Bowlsby begins first year as Big 12 commissioner by bringing stability
- Aug. 27, 2012
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Bob Bowlsby is here to right the Big 12 ship after two years of sailing in turbulent waters. Over the past two years the conference saw four of its founding schools leave to join other conferences. Other member schools took wandering glances at other conferences and it seemed that the Big 12 conference was close to dismantling itself.
The conference stabilized by replacing former commissioner Dan Beebe with interim commissioner Chuck Neinas and adding two strong football programs in Texas Christian University and West Virginia. And then last spring the conference brought in Bowlsby, former Stanford athletic director, as the permanent Big 12 commissioner.
Bowlsby said he is aware that some people may feel uncertain about the future of the Big 12 because of the events of the past two years.
“I think everyone is forward looking, everyone is mutually committed,” Bowlsby said.
He said he came into the job with some apprehension, but he found a conference that was much more stable and unified than many people thought.
Bowlsby’s first task is negotiating a new television deal — something that he’s done in the past as an athletic director in the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences, but this time around his role in negotiating has expanded.
Although the deal is not yet signed, Bowlsby is full of optimism.
“The exposure for our football programs, for our men’s and women’s basketball and for the Olympic sports will be unprecedented,” Bowlsby said.
When the first round of schools decided to leave the Big 12 in the summer of 2010, the Big 12 institutions rallied the wagons. They defended their decision not to expand the conference by singing the praises of a 10-team conference — where every team plays each other in a round-robin football schedule, and a double round-robin basketball schedule.
The new schedule led to eight of the ten members being invited to a bowl game last season.
Bowlsby compared the new conference schedule to those in conferences that grew over the last two years. He said he’s sure that those conferences are wondering if the expansion was really worth it because it makes scheduling more complicated.
“In the ACC and the SEC, there are some institutions that have had hundred year histories of playing each other that aren’t going to be playing each other every year,” Bowlsby said. “I think the reality of that and the reality of the larger number have kind of sunk in.”
After Texas A&M and Missouri left the Big 12,the conference could not feasibly remain a BCS conference without taking in new blood. So they welcomed TCU and West Virginia to the family.
But even though they stay persistent in the strengths having a 10-team conference gives them, the rumors of expansion still swirl around the ever unsettled college football landscape.
“Will we continue to keep expansion on our horizon, in our dashboard? Sure we will, we have to,” Bowlsby said. “It gets talked about at every conference meeting in every conference and we’ll have to talk about it too, but I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with 10, and I think it’s going to be a very high bar if we’re going to take anybody else in.”