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No Tiebreaking Change
May 06, 2009

By Wendell Barnhouse |
Big 12 Correspondent

Big 12 Conference football coaches, meeting Wednesday during an annual gathering in Phoenix, voted down a proposal to change the divisional tiebreaker rule that caused a controversial end to the 2008 season.

A majority of seven votes was needed to accept the proposal. Big 12 athletic directors will take the coaches' recommendation under consideration at the conference's spring meetings later this month. They have the power to change the tiebreaker if they wish.

“The tiebreaker system we had was felt, by the majority of coaches, to be appropriate to what we want to accomplish,” Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said. “There are risks in either one. We had one risk last year.”

The proposal to break a three-way tie is one that is similar to tiebreakers used by the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences. The proposal called for the tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series standings to be the divisional representative in the Big 12 Championship game, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five or fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the head-to-head result of the top-two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the Big 12 Championship game.

The current Big 12 rule only calls for the highest-ranked BCS team to advance. That is where the controversy boiled up last season.

Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech all finished 7-1 in the Big 12 South. Each team had a victory over the other - Oklahoma defeated Texas Tech, which defeated Texas, which defeated Oklahoma.

When the BCS standings were applied, Oklahoma edged Texas by 13 thousandths of a point. The Sooners went on to win the Big 12 championship game and played in the BCS title game.

Longhorns coach Mack Brown and the team's fans were upset because Texas had defeated Oklahoma (UT's loss came at Texas Tech on a last-second touchdown pass).

Had the proposed tiebreaker been in effect last season, Texas Tech would have been eliminated as the lowest ranked team in the BCS standings. Then, in the head-to-head tiebreaker, Texas would have won the South Division.

One reason the proposed tiebreaker was rejected was because there could be a scenario where a team with a shot at the national championship does not advance to the Conference championship game. For instance, a team ranked in the BCS top 10 but with no shot at playing for the national title could earn a tiebreaker edge over a Big 12 team ranked in the BCS top two.

“The motive is to give the best chance for a team to play in the national championship,” Beebe said. “Obviously, we had a scenario (in 2008), hopefully we’ll never have that again.”

Brown was unable to attend the coaches' meeting. He stayed in Austin to help attend to his wife who recently underwent surgery. Texas was represented at the meeting by associate athletic director Cleve Bryant. Kansas and Nebraska representatives participated in the meeting via teleconference.

The only other significant development in the coaches' meeting involved a recurring proposal that hasn't gained support on a national level. The Big 12 coaches, as they did last year, encouraged the conference to continue its support and campaign for a fifth year of eligibility in football.


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