A few days ago, the Big 12 jumped in with the ACC in petitioning the NCAA to deregulate conference championship games. Right now, a conference must fulfill all of the following to hold such an event:
- At least 12 conference members, split into two divisions
- Everyone must play everyone else within each division
- The two division champions meet in the title game
Deregulation would wipe away those rules, so the Big 12 would be able to hold a championship game without having to expand beyond its 10 members. It's well known that the league is happy where it's at with 10. Adding more members would almost certainly mean bringing in teams from the AAC that aren't big draws, therefore doing so would just mean splitting the TV money pie into smaller pieces.
The NCAA will likely sign off on deregulating conference championship games, as the proposal is "non-controversial" according to Dennis Dodd's reporting. Simply adding a Big 12 Championship Game to the current league format would be awkward though, because right now the league plays a round robin format. It would necessarily mean the title game would be a rematch every year.
There is a good way forward. The Big 12 has a new business partner in the SEC, as the two are teaming up on the new Sugar Bowl. They should work out something for the regular season too.
The Big 12 could drop back to eight conference games, which would allow for the possibility of not having a rematch in the title game. I believe that with ten members playing eight games apiece, there would also never be the possibility of awkwardness from having three undefeated teams. The league would probably still have a lot of rematches, but now there's at least the chance of them not happening. There isn't a huge downside to going back down to eight.
Each of the ten Big 12 members would have a hole in the schedule if they dropped a league game. Well, the SEC will soon require everyone to play a power conference team in the non-conference each season. Four SEC teams have that nailed down with annual ACC rivals, leaving ten that don't.
It all adds up. The two conferences should make up a scheduling agreement so that the ten SEC squads without ACC rivals match up with a Big 12 team each year. There could be allowances for certain historic series to happen more frequently if not annually (looking at you, Texas A&M-Texas and Missouri-Kansas). They could also partner up with JerryWorld to have one of the most appealing matchups be a neutral site game in Arlington each season if they so choose. It probably wouldn't be able to start until 2016 or 2017, but it's totally doable.
Such an agreement would solve problems for sides. The Big 12 could play its title game while avoiding the specter of a guaranteed rematch every year. SEC ADs would be able to sleep easy without having to worry about whether they can line up a power conference opponent regularly (not that most have a problem there). It would increase the chances of the Sugar Bowl being a rematch when it's not a semifinal game, but the pros here outweigh that one con.
The conferences have talked about doing such a series in the past, but clearly those talks went nowhere. The possibility of holding a Big 12 Championship Game with ten members and the SEC's new non-conference scheduling policy are new developments, however, and they could easily be the catalyst the leagues need to hammer something out.
C'mon Mike Slive and Bob Bowlsby. Make it happen.