The most absurd part of the conference expansion argument - and there's a lot of absurdity to go around - is the whining on the part of the Big 12 coaches and administrators about their conference championship game. Now that the league appears to be settled on ten teams, the conference apparently will not petition the NCAA to keep the Big 12 title game (NCAA rules mandate twelve teams for the December championship). The central argument is found in the notes here: the Big 12 title game has kept teams from that conference from competing for National Championships.
Because that's what we need, right? Teams that aren't good enough to win their conference championship game competiting for the BCS title instead?
As you'll see, a significant percentage of Big 12 teams that come into the conference championship game with a chance to play in the BCS title game don't just lose, they get killed.
In the twelve year history of the BCS, the Big 12 has won two National Championships: Oklahoma out of nowhere in 2000, and Texas in 2005, one of the best college football teams of the decade. That means one-sixth of the BCS titles have gone to the Big 12, an even average for a system with six conferences.
In that same span, the ACC has won only one...two if you give them Miami's from 2001, before the Canes migrated from the Big East. The Big 10 has won only one. And the Pac-10 has vacated one.
The other six have been won by the Southeastern Conference. And you know what the Southeastern Conference has? A Championship Game that we don't whine about.
Since play began in 1996, the Big 12 has seen one of its teams go to the conference championship game with a chance to play in the National Championship Game ten times in fourteen years. Sounds impressive, right? Let's take a look at what happened to those ten teams in the Big 12 Championship Game:
- 1996: Texas 37 - #3 Nebraska 27
- 1997: #2 Nebraska 54 - #14 Texas A&M 15
- 1998: #10 Texas A&M 36 - #2 Kansas State 33 (2OT)
- 2000: #1 Oklahoma 27 - #8 Kansas State 24
- 2001: #9 Colorado 39 - #3 Texas 37
- 2003: #15 Kansas State 35 - #1 Oklahoma 7
- 2004: #2 Oklahoma 42 - Colorado 3
- 2005: #2 Texas 70 - Colorado 3
- 2007: #9 Oklahoma 38 - #1 Missouri 17
- 2009: #3 Texas 13 - #21 Nebraska 12
Half of the Big 12 teams who've gone to the first weekend of December with National Championship hopes have seen them dashed in the conference championship game. And again, they're not just fluke losses; these supposed championship contenders have been blown out more often than not.
I'll give you Kansas State in 1998, a double overtime game. But other than that, these were all total embarrasments on the part of the "championship" team. Texas may have closed the gap to two points at the very end of the 2001 title game, but that was after Chris Simms put them behind 29-10. Nebraska may have been close throughout in 1996, but Texas was an unranked team that still beat them by ten points.
The biggest joke of all, of course, was Oklahoma in 2003, who lost by 28 points and was still given the opportunity to play for the BCS title. And the BCS itself is to blame for that, but still...the Big 12 wants to sidestep the title game, because its best teams can't win it.
The SEC? We don't have that problem.
In the eighteen year history of the SEC Championship Game, league teams have gone to Birmingham or Atlanta with a chance to win the National Championship fourteen times. This includes four teams in the last two years, in the #1 vs. #2 Alabama vs. Florida showdowns. Here's how those fourteen teams have fared in the SECCG:
- 1992: #2 Alabama 28 - #12 Florida 21
- 1995: #2 Florida 34 - #23 Arkansas 3
- 1996: #4 Florida 45 - #11 Alabama 30
- 1997: #3 Tennessee 30 - #11 Auburn 29
- 1998: #1 Tennessee 24 - #23 Mississippi State 14
- 2001: #21 LSU 31 - #2 Tennessee 20
- 2003: #3 LSU 34 - #5 Georgia 13
- 2004: #3 Auburn 38 - #15 Tennessee 28
- 2006: #4 Florida 38 - #8 Arkansas 28
- 2007: #5 LSU 21 - #14 Tennessee 14
- 2008: #2 Florida 31 - #1 Alabama 20
- 2009: #2 Alabama 32 - #1 Florida 13
Obviously, somebody had to lose the last two years. Beyond that, only once has an SEC team gone to the SEC Championship Game still alive in the National Championship race, and lost.
That was us, of course, in 2001. And we don't shy away from how painful and what a blown opportunity it was. That's how you're supposed to feel when you lose with the stakes that high. And then you're supposed to dust off your britches like a big boy, and work to get back there so you can do it right the next time.
Instead, the Big 12 has chosen to whine and cry behind the scenes, has allowed Texas to lead the charge to make life easier on themselves while the rest of college football was eager to make things more difficult through expansion (I have no doubt Mack Brown's voice was among the loudest for the removal of the conference title game), and now hopes to fool the college football world (they won't) and the BCS (they will) into thinking that their conference champion is just as worthy of playing for the big prize without the conference title game.
How can anyone respect the Big 12? Even if you didn't like them before, you could at least respect them for following the SEC's lead in expansion and the conference championship game, two things that have done wonders for us. But now, they're looking for the easy way out, they've worked out a deal where the small revenue schools just hand over money that should belong to them to the big boys, and the only ones who are "happy" are those in Texas who stand to profit (and I'm not sure I'd include Texas fans among them), and the smaller Big 12 fanbases who've been told Texas is God long enough that they've apparently started to both believe in and worship them. Seeing stuff like this is depressing, and I don't even know any Kansas State fans. How does anyone possibly think this will last?
Other than for giving us two weeks of accelerated pace during the offseason, I'm thankful for this entire process because it's made me more thankful for the SEC...where Alabama and Vanderbilt get the same paycheck. There have been times Tennessee was at the top of the heap in this league, and was responsible for a significant percentage of the money it made. And times right now find the Vols having missed bowl games twice in the last five years, and having not made the BCS since 1999. But we share and share alike, and nobody - not even Alabama-when-they're-winning, which is an insufferable creature - thinks they're bigger than the league itself. More than half of the college football world has been sweating for the last two weeks. We approached this situation with less to lose than anyone else.
And I'm thankful and proud to be in a league where we don't run from competition, we embrace it. The SEC Championship Game is a fantastic event. We'll keep sending our best teams to Atlanta, and they'll keep finding competition there that's routinely better than whoever they play next for the National Championship. We won't be dominated by one or two teams, the way the Big 10, Big 12, and Pac-10 have for an entire decade. And we won't watch all of those so-called dominant teams from three leagues combine to win fewer championships than the SEC by itself. Four teams in this league have won six BCS Championships in twelve years. A fifth now has a rightful claim to the Trogans' vacated prize.
Texas can make all the money it wants, and rig the system to find the easiest possible route to the BCS title game. But they've lost any respect they might have gained in this process. Let the Big 12 take the easy way out. We'll keep sending our best to Atlanta, and the winner will keep making the game after that a mere formality.