Big 12, SEC need to even playoff playing field

'Life isn't fair, but college football ought to be.'

Thomas Campbell/Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

With respect to Bruce Hornsby (no, not Tupac), "that’s just the way it is" is a horrendous reason to continue doing something. 

"That’s just the way it’s always been done" might be the only rationale that’s worse. 

The College Football Playoff begins in 2014, and the SEC announced plans last month to retain its eight-game conference schedule, rather than expand to a nine-game slate. The game’s kingpin conference did require its members to schedule an opponent from the Power 5 conferences beginning in 2016, which is also the same season the Big Ten begins playing nine conference games. 

The ACC is still considering a move to nine games. 

The SEC’s decision, led to a parade of Pac-12 coaches blasting the decision. They coach in the league that paved the way for nine-game schedules, and the SEC is likely to be the only league still playing eight in years to come. 

The Big 12 began playing nine games in 2011 after Nebraska and Colorado’s exit made the Big 12 a ten-team league. A round-robin schedule gave the conference the ability to crown what it won’t stop calling "one true champion" for the first time in its history. 

"I don’t think there’s anybody prepared to argue that isn’t the truest way to determine your champion," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Fox Sports Southwest on Monday morning. "I think that will serve us well in consideration with the championship and the playoff." 

Bowlsby was preparing to board a flight to Phoenix for the Big 12 coaches’ meetings this week, and while plenty is up for discussion during the three-day desert powwow, the possibility of evening college football’s playing field is not. 

"If we’re going to go to a playoff, and feed into one playoff system, we all need to play by the same rules," Stanford coach David Shaw said last week. 

Preach, Mr. Shaw.

The Big 12 would love to see the SEC and ACC officially join the fold and play a nine-game schedule. It better not push too hard, though, or the other four power conferences might wise up and remember only one conference doesn’t force its best team to play an additional game against another of its best teams on the final weekend of the season to win the conference trophy. 

A nine-game schedule and a conference title game means more quality football and fewer "Let’s watch something else" matchups with FCS teams. A commissioners’ job isn’t to push legislation or do what’s best for college football. His job is to do what his members want him to do. 

Bowlsby said Monday he hasn’t heard any push from presidents, chancellors or athletic directors to re-institute the title game, and to his credit, he’s at least being honest about the reason. 

"We like our path to the playoff. I think it’s a good thing we don’t have our two best teams playing each other on the last date of the season," he said. "One of them’s going to lose, and sometimes it’s not the right one." 

From 1996-2010, five teams ranked in the top three lost in the Big 12 title game. 

Some might call that good business. The rest of us call it wimpy. The same is true of the SEC’s decision to replace a ninth conference game with a race to schedule Indiana, Kansas or Colorado. 

Don’t blame Bowlsby. His job isn’t to push legislation his members don’t want. He wouldn’t be commissioner long if he did.  If the league members wanted a title game, they’d have one, even though the rules don’t (yet) technically allow a league with fewer than 12 members to hold one. 

Any change would have to come from the playoff brass or NCAA itself, pushed by leagues like the Pac-12 and Big Ten who wouldn’t have more difficult roads if nine games and a title game were mandated. It won’t happen otherwise. There’s no real motivation for the SEC or Big 12 to change unless somebody twists their arm and makes them. 

College football would benefit from the change. It’s more quality football for fans (and deep-pocketed television partners), which means more popularity (and money, of course) for the game and those associated with it. It’s a harder road to the title game for some, but it’s the same road for everybody. It makes too much sense, which far too often works against any idea in college football. 

"Hey, if we overturn an ejection on a targeting penalty, let’s keep the 15-yard penalty, even though the defender didn’t do anything wrong!"

Life isn’t fair, but college football ought to be. At least it could try. The game’s about to undergo the biggest change in its century-plus history. Why not add one more? 

That’s just the way it is?