 should add a conference championship game is a divided issue for the league's coaches.
"I've always favored the conference championship game, and I still do," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said Tuesday during the Big 12 spring teleconference. "The playoffs have muddied the water a little bit. So I understand both sides of the argument."
Under current NCAA rules, conferences must have 12 teams and two divisions to hold a championship game. But CBSSports.com reported earlier this month that championship game deregulation is expected to pass, which would allow the Big 12 to potentially add a title game for 2016.
The Big 12 is the only Power 5 conference without a championship game, because of its nine-game round-robin format. But given that Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU were left out of the playoff last season, the possibility of bringing back a conference title game is sure to be a topic of discussion when the league's coaches and athletic directors meet in Phoenix next month.
"I don't know this to be true, but if the selection committee is putting weight to a numbers system or scoring system to a number of wins, number of games played, that extra game, if it matters that much and their weighting system favors one team rather than another because they have one extra win, then I would be in favor of playing it," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "But I'd reserve my final judgment until you get to see again this year how the selection committee is really weighing who are those top four teams."
How the playoff selection committee addresses that question could ultimately determine whether the Big 12 does in fact generate a consensus for playing a title game.
"If it made a difference if we could get into the four teams, yes," said TCU coach Gary Patterson, whose Horned Frogs dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 on the final week of the season, even though TCU defeated Iowa State 55-3. "I still don't understand why it's needed if you have a committee that's picking your four best teams. Whatever we can do to help our conference, then we need to do it."
Baylor coach Art Briles said he's skeptical a conference title game would have necessarily catapulted either the Bears or Horned Frogs into the playoff over Ohio State, which went on to capture the national title.
"If you can go undefeated in our league, you'll be in the College Football Playoff," Briles said. "Would it have made a difference this year if us and TCU had played again at the end? I don't know."
But the majority of Big 12 coaches believe that not having a title game put the conference at a disadvantage.
"Based on what happened last year, it's not as much being for or against [a conference championship game], I think it's going to be a necessity for our league to get another quality game for whoever is at the top to keep up with the other Power 5 conferences," Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
Not every coach in the league, however, favors the idea of staging a title game, because it would usually require a team at the top of the standings to beat a strong opponent twice.
"The fact that we play everybody... it's tough enough to beat a team once, and the fact you've played everyone once, you've settled it on the field," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said.
"We have to be very cautious," Gundy said. "Having a team that could run through this undefeated, and then you play against an opponent that very well could have two losses, and that team beats the team that is undefeated, and then you knock that team out. That could happen, and that's why you have to be careful about bringing a conference championship back into the league. I still think it's best for us to let somebody be the conference champion. There's enough respect for the Big 12 now that you're going to get a team in in most cases."
The Big 12 is expected to vote to eliminate its recognition of co-champions during its spring meetings.
The next order of business will be determining whether that will be enough to better position the Big 12 for playoff inclusion, or whether it needs to take another step by adding a conference championship game.
"I think it would be great," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "The one thing I've always been a proponent of is everyone doing the same thing. Having that 13th game and be on the same playing field as everyone else is important.
"Based on what happened toward the end of last year, I think [not having one] hurt the Big 12."