On Saturday December 3rd, the Pac-12 will use a championship game to determine a winner finally ridding itself of the round-robin format which had been in place since 2006. The 12-year contract which begins in 2012 and will run until the end of the 2024, will rotate TV rights coverage between Fox (even years) and ESPN (odd years), will give the Pac-12 a game in December guaranteed to have national implications, instead of largely regional rivalry games. In the case of California and Washington, December was just the “9th” game the last 3 years or in other instances, an early trip to Hawaii to start the offseason as in the case there, and back over here.
In a 4 part series, I will 1) look into what drove the motion to create the Pac-12 Championship Game. 2) Then look into why the championship was brought about in the ACC, Big-12, and SEC. 3) Then I will look back into notable championship games in ACC, Big-12, and SEC history and lastly 4) look into the different BCS implications the Pac-12 game could have citing past examples from the other three conferences.
#1 – $$$$$ –Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody. – Benjamin Franklin
Money. The root of all evil along with women as proven by this mathematical equation . Yes I do know you’re not suppose to divide by zero but the concept is amusing. The Pac-12 Championship game contributed to sewing up a 3 billion dollar tv deal which tripled that of the old Pac-10 deal and beat out both the SEC and Big-12. The expansion of the Denver and Salt Lake City, coupled with the possibility of championship games being held in Los Angeles (outside of 2011) was enough for ESPN and FOX to bite on this deal. Given the likelihood of a professional football team will come at 2016 at earliest, the 19 million urban population in the Los Angeles area will be all ears for high quality football.
#2 – The addition of Colorado and Utah
With two additional teams, unless someone wanted to play 11 games of round-robin and 1 non-conference, all hopes of all 12 teams coming under the same umbrella probably went out the door if the Pac-12 wanted to preserve round-robin. The Big 10(11) attempted to play 8 conference games with 11 games but that lead to awkward results such as last year when Michigan State was left out of the BCS dance despite tying Wisconsin and Ohio State (Sparty didn’t play Brutus in 2010 leaving them at the mercy of the Sugar Bowl who opted for Ohio State’s tradition and larger fanbase). All in all, the logical solution was moving to a division format to pit the champion of one against the champion of the other.
#3 – Ridding the dreaded round-robin
This article does a great job summarizing why we “loved” the Pac-10 round robin. The author does a great job pointing out how since 2006, nobody went undefeated in conference play until Oregon 2010 and only that 08 USC team and 09 Oregon teams made it out with only 1 loss. 2010 saw only 4 teams make the bowl season. Normally the lower tier bowls which pay ~750k doesn’t even cover the expense required but in the case of 2010, the Pac-10 missed out on the Sun and Las Vegas Bowl which paid out 2.1 million and 1.1 million respectively. Think Oregon State, Arizona State, and California wanted to start their offseason early? Bowl games also allows for another month of practice which I’m sure the 5-7 teams from last year would have had. Lastly, who knows how many BCS games the round robin may have costed the Pac-10. What if USC had missed Washington State in 2002 or Oregon State in 2006 or 2008? What if Cal had missed Arizona in 2006? What if Arizona State had missed Oregon in 2007? What if Oregon had missed Arizona in 2007? The list goes on and on if I listed games that weren’t just between a current Pac-12 North team and Pac-12 South team. At the end of the day, money trumps fairness.
#4 Spring-boarding a National Championship team
In the 7 year Pete Carroll dominance USC made the BCS National Championship Game only twice. Would an additional game in 2003 against a solid Washington State team, which beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl, been enough to erase the decimal points to get to USC to the Sugar Bowl? In 2000, would a game between Washington and Oregon State have helped at least one of them get into the Orange Bowl that year? In 2001, would an additional game for Oregon who finished #2 in the polls, against a top 15 team in Washington which won the Rose Bowl the previous year, have boosted its computer rankings to jump a Nebraska team which didn’t even win its conference division? In 2001 and 2003 a hypothetical championship game could have only helped the conference and may have brought the Pac-10 another Crystal Ball during the Pac-10 Era (Yes I know you need 12 teams to have a conference championship game, but work with me here).
Next up: History of the Championship Game in the ACC, Big-12 and SEC