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Big 12's round-robin schedule might toughen schedules, but championship game will be missed

by Berry Tramel Published: July 30, 2011

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.”

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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