Big 12’s Playoff Gamble Blows Up in Bowlsby’s Face

Bob Bowlsby

The Big 12’s slogan this season was “One True Champion.” That didn’t quite work out and now the conference is left with no true playoff teams.

Judgement day in college football was Sunday and the playoff selection committee rewarded four of the five power conferences with a playoff spot, leaving the Big 12 on the outside looking in after crowning two champions.

It only has itself to blame.

The Big 12 was priding itself this season on the fact that every conference team played every other conference team and that a champion would be decided from there. Common sense says that Baylor would be the champion based on the fact that it beat the team it tied with at the top of the conference standings, TCU, head to head.

Instead Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby tried to pull a fast one, declaring both teams champion. It looks like he may have been trying to slip both teams into the final four, instead he got none in as Sunday’s playoff announcement capped a forgettable weekend for the conference.

TCU crushed Iowa State, 55-3, to earn its “share” of the conference title and celebrated in front of its home crowd anticipating a shot at the playoffs. Hours later Baylor beat Kansas State to earn its share of the Big 12 title and what normally would have been a cause for celebration turned awkward and summed up the weekend for the Big 12.

Upon meeting commissioner Bowlsby on the podium to celebrate their co-championship, Baylor coach Art Briles confronted the commissioner, chastising him over his about face in declaring co-champions after spending the season touting his “one true champion” mantra.

“If you are going to slogan it around and say there’s one true champion, then all of a sudden you are going to go out the back door instead of the front. Don’t say one thing and do another,” Briles said. “I’m not obligated to [Bowlsby,] I’m obligated to Baylor University and our football team. We happen to be a part of the Big 12 and happen to be champions two years in a row. So they have to be obligated to us because we’re helping the Big 12′s image in the nation.”

The Big 12’s image in the nation is usually one of a pretty good football conference but its image to the football playoff committee was one of a group of teams without a clear champion. All of the other power five conferences settled things on the field and each of those four winners are in the playoff.

“We were presented with co-champions. In the other situations, we had definitive champions for that conference,” said playoff committee chairman Jeff Long regarding the Big 12 conundrum.

If Baylor was declared the Big 12 champion based on its head to head win over TCU it might have helped. Instead Bowlsby let the conference twist in the wind while Oregon, Alabama, and Florida State earned spots with victories and then Ohio State put the final nail in the Big 12’s coffin with a stunning and thorough rout of Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.

Taking everything in from the weekend and stacking the teams up, the committee may have slighted the Big 12 but it gave college football and its fans some intriguing matchups.

Alabama is the top seed and faces No. 4 Ohio State and coach Urban Meyer in the Sugar Bowl in one semifinal while No. 2 Oregon and Heisman Trophy favorite Marcus Mariota take on No. 3 Florida State, the defending national champs led by reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston.

The Sugar Bowl will be a reunion of coaches Nick Saban and Urban Meyer and be the fourth between the two. Meyer led Florida to victory over Saban’s undefeated Alabama team in the 2008 SEC title game and went on to win the national championship while the next year Saban returned the favor as the undefeated Crimson Tide beat the undefeated Gators to win the SEC on their way to a national title. In 2010 Alabama won at home, 31-6.

The Rose Bowl will be intriguing as it will likely feature the last two Heisman Trophy winners in Winston and Mariota. It will also be intriguing to see how the Seminoles respond to the slight of being the defending national champions but sent 2,252 miles from home to play in the semifinal. Oregon is 855 miles from Pasadena.

author avatar
John Nestor
John Nestor is a Philadelphia sports fan and veteran sportswriter trapped in Connecticut. Tweet him @nestorjdn