Big 12 presidents and chancellors will meet on Oct. 17, with expansion expected to be a topic. Last month, 11 schools made a pitch to become members, but what happens next is a mystery. The Big 12 could grow, announce it won’t, or push the process down the road.
What is known is no matter how league membership plays out, a conference championship game will be played in 2017, and the process for selecting venues has started.
Kansas City’s hat is in the ring, with the city working with the Chiefs and Arrowhead Stadium.
“We want this event for our community,” said Kathy Nelson, president of the Kansas City Sports Commission. “We put together a solid bid and we want the student-athletes and the fans here.”
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The Big 12 is looking to fill the calendar for five years, and other cities submitting bids are unknown. But one city apparently not interested in this round is Houston, according to Fox 26 Houston. The Southwestern Athletic Conference title game is set for NRG Stadium on the same days as the first three years of the Big 12 bid cycle. The SWAC has the first right of refusal for the following three years.
That would seem to help Kansas City’s chances. AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, site of the previous two Big 12 title games, would be considered a leader. Some have suggested with the league’s geographical center having moved south, the stadium known as Jerry World for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, should be the football game’s permanent setting, as the Sprint Center has become for men’s basketball.
But the Sprint Center had to win a bid for a stay through 2020, and the conference is better off with multiple suitors for its marquee events.
The Big 12 football championship was a winner for the conference wherever it was played. The game, during 1996-2010, became a slip on a banana peel for favorites that cost them a chance at a national championship appearance, like Kansas State in 1998 and Missouri in 2007.
But it also was known for its high television ratings and great environments, with games often played in front of full houses at Arrowhead and in the Dallas area and Houston.
It worked because the teams were often ranked and participants’ fan bases were some of the best travelers in college football. Wherever the games were held, Interstate 35 got a workout in early December.
The league also got lucky a few times from a local interest standpoint. No Texas school played at Arrowhead. Kansas State never played in Texas.
But even if the Big 12 decides to expand and create divisions of at least six teams, it likely couldn’t arrange that format for 2017.
For at least one year, the Big 12 would have a pair of five-team divisions. No split of the current setup has been announced, but a widely suggested format places the Kansas and Oklahoma schools in a division with Iowa State and West Virginia with the four Texas schools.
If that’s the case, a game in Kansas City wouldn’t involve two Texas schools and it increases the chances of a Texas finalist if the game is there.
If the Big 12 was divided that way in the previous five seasons, the championship games would have matched up like this: 2011, Oklahoma State-Baylor; 2012, Kansas State-Texas; 2013, Baylor-Oklahoma; 2014, Baylor-Kansas State; and 2015 Oklahoma-TCU.
With victories by Oklahoma State in 2011 and Baylor in 2014 in those hypothetical games, a stronger case could have been made about their inclusion in the BCS Championship and College Football Playoff.
And all of them likely produce a great atmosphere, wherever the game is held.