The Big 12 announced Friday that it will institute a conference championship game for football and remove divisions starting with the 2017 season.
According to the official release, the addition of a Big 12 title game was imperative because it will aid in the conference's bid to consistently have representation in the College Football Playoff.
Furthermore, the Big 12 confirmed the championship will be played between the teams that rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the conference standings at the end of the regular season since divisions have been eliminated.
"With input from the league's head football coaches, the athletics directors have moved forward with a 1 vs. 2 format. Beginning in 2017, the Big 12 football champion is assured to be on par with other league champions by having 13 data points for CFP selection committee evaluation," the release said.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby expanded on Friday's decisions in a statement:
There are a number of advantages to matching our top two teams. 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 Autonomy Conference non-conference 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.
However, Fox Sports' Stewart Mandel noted a potential flaw in the conference's logic:
According to ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy, the Big 12's decision not to have two divisions was surprising since coaches reportedly voted 7-3 in favor of splitting the conference up.
Looking ahead, McMurphy cited sources who said Arlington, Texas—which is home to the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium—is the "prohibitive favorite" to host the 2017 Big 12 title game.
According to Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman, Arlington is an appealing option for the Big 12 because the stadium is "drivable for many league fans."