In college football, fans want undefeated seasons and national championships.
But in between those two feats is a conference championship, and in the Big 12 last season, the conference didn’t have an outright winner. That served as a contradiction of the Big 12’s slogan: One True Champion. It marred the résumé of the conference, and the Big 12 was left out of the inaugural college football playoff.
One way to establish “One True Champion” would be to hold a conference championship game. After drastic conference realignment across the nation in recent years, the Big 12 scrapped its title game. Kansas State coach Bill Snyder would like to see it come back, as it could benefit his team, he said.
“I’ve always been in favor of a Big 12 Championship game,” Snyder said. “And I only speak for Kansas State; it has been a great asset to our program, it’s been a great asset to a number of programs.
“There are a number of teams that can go right up until the last game or two of the regular season that are still competing for a divisional championship with an opportunity to play in the championship game. That doesn’t happen that way anymore.”
Snyder said he’d love to play the game in Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium, the site of five Big 12 Championship games (2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008). K-State is 1-1 in Big 12 title games at Arrowhead, falling in 2000 to Oklahoma and triumphing against the Sooners in 2003.
“I think for our program it had been beneficial,” Snyder said of the conference championship game.
Baylor and TCU were the two best teams in the Big 12 last season. Had they played a 13th game, Snyder said, the winner would have been chosen for the playoff. Instead, Ohio State, which won the Big Ten, was picked.
Without a conference championship to legitimize K-State’s résumé, Snyder has the difficult task of balancing a challenging enough schedule to be considered respectable while not trotting his team out against the top teams in the nation week-in and week-out before conference play starts.
“Now that it’s come to five major ‘power-conferences’ I think they’re all good,” Snyder said. “Ours is good. Virtually everybody competes.”
Even when K-State athletic director John Currie said earlier this month that “we need to challenge ourselves” in regard to tougher scheduling to boost the Wildcats’ outside perception, he also warned against overscheduling.
“At the same time, we need to be smart about it,” Currie said then. “There are times it’s not as smart to schedule that way.”
Snyder, who has been criticized in the past for the Wildcats’ out-of-conference scheduling, said he doesn’t pay attention to outside perception.
“That’s their issue. Everybody has a right to feel the way they want to,” Snyder said. “That’s your deal.”
The claims against Snyder aren’t necessarily corroborated. Last season, the Wildcats played the 14th-toughest schedule in the nation. In 2012, they had the eighth most-difficult slate in the country. K-State had the 35th toughest schedule in 2013.
However, in non-conference strength of schedule last season, K-State ranked 107th in the country, proof that the Big 12 adds great rigor to its programs’ schedules.
Over the next three seasons, only one non-conference game — in 2016 — remains unscheduled.
“I’ve never been in favor of scheduling too far in advance. You never know what your program’s going to be like,” Snyder said.
“It kind of depends on where we are.”