MANHATTAN — If it was up to Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder, the Wildcats wouldn’t be playing Texas on Saturday with Big 12 title implications on the line. They would be playing Oklahoma at a neutral venue in the Big 12 championship game.
“I still am a proponent of having two divisions and playing a championship game,” Snyder said earlier this week.
The timing of his comments proves how adamant Snyder is on the topic. Even near the end of a successful season that has K-State one victory away from clinching at least a share of the conference title and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl, he is pushing for things to go back to the way they were before the Big 12 became a 10-team conference and switched to a round-robin schedule.
For the second straight year, K-State enters college football’s final weekend still alive for a league championship. Last season, it won seven Big 12 games and would have finished in a three-way tie for first had Oklahoma upset Oklahoma State. K-State has gone 14-3 in the conference’s new format, but Snyder yearns for 2009, when K-State finished .500 and had a chance to win the Big 12 North Division with a season-finale victory at Nebraska.
He enjoyed what playing in three Big 12 championship games — upsetting Oklahoma in 2003 and falling to Oklahoma in 2000 and Texas A&M in 1988, respectively — did for his team
“In the North Division alone, I would suggest there are probably four schools that profited by that system,” Snyder said. “It gave teams opportunities. A perfect example is when I first came back we were a 6-6 football team, not a very good football team, but the last game of the season we’re playing for a divisional championship. That has some meaning.
“There are a lot of schools in the conference that are given up for lost and a lot of people go home before the last ballgame because they haven’t fared well. With that system, people were still in the hunt and fans continued to support them and it kept players excited about the opportunities that existed. It was a positive thing for the game.”
In order for the Big 12 to return to that system, it would either need to expand or petition the NCAA to allow it to stage a championship game with two divisions made up of five teams. Snyder would support either scenario.
But most in the conference, including K-State athletic director John Currie, seem to favor the current setup.
A record nine Big 12 teams are bowl eligible this season, and the conference will stage two important games on the final week of the season. If Oklahoma beats TCU in an 11 a.m. game, it will claim at least a share of the Big 12 title. If the Sooners lose, the pressure is on K-State to beat Texas at 7 p.m. for sole possession of the league championship.
Both games will create interest despite going up against championship games in other conferences.
“We’re playing on Saturday night on national television in an incredibly important game,” Currie said. “Last year, there were three Big 12 games that all affected the championship race and this year there are two that specifically affect the Big 12 race on championship Saturday. By all accounts, we have tremendous interest and that will provide tremendous visibility for us.”
The Big 12 has benefited from brilliant end-of-the-year scheduling since it dropped its championship game. That might not be the case forever, though. K-State is scheduled to end its season with a rivalry game against Kansas the next two seasons.
It will be another scheduling twist, but so was adjusting to life without Colorado, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri.
“You can make an argument for it and against it,” Currie said. “It worked out for us last year. It probably works out in our favor this year.… That’s part of the continued evolution of not having a championship game, which we could have if we wanted to have it.”