Big 12 pushes for 12 games
By Ivan Maisel
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Two years ago, when the NCAA allowed a 12th game in certain years, depending on the calendar, most people believed it was the camel's nose under the tent to get the 12th game for good.
On Tuesday, in his State of the Conference address, Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg announced the arrival of the rest of the camel. The conference has filed legislation with the NCAA that would allow I-A teams to expand their schedules to 12 games.
"We thought it would be useful to have a dialogue about a 12th football game on an annual basis," Weiberg said at the Big 12 Kickoff. "We're putting this into the [NCAA legislative] system because we want a dialogue on it."
Before the 2002 season, the NCAA passed legislation that allowed a 12th game in years in which the season includes 14 Saturdays. That happened in 2002 and 2003, but won't occur again until 2008. Thus teams will revert to an 11-game schedule this fall. However, the Big 12 would like to get that extra game of revenue every year, no matter what the calendar dictates.
Weiberg said the league waited to file the legislation until the BCS restructured the postseason and added only the fifth game that the presidents demanded. The presidents have been traditionally opposed to expanding the season.
"We are cognizant that the timing might not be right," Weiberg said. "From the standpoint of flexibility in scheduling, for the schools struggling to build attendance, struggling to build financially, we believe the 12th game will be a benefit. From a health and safety standpoint, it has not been a problem. If you talk to the athletes, they would prefer to see a little more competition and a little less practice."
Weiberg said his league's presidents support the 12th game. Nationally, the I-A athletic directors support it. Whether that will translate into support at the presidential level, where the decision must be made, is unknown.
Pacific-10 Conference assistant commissioner Jim Muldoon said Tuesday that the league's athletic directors voted to support a 12th game in a meeting last month, and to go back to their respective campuses and canvass their presidents. Stanford president John Hennessey, for instance, is so opposed to a 12th game that he refused to allow the Cardinal to play one in each of the past two seasons.
But Muldoon said the Pac-10 is considering going from an eight- to a nine-game conference schedule, a full round robin. "The schools who don't want to do that would be fine with it if we went to 12 games," Muldoon said. "If we went to a 12th game, no one is losing a third nonconference game."
A full round-robin avoids the situation in which two teams who don't play one another tie for the conference championship. That hasn't happened in the Pac-10, although it occurred in the Big Ten in 2002, when Ohio State and Iowa both went unbeaten. The legislation will be taken up by the NCAA Management Council in January, and if it receives support, it would go before the NCAA Board of Directors in April.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.