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July 29, 2009

Is moving the Big 12 title game to Dallas fair to the North?

IRVING, Texas - Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe tossed around an interesting scenario during his state of the conference address on Tuesday concerning the future of the Big 12 Championship game.

The Big 12 title game is slated to be in Arlington, Texas each of the next two seasons at the brand new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Beebe said during his address to the Big 12 media that the league is considering making the new Cowboys Stadium the permanent location for the championship game depending on how things go in 2009.

Over the last 13 years, the Big 12 Championship game has been played in St. Louis (1996, 1998), San Antonio (1997, 1999, 2007), Kansas City (2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008), Dallas (2001) and Houston (2002, 2005). The balance of North Division championship sites vs. South Division championship sites has been nearly equal over that period.

The North Division has hosted a total of seven championship games, while the South Division will have hosted eight following the 2009 and 2010 games in Arlington.

The question now is would it really be fair to the six teams in the North that the championship game would be played in the heart of the Big 12 South every single year? Beebe said on Wednesday there are a lot of different factors the league will consider before making such a decision.

It seems like the biggest thing Beebe wants to ensure is that cold weather and elements don't play a factor in deciding who wins the Big 12 championship game.

"The other factor we have to consider is we have a goal of having a team in the national championship and you are always at risk in the elements," Beebe said. "It could be that here, but (Cowboys Stadium) has a covered roof, so I think that's part of the equation too. Unlike the NFL that plays in those types of conditions in the playoffs, we compete not just within our conference, but with other conferences for national notoriety and all of that.

"Part of that means trying to play in the national championship game and I think we would be at risk the first time when we have a blizzard somewhere when clearly the team that's No. 1 in the country slips and slides and loses maybe to another inferior team in the conference, and then we forgo the chance to play for the national championship."

In 13 years the Big 12 Championship game has cost four different teams a chance to play for the national championship-1996 Nebraska, 1998 Kansas State, 2001 Texas and 2007 Missouri. Ironically all four of those games were played in dome stadiums where weather conditions had no factor on the final outcome.

The only time a national title contending team lost in poor weather conditions happened in 2003 when Kansas State beat Oklahoma 35-7 in Kansas City, but OU still was voted to play for the national championship that year against LSU.
KSU head coach Bill Snyder sees the argument from both sides, but he definitely doesn't want to see the North lose their championship site in Kansas City.

"I like for people to have to come out of the nice warm weather and to play in the snow," Snyder said. "The cold weather is kind of a built in advantage, but I also see Dan and the conference's thoughts. Everybody is telling me about the new stadium down here. I saw it when it was still structural steel, but it looked amazing at that time and obviously I think it's a great, great stadium.

"I'd still love to have games in Kansas City. I think they've all been great, we've played in a few of them up there and enjoyed the environment and I think the conference has been well supported up there not only in football, but in basketball as well. You guys make those trips up there and it's a pretty lively city when that takes place. It's hard, you can't appease everybody and certainly it's a tough decision for our conference and I understand that."

Beebe said that the Big 12 coaches, athletic directors and ultimately the league's board of directors will decide on the future of the championship game following this year's contest in Arlington.

"Certainly we will have input from all aspects," Beebe said. "I want to be clear, the last time we went through this effort to assign championship sites, the board deliberately said we aren't going to lock in the championships at that time. We are still under that mandate, but now that we know what we have and we'll have this experience this year, then I think it's something that will be strongly considered again."

Both Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach and Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins also threw out their opinions on the game potentially moving to Dallas permanently.

Leach feels like the move makes sense because of the fact Dallas is easy to get from anywhere in the Big 12.

"I think that's positive because it's a set place for everybody and it's easy to fly into for everybody," Leach said. "It stabilizes the weather situation, if that's important. I don't know how important that is, because there was a year a while back where it was a big issue. Some of the teams in the North don't like it, but I think if you look at it objectively, it's easier for a lot of the teams in the North to fly to Dallas in a whole bunch of the North locations, and then moving into the same spot every year is pretty good."

Hawkins said he likes the idea of creating an environment where the temperature and conditions could be controlled. The new Cowboys Stadium has a retractable roof that could come on and off depending on the weather conditions.

"You got a couple angles there," Hawkins said. "I think one is I think every coach wants to have that game where you are going to have optimal conditions and that the best team has the opportunity to win. I don't think you want field conditions or temperature or snow or rain or any of that kind of stuff to really say 'well, gee whiz that was the better team, but because it just rained so much or whatever it is.' So I think that's part of it.

"There's no question there's a little bit of an advantage for the South teams when you are down here because you are closer to their home and it becomes more of a battle that way. It's a little bit of a tradeoff either way. Myself, I would just hope that the best team has an opportunity to play the best in that game and to win that game."

Colorado is actually the furthest Big 12 North school from Dallas at 800 miles, while the closest is Kansas State at 500 miles. In the Big 12 South, both Texas and Oklahoma are located 200 miles from Dallas.

Beebe said he understands the concern that the game would turn into a virtual home setting for either Texas or Oklahoma, but in order to prevent that the league will hold tickets for the team representing the North division.

"I think it's up to us to protect enough seating for a school from the North to be able to get in it," Beebe said. "The positive aspect of the Northern schools is one you can recruit on the basis of we're going to play in the best facility in the world and two, you're playing the game in a market right here where a lot of them come in and try to recruit. So you might have the ability to get exposed to a lot of great athletes here and take some of them from the Southern schools."

Beebe also made a point to say that the league was very happy when the game was played in Houston and San Antonio, and they will definitely be in the mix again if the league continues to have rotating championship sites in the future.

"I think Houston did an outstanding job and so did San Antonio," Beebe said. "I think when you get outside of the reaches of that-the I-35 corridor or Houston, then you have a little more problems with Denver and St. Louis, because it's just harder to get to for a lot of the fans. We had a great experience in Houston and a great experience in San Antonio. Kansas City and Dallas are certainly more in the centralized area, but I don't think we can forgo anything right now."


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