The Big 12 Championship Game was a college football game held by the Big 12 Conference each year between 1996 and 2010. The championship game pitted the Big 12 North Division champion against the South Division champion in a game held after the regular season was completed.
The Big 12 South held an overall lead of 11–4 over the Big 12 North in the game. In the first eight Big 12 championship games from 1996 to 2003, the divisions split four games each (with the north champion winning in every odd-numbered year and the south champion winning in every even-numbered year). However, the north division champion did not win after Kansas State's upset victory over Oklahoma in 2003.
The first championship game was played after the 1996 regular season, the first year of play for the Big 12 (which was created from the merger of the Big Eight Conference and four teams from the Southwest Conference). Like the SEC Championship Game (which has been played since 1992), the game matched the winners of the conference's two six-team divisions. The championship game was held at several sites within the Big 12 states, with Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, hosting more often than any other venue.
From 2009 through 2013, the game was scheduled to be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. During June 2010, however, Nebraska and Colorado announced that they would leave the Big 12 for other conferences in 2011. Because NCAA rules require that a conference have 12 members in order to stage a football championship game, the conference dropped the championship game following the 2010 season. During this time, Oklahoma and Texas have expressed that a conference title game hurts the chances of the conference to have a representative in the BCS National Championship Game, and now the newly-instituted College Football Playoff, beginning in 2014.
In December 2014 after completing the first season under the College Football Playoff, Baylor and TCU both finished the season with an 8–1 conference record and were declared co-champions by the conference despite Baylor's head-to-head win over TCU. When the selection committee met to set the teams for the first playoff, both Baylor and TCU were overlooked in favor of teams that competed in and won their conference's championship game, leaving the Big 12 out of the playoffs. This led to plenty of controversy over how the Big 12 determines its champion.
In April 2015, legislation that was developed by the ACC and the Big 12 to deregulate conference championship games was announced by NCAA officials as being expected to pass in time for the start of the 2016 season. If the legislation passes it will allow conferences to choose the way that they determine their champion in whichever way they see fit. At this time, current NCAA rules state that conferences must have at least 12 teams and divisions with every team playing a round robin within its division to hold a Conference Championship Game. If this passes, it would allow the Big 12 to have a Conference Championship Game with only 10 teams. Following this news, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby stated that there was a chance that the conference could reinstate the Big 12 championship game starting with the 2016 season if deregulation passes. The NCAA voted to allow any conference that plays a round-robin schedule to hold a championship game between its top two teams, giving the Big 12 the option to hold a championship game.