Our fine managing editor wrote a piece analyzing potential expansion options for the Big 12 yesterday. He's correct that the options discussed are the Big 12's best expansion options.
But he's far more optimistic than I that expansion matters.
Baylor and Texas Christian were excluded from the first College Football Playoff field. This is neither a value judgment that the Bears and the Horned Frogs are clearly outside the best four teams in college football, nor is it an indictment of the Big 12's round-robin, no-conference-championship game format. That's what they told you, of course.
It's a reminder that if you're a Big 12 team and you're not Texas or Oklahoma, you'll never win a tiebreaker against a brand-name school.
Remain behind the veil if you want, but college football's playoff is not about putting the four best teams on the field and deciding a true champion. It's about creating two more games to put on TV from which to gather more revenue. And the entire system is set up by lawyers and consultants to provide plausible deniability so the idiotic masses that watch this sport will swallow it hook, line and sinker. I paraphrase Scipio a lot, but I'll quote him directly on this point:
So when I'm sitting in the mezzanine shelling peanuts and happen to point out the marionette strings extending down from the rafters, the visible teleprompter off stage left, the backlit scenery canvas rolling up mid-performance to reveal a smoke machine, four Teamsters carrying props and a deer-eyed director frozen in the stage lights, don't call me a [cynic].
Here's what the committee is supposed to consider:
- Championships won
- Strength of schedule
- Head-to-head competition (if it occurred)
- Comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory)
Looks great, doesn't it? Who could argue with criteria like that?
What they don't specify is how the criteria will be applied. And the real world is a giant grayscale canvas, which allows subjective and random application of all these criteria to reach a financially acceptable result with the thinnest veneer of credibility. It's a laughably thin veneer, but it's all that's needed for the ninnymuggins and those who don't care about the details.
Already the siren song has gone out that the Big 12 must expand its membership ranks to match its nomenclature. We need divisions! We need a championship game!
None of it matters. If the Big 12 is to have a playoff participant, it will be because Texas or Oklahoma's drawing power trumps that of their closest competition for the playoff. Or because one of the also-rans goes undefeated and the entire system would lose its credibility veneer by keeping them out. If that undefeated also-ran is an outfit that beat up on three body bags in the non-conference schedule, don't bet on that last scenario, either.
None of that's going to change with a championship game. The same two rules stated in the previous paragraph will still apply for Big 12 inclusion in the playoff. At best, divisions lower the rate of conference-loss accumulation, as Morse has pointed out before.
And if we're going to expand, we'll need Texas and Oklahoma's blessing before doing so. Expansion dilutes revenue distribution. As Jon mentioned, we may be forgoing revenue by not having playoff participants. But Texas and Oklahoma expect to put themselves in contention every year. If Texas goes 11-1 this year and shares the Big 12 championship, they're getting in ahead of Ohio State.
In short, Texas and Oklahoma will bank on being the ones to provide the playoff appearances, not altering the system and diluting the revenue pool to do so.
But this hurts the rest of the conference, you say. Maybe. Do they care? No.
This isn't about fairness. This isn't about building your conference's brand. Texas and OU will ride the gravy train till the grant-of-rights expires and cash out to the best superconference available.
This system never was about fairness or crowning a true champion, if that's even possible. If it were, we would let Bill Connelly or Brian Fremau or some other objective system decide the playoff field.
Welcome to Southwest Conference 2.0. Hope you enjoy the infighting before the inevitable bitter end.