Big 12's deregulation effort now 'less certain' after Big Ten amendment

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- The Big 12 was expecting a formal proposal of the deregulation of conference championship games to pass easily next month, but the Big Ten filed a last-minute amendment in November that could prevent the Big 12 from having a conference championship game as early as 2016.

"We're trying to work our way through it, but I'm less certain of the outcome than I was before," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN.com on Sunday, just hours after Oklahoma slid into the College Football Playoff at No. 4. "We don't think we ought to be forced into adding schools in order to have a championship game, but it could end up that way."

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said that is certainly not the intent.

Instead, the Big Ten wants to prevent already-diverse scheduling philosophies among Power 5 conferences from becoming even more incomparable to the CFP selection committee.

"I agree a conference should not have to expand in order to have a championship game," Delany told ESPN.com. "That wouldn't be right. That's tail wagging dog. On the other hand, I want to have some familiarity -- some knowledge as to how these things are going to play out. I don't want unintended consequences. I don't want to wake up one morning and see some odd structure that's unfamiliar.

"We don't think he should have to expand to have the same option we have," Delany said, "but we feel he should have a structure similar to ours."

The Big Ten's amendment calls for championship games to be between two members that are divisional champions. Deregulation opens the possibility of having the top two teams in the league play each other without divisions.

"We don't want to play two five-team divisions then have the potential of everyone else has the two best teams in one division," Bowlsby said. "We don't think we ought to be forced into that sort of thing."

Delany is looking for more specific answers from Bowlsby and ACC commissioner John Swofford, who together submitted the original proposal to loosen the NCAA's restrictions on how conferences hold title games. Delany wants to know exactly how the Big 12 and ACC would determine their respective champions if given complete liberty.

Swofford reiterated his support for the proposal and for conferences to have power to determine their champions in the way they choose but expressed contentment with the ACC's current situation.

"As we've said all along, we believe conferences should have the ability to structure its football championship as it sees fit," Swofford said in a statement. "With that said, and as we've also consistently communicated, there's no current momentum to change our league's divisional structure. If the legislation doesn't pass, it doesn't pass. As a league, we're pleased with our football divisions and championship structure, which overall has served us well."

Said Delany: "They're the sponsors, so they should have the ability to articulate what they plan to do. We already have enough differences."

Under current rules, conferences must have at least 12 teams and two divisions. The Big 12 is the only Power 5 conference without a championship game but was looking forward to the option of considering one with its current 10-team format.

It became the biggest storyline in Year 1 of the College Football Playoff, but played out to the league's advantage in Year 2.

"Last year, people were in a panic that the Big 12 absolutely had to have a championship game," CFP executive director Bill Hancock said. "They couldn't be in the playoff without a championship game, and here this year they are in the playoff without a championship game. One year doesn't make a trend. ... I don't know that two years makes a trend, but clearly, we know now that you don't have to have a championship game to play in this playoff."

Bowlsby is still under the impression, though, that his conference could be at a disadvantage because it doesn't have one. Michigan State jumped Oklahoma for the No. 3 spot in the final ranking on Sunday in large part because of its win over Iowa in the Big Ten title game.

"It was really a function of what Michigan State did in their 13th game," committee chair and Jeff Long said. "They beat last week's No. 4 team in the nation, and that was significant. No question that had an impact on the committee. I think that win over that highly ranked team, added to the rest of their body of work, caused Michigan State to be ranked ahead of Oklahoma."

Delany said he has spoken with Bowlsby about deregulation in person, written him a note about it and discussed it on a teleconference with the other commissioners. Delany said the Big 12 should be different than the ACC because it is a smaller league and plays a round robin format, and he doesn't think there would be sympathy for the ACC to simply select its two best teams to play in a title game because there's not a round robin format to determine the ACC's top two teams.

Delany said the Big Ten's amendment was less of a blatant rejection of the proposal than it was the "straw man" in getting the discussion going.

"I'm sympathetic to what Bob wants to achieve, but we wanted to start the conversation and not just have one vote for total deregulation," he said.

Bowlsby said he wants the option of having a title game without the drastic measure of expansion -- though he is certainly willing to consider it.

"It's a part of the discussion we're having, and we won't be making any decisions until after we know how it runs out," he said.

The vote will take place at the NCAA convention in San Antonio on January 13-16 by the 10 FBS members on the NCAA council. The voting is weighted, meaning each of the Power 5 conference commissioners get two votes and each of the Group of 5 conference commissioners get one vote. Bowlsby is chair of the Football Oversight Committee.

"Our original premise was it ought to be completely deregulated and conferences ought to come to their own conclusions of how they decide their own championship," Bowlsby said. "I continue to believe that, but not everybody agrees."