Big 12 Commissioner Notebook: Bob Bowlsby
ARLINGTON, Texas – With no heat at all on the topic of conference expansion – “We have had no discussion of expansion at any level. We like the 10 we have” – Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby quickly touched a variety of bases during his remarks opening 2019 Big 12 Football Media Days.
Some expected subjects, such as transfers, CFP expansion and injury reporting were part of his low-key address and question and answer session.
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Regarding the transfer portal and immediate eligibility, Bowlsby did not hold back. Clearly, he was not enamored with the immediate gratification that the current transfer system provides.
“We are sending a bad message to kids that they can have a bad day of practice or a bad week of practice and then just walk out and enter the portal,” he said. “It’s not that way in your private life or your business life. But we wouldn’t have been in that situation if we didn’t have coaches [blocking transfers to certain schools].
“So, we are where we are. But the number of kids transferring is not larger than it has been. But we are seeing kids that enter the portal and then have no scholarship home.”
Bowlsby has a preferred solution, or at least a way of addressing the perception that transfers are in something of a Wild West situation at current.
“If I were the benevolent dictator, the data could not be any clearer. After transferring, sitting a year is better academically. What I would advocate, is that you can get that year back. Sit a year, get acclimated, and then if you want that year back you can get it as a graduate or as a fifth-year player. I think that is the model that works, and I would do it in all sports.”
That approach would also help deter the hot take transfer decisions that he described initially, but still not penalize the athlete for making a well-reasoned decision to move on.
“There’s plenty of work to e done on the transfer environment, so it’s going to continue to be front and center in the foreseeable future.”
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While expansion of the Big 12 Conference is not a topic, the expansion of the College Football Playoff remains one, especially among fans and media. Bowlsby admitted that he has been part of several breakdowns of that subject, but was not ready to share the content of them.
“We have had a lot of discussions. We are evaluating the current environment, which as I stated earlier I think we all agree is superior to any of the predecessor organizations, but I’m not going to get into any of the specifics of what we’re talking about. We have had some conversations. We’re going to have some more. We will take a look back and we will take a look forward, and eventually we will have some recommendations. In the interim, we’re just not going to spend anytime talking about what our discussions are about.”
Given the pace at which such discussions seem to move, that might indicate a move from four to eight teams is still at least three or more years away.
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Bowlsby said that the 2020 Big 12 Media Days will again take place at AT&T Stadium, which he termed the best facility in football.
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As more states adopt gambling, the pressure, or at least the clamor, for release of player availability information has seen an uptick. Bowlsby seemed noncommittal about the issue, but noted several drawbacks.
“I don’t want to do anything that encourages gambling, even if player availability reports don’t necessarily do that,” he said. “I could get behind an announcement, but not in putting the coach out in front of it. The ACC has done it in the past, but is not doing it now, and replicating what the NFL does with 32 teams is different for doing it across college football.
“There can be a case made for it, but I don’t think our coaches would be wildly enthusiastic about it. Do a release out of media relations and have everyone stick to it. I can capably argue it on either side, but as more and more states adopt gambling we are going to have to deal with it.”
Bowlsby’s biggest objection would be in having coaches make those announcement, or having to defend them in interviews. That is a viable concern, as it would be a no-win situation for coaches to keep track of and address while not violating HIPAA or FIRPA regulations. He also noted that it might cut down on third parties trying to leverage information from players, team members and others around the program, although that is probably a cat that is too far out of the bag to recapture.
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Bowlsby took a deadpan opportunity to deliver a shot at those who label the Big 12 as offense only.
“Last year of our seven bowl games, six of the seven were held below their season averages offensively by Big 12 defenses. Six of seven offenses were held below their season average by Big 12 defenses. Contrary to popular belief there are kids that tackle in the Big 12. Thank you for noting that. Half of our games last year were decided by eight or fewer points. That’s a great thing.”
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Financially, the league had another very good year. Bowlby noted that the $38.8 million distribution per team was a six-percent increase over the previous year, and that the league office is also being judicious in the use of the money it is taking in. He noted that 93 percent of the revenue was distributed to league teams, and the seven percent held for league operations is the lowest among college conferences.
“I think we are an efficient organization. Our distributions have gone up 55 percent in the last five years, so we continue on the right kind of trend.