In the wake of the NCAA's decision to deregulate conference title games - scrapping the previous requirement that a conference have 12 teams to hold a championship - the Big 12 has been at a crossroads, deciding how to proceed. Though expansion back to 12 teams or beyond remains a back-burner possibility, for now the conference seems set on holding at 10, but breaking into divisions nonetheless.
Some have expressed surprise at this - that the Big 12, normally a paragon of forward-thinking and totally-not-panicked decision-making - would shepherd in a format guaranteed to deliver a title game that would be a rematch of a regular-season game. Additionally, the conference has plenty of experience with the title-game pitfall of "a one- or two-loss second place team in one division is left out in favor of a four- or five-loss winner of the other division".
Still, the conference seems set on their path, and now the major question is: how do they implement it? Do you split North-South again, grouping the Texas schools together? Do you attempt to competitively balance, and make up division names like "Legends" or "Coastal"? Do you go completely buck-wild and, as some have suggested, re-seed the divisions each season?
Really, there's no good precedent for a competitive format that groups two divisions of five teams against each other-
STEVE HARVEY: Hold up, playa.
ACTIONCOOKBOOK: I'm sorry, what? I'm writing an article about realignment here. This isn't even one of my script format posts.
STEVE HARVEY: Some nights you go out to the club and think you're just goin' dancing, you aren't lookin' for anyone tonight, and you wake up in the mornin', now you got three kids and a swimming pool.
HARVEY: You're playin' the Feud, partner.
[Family Feud music starts, my office quickly transforming into the game show's set]
ACTIONCOOKBOOK: This is highly unusual.
HARVEY: It's June, playa, how you gonna keep a college football blog usual? Let's welcome the teams. On this side, we've got the Texlahoma family. First we've got Charlie Strong, how you doin'?
CHARLIE STRONG: [gripping the set so hard it's splintering]
HARVEY: All right. With him, we've got Gary, their son Kliff, my man Big Game Bob, and Mike.
ACTIONCOOKBOOK: Isn't there another Texas coa-
HARVEY, glaring at me extremely seriously: Sure isn't.
ACTIONCOOKBOOK: Probably for the best.
HARVEY: Over on this side, we've got the Other family, let's introduce them. We've got Grandpa Bill, Uncle Dana, grandson Matt, and, uh [leans in to read nametag] David Beaty? [chuckles] Hey, sure, you do you, partner. Rounding out the family, we've got part-time niche football blogger "Action" Cookbook. [furrows brow] Now what the hell kind of name is that?
ACTIONCOOKBOOK: If you wrote things like this, you'd be pseudonymous too.
HARVEY: Never regret nothin', playa, I screwed up Miss Universe and was making ad money off it in a week. Let's play the feud. We'll start with the "Others". First question, we surveyed 100 people and asked: "what time do you wake up on a Sunday morning?"
BILL SNYDER: 3:15.
DANA HOLGORSEN: I've been up since Tuesday.
MATT CAMPBELL: 1pm.
HARVEY: Alright, 32 people said they sleep in until 1pm [narrows eyes], your momma know you skippin' out on church? 'Cause mine'd whoop my ass if I slept in. Alright [reading nametag again] David, what time do you get up on Sunday?
DAVID BEATY: I'm sorry, I still don't know anything about David Beaty, I'm not sure how to characterize hi-
STEVE HARVEY: Texlahoma family, you've got a chance to steal here, what time do you get up on Sunday morning?
CHARLIE STRONG: We're not here to talk about that, we're only focused on our upcoming game against Notre-
STEVE HARVEY: Alright, and the Kansasy schools keep that round. Hey - a win is a win, man, you gotta take 'em where you get 'em. Our next question: what is something you might do for fun on a vacation?
[no one answers on either team. they appear extremely confused by the question]
STEVE HARVEY: We're just gonna skip that one. Texlahoma family, I'm gonna give you this one. We asked 100 people - what should the Big 12 do to remain a viable "Power" conference for the long-term future? Gary, you're up.
GARY PATTERSON, sweating profusely: Do whatever Texas wants.
HARVEY: Yep, 17 people agreed with that.
KLIFF KINGSBURY: Coast on our good looks and never, ever play defense.
HARVEY: How's that been workin' for you the last couple years, Dawson? [chuckles] Moving on.
BOB STOOPS: Pretend like we're in solidarity with Texas, but hedge our bets knowing we'll be fine once the Longhorn Network causes the conference to collapse and we can bolt for the SEC or Big Ten?
HARVEY: 1 person agreed with you!
[Charlie Strong nods]
MIKE GUNDY: Follow along with Oklahoma's plan, because surely they'll bring us along with them, and-
CHARLIE STRONG: Do whatever Texas wants.
STEVE HARVEY: Yo, your sweaty friend already said that, try again.
CHARLIE STRONG, tersely: This press conference is over.
STEVE HARVEY: Okay, we're gonna toss it back, Others, this is your chance to steal and win big, again, we asked 100 people, "what should the Big 12 do to remain a viable "Power" conference for the long-term future?" Blog dog, you up.
ACTIONCOOKBOOK: Well, look, there's no single good answer here. The Big 12 doesn't have the alumni population bases or long-term brand equity that the Big Ten and SEC do, so they're never going to be able to fully compete financially with them. By merit of their position in the center of the country, they're going to be ripe for the picking when other conferences want to flesh out their ranks. That said, they can't stand pat - that's how they've gotten where they are. A conference title game can be a good step back in the right direction, but if they're seriously going to split into divisions, I think their best move is to grab the most competitive teams they can to build out a wider base of quality football. Taking BYU should be a total no-brainer at this point, and I'd make a very compelling case for the Cincinnati Bearc-
STEVE HARVEY: That's our game, folks, the Texlahoma teams take it!
ACTIONCOOKBOOK: Isn't there normally a final round?
STEVE HARVEY: Think we just proved that's a bad idea, playa.