Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby made a visit to the central Texas earlier this week. He announced he was meeting with new Texas head football coach Tom Herman and then eating lunch with former University of Texas President Bill Powers.
He credits Powers, former Athletics Director Deloss Dodds, and several Oklahoma administrators for wooing him away from Stanford as the athletics director to take over the Big 12 as commissioner five years ago.
“I’m going to thank (Powers) and not thank him,” Bowlsby joked.
Since he became commissioner, the Big 12 has won 10 national championships, mostly in the Olympic sports such as Texas women’s volleyball and men’s swimming and diving and golf, Oklahoma softball and gymnastics. He noted three baseball teams reached the College World Series last year but none of the squads won the title.
Bowlsby also said that it would really help the image of the conference if one program returned to the prominence it enjoyed when the millennium began.
“The Big 12 needs Texas to get better,” he said. “In the five years I’ve been here, Texas hasn’t finished in the top half (of polls) in football, men’s basketball or baseball. We need Texas to get better.”
He believes the Longhorns are making strides in that direction with the hires of Herman and head men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart.
“I think Shaka is doing a great job, I think Tom is doing a great job,” he said. “The Big 12 will get better with a strong Texas.”
As for the school’s athletics director, Bowlsby said Mike Perrin will serve as long as needed.
“Mike Perrin will be the first to admit he’s not going to be on the chain a long time,” the commissioner said. “In thinking about what the future looks like, it’s a very challenging time in the conference.”
Bowlsby noted each member, except Baylor, will receive $34 million in revenue distribution payments. The conference voted to withhold 25 percent or $6 million from the Bears until the institution shows in an outside review it is complying with Title IX guidelines and other regulations.
He did note that no other university brings in television revenue like the University of Texas. The Longhorns will get their $34 million plus another $15 million from ESPN for Longhorn Network.
“It’s truly unique,” Bowlsby said.
While he didn’t offer any insight on the way people are watching sports, he did note that digital platforms are up 300 percent and that he doesn’t support launching a Big 12 network at this time. He smiled when asked about the possibility of the country being split into four quadrants when conference contracts are up within the next decade.
“I’ve never heard anybody talk about four quadrants except the media,” he said. “Those kinds of changes are problematic. You lose traditional rivals, and those kinds of things cause fans to stay away. They disrupt a hundred years of rivalry.”
As for the Big 12 title game, which returns this season after a seven-year hiatus, Bowlsby said Big 12 administrators drew tens of thousands of scenarios and truly believe having the game gives the league a better shot and earning one of the four College Football Playoff berths. The so-called 13th data point, which pits top two squads in the championship contest, will give the committee a chance at looking at two quality opponents against each other. But he also notes that few conferences have had more upsets in the conference title game than the Big 12.
While many fans wanted a football playoff, Bowlsby said two conferences were against it — the Pac 12 and the Big 10 — until college football officials allowed the two to keep the Rose Bowl tradition intact.
The other important aspect of the playoff is that the NCAA believes college football has the best regular season in all of sports, Bowlsby said, so it was vital to them not to do anything to mess that up.
“It makes for an interesting November,” he said. “Everywhere is a playoff. Conference championship games are the first round of the playoff.”
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