Sources: Big 12 coaches wanted split divisions, but conference stands pat

The Big 12 announced Friday that its championship game, which returns next season, will match the top two football teams in the conference standings.

The conference considered going to divisions out of its round-robin format but opted against it in the end -- despite a 7-3 vote among football coaches Wednesday in favor of splitting into divisions, sources told ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

"There are a number of advantages to matching our top two teams," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. "Given our round-robin, nine-game scheduling model, it is expected the Big 12 champion will be uniquely positioned for College Football Playoff consideration.

"I would argue there will be no path more difficult than our champion's, where it will have played every team in the conference, faced at least one [Power 5] nonconference opponent, and then plays in our championship game. The guaranteed No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup will be a great game for our fans, and it's hard to imagine a stronger position for a conference champion."

Bowlsby said the Big 12 would continue to use the same tiebreakers to determine the title game participants, with head-to-head matchups being the lone deciding factor when two teams finish with the same record. In the event three or more teams are tied, the Big 12 would compare conference records, then conference records against the next-highest-placed team(s), then scoring differential and then a draw -- in that order.

In June, the Big 12 voted to bring back its championship game beginning in 2017. Since contracting to 10 members in 2011, the Big 12 had staged a round-robin format and has been the only Power 5 conference without a championship game.

After failing to put a team in the first playoff, the Big 12, in order to give the conference a larger presence on the final weekend of the season, voted to re-implement the championship game. The conference also was told by the CFP selection committee that it was at a disadvantage, compared to the other Power 5 conferences because it was the only one that didn't give its champion the opportunity to win a 13th game.

Data consultants hired by the league also argued that the Big 12's previous format had diminished its chances of putting a team in the playoff.

Bowlsby has said a championship game could net the league at least an additional $27 million in revenue a year.

The Big 12 is expected to announce where it will hold its championship game next month, and sources told McMurphy that Arlington, Texas, is the "prohibitive favorite" to host the 2017 game. Kansas City, Missouri, and San Antonio also are in the running.

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