Down to 10 teams and the conference championship game gone, the Big 12 adopted a new theme for football.
One True Champion.
The Big 12 is paying big money to some PR firm for this kind of drivel? What are they talking about?
If a round-robin schedule with no title game produces “one true champion,” by inference the 15 Big 12 title games produced some kind of fraudulent champ.
That would be news to Tom Osborne's '97 Huskers, or Bob Stoops' 2000 Sooners, or Mack Brown's 2005 Longhorns. Or the teams they defeated. Heck, that's news to any team that lifted the hardware the first Saturday night of every December since 1996.
The current spin declares that the champion will be determined “on the field.” On the field? Where did R.C. Slocum's '98 Aggies upset Kansas State? In a spaceship?
Truth is, the title game twice saved the league from a rubik's cube dilemma, a three-way tie in the South Division, 2008 and 2010. The trophy went to one school (OU) both seasons. A three-way tie now will have the engravers working overtime. All three will get a trophy, just like fourth grade.
“I wouldn't say it downgrades a former champion,” commissioner Dan Beebe said. “It's what our (PR) group said is a way to distinguish us.
“It's taken what reality is. The message is based on reality.”
Reality is round robin. Every team playing every other team once each.
The term round robin dates back to 1546, when not even Bill Snyder was around. Its meaning dates to 17th century France, a description of a document signed in circular fashion by multiple parties, to make it difficult to figure out the order of signatures.
So rather than create clarity, round robin is rooted in confusion.
The only chaos the Big 12 ever has had came in 2008, with the OU/Tech/Texas three-way tie, a logjam that would not have been rectified with the new system.
Big 12 coaches talk bravely — they're company men — but rebel Tommy Tuberville admits what we'll all realize come December.
“I think the one thing we'll miss, everybody will miss, is that championship game,” said the Texas Tech coach.
Tuberville said he was against the SEC title game when he first started coaching at Ole Miss in 1995.
“But once you get in that game and get it going and then see the ramifications of the money and the notoriety that you get, it's good for everybody involved,” Tuberville said.
The championship game has its downside. It cost 2007 Missouri, 2001 Texas, 1998 Kansas State and maybe 1996 Nebraska spots in the national title game.
“It's going to probably work in our advantage,” Tuberville said of the new system's effect on Big 12 national title hopes. “If somebody can run the table in the Big 12, they'll probably have a great opportunity to play in the national championship game without playing that extra game.”
Even Tuberville, who most of the time is blessed with a healthy dose of straight talk, drinks the Big 12 Kool-Aid.
“Everybody playing everybody is going to be a true conference champion,” he said.
They teach those guys well.
The round robin figures to do two things. 1.) Toughen schedules, since an extra home-and-home series has been added to every program; and 2.) restore some rivalries that had lost their annual status.
Well, rivalries might be an extreme description. Oklahoma and Kansas played every season from 1903 through 1997, before the Big 12 schedule prompted a two-year hiatus. Of course, the Jayhawks won just six times between 1937 and 1992, so it wasn't an epic grudge match.
But still, the new Big 12 will renew old acquaintance.
“I'm not so sure it won't help our fan base,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy. “I think that each team competing annually against each other will help stimulate some rivalries within our league.
“Oklahoma State, Missouri, we get to play every year. So I think the fans will look forward to playing Missouri and Missouri fans will look forward to playing Oklahoma State. And when you did it once every two seasons or two years in a row with taking a two-year break, I don't think it worked and it wasn't effective.”
The Big 12 lost quality depth with the departure of Nebraska, but not championship depth. The Huskers didn't win a Big 12 title in the 21st century.
“I think it's going to be really good,” Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel said of the new format. “A lot of good football teams. A lot of competition.
“This year, in particular, as you look at the returning starters, the number of teams that have a lot of good players coming back, I think it's going to be as strong as it's ever been.
“You better bring everything you've got every week. That's a challenge that you have, because this is a really, really good conference. I think it's every bit as challenging or more than what it's been in the past.”
Agreed. Except for the title game, which provided one extra challenge and put the league in the national spotlight and most definitely crowned one true champion.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.