Iowa State president Steven Leath says he and the other university presidents in the Big 12 conference are “investigating” whether the conference can have a title game to determine its football champion. Baylor and TCU were in the mix for the first-ever national playoff this year, but wound up not being placed in the four final slots.
“That was a tough one because with just a slight turn of events (the Big 12 Conference) could have had half the teams in the playoffs,” Leath says. “Instead we ended up with none, but we are enquiring with the NCAA for an exception to see if we could have a title game with only 10 teams — which currently is not allowed, so we’re going to at least investigate the exception rule so we can make a decision as presidents if that’s something we want to do.”
As Leath arrived at Iowa State three years ago, the Big 12 Conference was in danger of disintegrating with the exits of Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado but, with the addition of West Virginia and TCU, the conference survived. Leath is open to conference expansion.
“I’m probably like most Big 12 presidents right now. We’re receptive to the idea if they’re the right schools,” Leath says. “We’re in no hurry. The Big 12 is functioning very well. Our revenue-sharing agreement is great when you only divide by 10 versus 12 or 14, so you would need schools that actually add value to the conference. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense for us.”
The Cyclone football team finished the 2014 season with just two wins. Leath says coach Paul Rhoads understands “it’s a business” and a turn-around is expected next season.
“I’d like to get our football program where it needs to be, which is representative of a first-class university. We’re not there. The last two seasons were clearly disappointing,” Leath says. “As to Paul’s future, I can’t predict that. He knows, (ISU athletics director Jamie Pollard) knows that we want a first-class, winning program and that’s where we’ve got to be and hopefully he’s the guy to get us there, but either way, we’ve got to get there.”
Leath says you don’t want to win a way that you can’t be proud of and he’s proud of Rhoads and how the football players are doing in their classes, but winning on the football field is the ultimate goal. Leath made his comments Friday on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program.