New Big 12 rule will mean 10 Power Five games

Photo of Tim Griffin

Some are already dubbing it “The Baylor Rule.”

No matter the reason, conference athletic directors are firmly in support of a new rule that will require Big 12 football teams to play at least one non-conference game against a Power Five conference opponent each season.

With the Big 12’s current nine-game round-robin conference schedule, it will mean that the conference will be the only one requiring its schools to play at least 10 games against schools from the autonomy conferences — the Southeastern, Pac-12, Atlantic Coast, Big Ten and Big 12 conferences. It will also limit conference teams to playing only one FCS team per season after current contracts are finished.

The Big Ten announced similar requirements in July, and the SEC also did in 2014. Those rival conferences are doing it with an eight-game conference schedule.

“We just look at this as business as usual,” Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw said. “It’s not a change. Most of us have had an autonomy game in our future schedules. All it’s doing is putting a requirement in future schedules that an autonomy game is included.”

But it wasn’t always the case for the Bears, whose weak non-conference schedule was their biggest liability when trying to contend for the first College Football Playoff last season. Last year’s 11-2 team had a non-conference schedule with games against SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo.

The Bears haven’t played a scheduled non-conference Power Five opponent since winning at Wake Forest in 2009, and have non-conference games against Northwestern State, SMU and Rice next season.

Some of that criticism has led to the Bears sprucing up future non-conference schedules. The Bears have a home-and-home series with Duke in 2017-18, Utah in 2023-24 and an unnamed Southeastern Conference team that McCaw considers a “done deal” for 2020 as soon as television arrangements are settled. Sources indicate that Ole Miss and Arkansas are the leading contenders for that game that would likely be played at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Baylor has altered its scheduling since becoming a national power in recent years. McCaw acknowledged his school’s scheduling philosophy was different when it was trying to qualify for a bowl after a drought of 15 seasons that was broken by the school’s appearance in the 2010 Texas Bowl. Since then, the Bears have qualified for six consecutive bowls, including a trip to the Russell Athletic Bowl against No. 10 North Carolina on Dec. 29.

The Bears were close to playing California in Australia to start the 2016 season, but couldn’t agree to a deal. California now will play Hawaii in Sydney to start next season.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the new rule was crafted to help the strength of the entire conference as it aims to place teams in the CFP.

“This move will strengthen the resumes for all Big 12 teams,” Bowlsby said. “Coupled with the nine-game full round-robin conference schedule our teams play, it will not only benefit the teams at the top of our standings each season, but will impact the overall strength of the conference.”

TCU already is in full compliance with upcoming series against Arkansas in 2016-17, Ohio State in 2018-19, California in 2020-21, Colorado in 2022-23 and Stanford in 2024 and 2027.

“We all realize we need to play those autonomy schools,” TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said. “Strength of schedule is one of the criteria of the CFP. If we expect to compete for championships, we need to play a schedule that reflects that.”

Twitter: @TimGriffinBig12