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The Big 12 Hits Paydirt League Approves Football Playoff

Dave Sittler Published: June 14, 1995

AUSTIN, Texas - Big 12 Conference chief executive officers made a historic move Tuesday when they gave tentative approval for a football playoff game when the new league starts competition in 1996.

The Big 12 would join the Southeastern Conference and Western Athletic Conference in conducting a football championship contest.

The SEC started its playoff format three years ago, while the WAC's initial game is set to be played in Las Vegas in 1996.

In taking the action, the Big 12 CEOs ignored a unanimous vote last month against a playoff by league coaches.

"We are headed down the track of having a championship football game," said Iowa State president Martin Jischke, president of the Big 12 CEOs.

The vote was 11-1, with Nebraska chancellor Graham Spanier the only CEO opposing a playoff in the league that will include members of the Big Eight Conference, along with current Southwest Conference schools Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech and Texas A&M. The playoff proposal and a revenue-sharing formula to divide as much as $40 million annually in gross revenues, were two major plans passed by the CEOs during a day-long meeting at the Four Seasons Hotel. Both items had been forwarded to the CEOs by athletic directors and faculty representatives when they met last month in Colorado.

Football coaches believe a playoff between the North and South division winners would limit the league's national championship opportunities. They feel the game's loser would miss out on a chance to gain one of the six berths in the bowl alliance.

But ADs and CEOs contend revenue generated by a playoff is an overriding reason to conduct a game the first Saturday in December.

Early projections have each schools realizing a $550,000 payoff from the extra contest.

Although Oklahoma athletic director Donnie Duncan joined Nebraska AD Bill Byrne in opposing a playoff at the Colorado meetings, OU switched its vote Tuesday. OU president David Boren was unable to attend the meeting, so the school's vote was cast by Joe Harroz, executive assistant to the president.

Although Spanier departed before the end of the meeting and was unavailable for comment, Jischke said the other CEOs understood the Nebraska official's concerns.

"There are tradeoffs," Jischke conceded. "This (playoff) might mean that we wouldn't have two teams in the alliance bowl, and it's another game for the students to play. Those factors are understood.

"And we've seen the (coaches) vote, understood why they made that vote and we respect that. The athletic directors were far more supportive, and, as you can see, the CEOs were (supportive). " Jischke said Big 12 commissioner Steve Hatchell should have the final revenue projections from a playoff ready by the end of June.

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