Bob Bowlsby Details Big 12 Changes, Continuing Studies
By Kevin Kinder
FRISCO, Tex. – Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby began his address at the Big 12 Media Football Days by rehashing what was viewed by many as a failed effort. Kicking off the 2017 season for the league at The Star, the shiny, opulent practice facility of the NFL Dallas Cowboys. Bowlsby then went through the expansion study of a year ago, ending with a closing statement that included one word for every million that was dedicated to covering the saga:
“After a thoughtful process, we recommitted to the 10 we have.”
Bowlsby likely felt the need to reinforce the fact that the league looked at expansion from several different viewpoints, but that in the end, adding a championship game and keeping a round-robin schedule was more important than adding teams that didn’t check all the boxes.
That somewhat strange opening aside, Bowlsby addressed several other topics that are currently being faced by or worked upon by the league. Among those were continued study of recruiting periods, changes for the betterment of student athletes, and league actions of player and recruit misbehavior.
Bowlsby also fired back on the “Big 12 in trouble” mantra that has permeated the media
“It gets a little tiresome. I know from top to bottom we’re the best in the country in terms of balance. It’s definitely a question of perception, not of reality.”
Bowlsby went on to highlight some previous shortcomings in other leagues that led to similar narratives.
“As most of you remember, the ACC was, I believe, 2-13 in the BCS era, and now they are on top of the heap. The Big 10 was left for dead at the start of the season three years ago. I think it is cyclical. I think we have a tremendous balance of quality veterans and quality new guys. I think we play at an exceedingly high level, and I think over the 12 years of the playoff. you’ll see Big 12 teams in there. But make no mistake, it’s not about making the playoff. It’s about winning National Championships. That’s what we want to do.”
To get to the playoff, teams will have to negotiate the conference championship game, but Bowlsby is not concerned about the fact that it will be an automatic rematch.
“Thirty-three of the conference championship games have been rematches,” he noted. “We need to try to strike a balance in terms of trying to have a fair schedule and perhaps mitigate the likelihood [of a rematch of a late season game]. But I don’t think that’s a negative. I think you could have a great game on the last week of the season and another great game between the same two teams the next week. Playing a full round robin and having our two best teams play each other on the last day of the season is a good thing and the right way to conduct our championship.”
Bowlsby also noted that while an early signing period for football passed, there is more work to be done.
“We had trouble getting 50-percent support for an early signing period the first time around, and this time it passed without much fanfare. But I’m not sure if a signing date is what we need in this day and time. It seems to me if we have 70 percent of the student-athletes want to commit, I’m not sure it’s that important. I think you could end up with a signing window, maybe Oct. 1-Nov. 15. I don’t know why there can’t be a window where they can go ahead and make a decision. The average FBS institution makes 233 oral offers. Nobody can sign more than 25. There’s a lot of disingenuousness in the system.”
While Bowlsby highlighted the Big 12’s record distribution of $34 million per team, he said that the addition of the Big 12 Championship game was not done with an eye toward boosting that total.
“The decision was made 100 percent on our ability to optimize the likelihood of getting a team into the CFP,” he said decisively. “The finances — I don’t ever recall them being discussed, [but] I think our board was mindful that there was more revenue available because it was embedded in our contracts. But the decision was made based on our ability to compete at the national level, and based on some data that we saw that indicated that playing a championship game and having that 13th data would would, in fact, deliver that advantage.”