A Pac-16 … without a championship game?

So it appears the Big 12 is a day or so from complete implosion. Nebraska is expected to jump to the Big Ten, which would open the door for Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado to align with the Pac-10. And Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor will end up God knows where.

The word of this major and unexpected surrender of the Big 12 has come quickly all week through what are seemingly strategically-made anonymous comments from conference athletic directors and coaches. As an aside, I’d bet the ball started rolling with Baylor people looking to expose the scheme to either derail it or at least get themselves a Pac-10 invite.

And tonight there’s an ESPN story quoting yet another anonymous Big 12 source (a “Big 12 football coach”), who confirmed the pending Pac-10 invites for the six Big 12 schools. But among the anonymous comments was this (emphasis mine):

The coach said it’s possible the Pac-16 would push for two automatic bids to the BCS, one for each division champion. That potential bonanza could open the possibility of the two division champs from one league playing for the national title, and it would eliminate the need for a conference championship game.

“The Pac-10 doesn’t believe in a championship game,” the coach said. “And coaches in the Big 12 don’t like it anyway.”

Hold on a second. If part of the “Pac-16″ scheme is to worm two of their teams into the BCS without playing a championship game, well that new conference can go fuck itself. Right now, of course, one of ten Pac-10 teams gets an automatic bid after playing a full round-robin conference schedule, and one out of 12 Big 12 teams goes after eight conference games and a title game. But they want two of 16 (instead of 2 of 24) to get automatic BCS bids?

If the BCS sticks around, the “mega-conference” idea has the potential to clear up the selection process – if the mega-conferences determine a clear champion that it its BCS representative. But this idea of each division sending a team to the BCS with no title game is a huge chickenshit step backward.

It’s easy, of course, to understand where this idea comes from. Does anybody think USC wants to have to play Texas to get to a BCS title game (once they are eligible for bowl games again)? Texas, no doubt, would rather not have needed that extra second in that extra game against Nebraska to make the title game last year. The 2008 Big 12 mess (Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech all tied) is fresh in their minds, as is the 2007 title game where Oklahoma beating Missouri kept the Big 12 out of the BCS title game. And none of the Big 12 teams aligning with the Pac-10 can be happy with the idea of having USC or whoever is the best of those eight teams standing in their path to the BCS.

But it’s crap and the kind of power play none of the other BCS members should stand for … but there could be another that might like that sort of arrangement – the Big Ten.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany is on record that he’s not interested in a championship game; he just wants new cable markets and more money. Having this idea planted that a conference might go to 16 teams, not have a championship and be guaranteed to send two schools to the BCS is the kind of thing that must make his toes tingle.

And if you get the big-money teams out west and the big-money teams in the Midwest all pushing for this idea, it just might happen. That would be a huge step backward. We need to move closer to determining a champion on the field, not farther from it.

The conventional wisdom is that once one 16-team conference is created, others will follow. It seems that the Big Ten has its eyes on going to 14 teams, but 16 would be easy for them to get to if Missouri and Kansas are left out in the cold. Some amalgam of the ACC/Big East could get to 16, and maybe they wouldn’t want a title game and would like two BCS invites as well. If the SEC wanted to stand pat with their powerhouse 12-team lineup and fantastic SEC Championship Game, they might get pushed to 16 without a title game because it would be foolish to be the one conference not grabbing two automatic BCS berths.

Do we end up with eight super-conference teams being automatically put into a bigger BCS lineup (hello, Cotton Bowl) with a couple of toss-ins to the minor conferences? And no conference championship games? God I hope not.

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