State of the Big 12

  • By John Antonik
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  • July 23, 2012 01:22 PM
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DALLAS – The future has never looked brighter for the Big 12 Conference. That was the message new commissioner Bob Bowlsby delivered to 450-plus members of the media Monday morning at The Westin Galleria in Dallas.

Bowlsby cited a renewed spirit of cooperation among the 10 member schools and a willingness to put past disagreements aside as compelling reasons for him to take the commissioner’s job last month.

“I think the best days of this conference are ahead,” Bowlsby said. “I came into the process skeptical and during my first month it’s flown by. I’ve got unbelievable support from the people who are involved. We’ve been engaged in the BCS process, we’ve been working very hard with our colleagues in the SEC with the Champions Bowl, both with the RFP process and the television process that goes along with it.

“I think we have a stability that is far better than perhaps the public perception. I think we have members that represent the best qualities of intercollegiate athletics, and I think we are going to do some really remarkable things in the years ahead,” Bowslby proclaimed.

However, that does not mean there is not plenty of work still ahead. Bowlsby went through a laundry list of items that he is currently dealing with.

They include:

- Television grant of rights ...
“One of the things we’ve been working on is our television package. It’s not finished,” Bowslby said. “I would suggest to you having two media companies, 10 presidents, 10 general counsels and 10 athletic directors – all, generally speaking, having editorial veto authority over the preparation of the documents – it’s a complex environment. It is a lot of work and it’s a lot of pushing and shoving.

“As much as we’re all trying to hold hands and move forward, we don’t all agree on everything all of the time, so we still have some work to do. I don’t have any question that we will have a completed media document before long, but it is long, dense and there are lots of details and it’s still going to take us a while to get it all put together.”

Bowslby said the last-minute television details have also delayed the announcement of game times for this fall, but the wait will eventually be well worth it.

“Admittedly we are a ways behind and I know that makes hardships for everyone,” he said. “It’s been a painstaking process, but I suspect in the end we will have a 13-year grant of rights on television and we will have a 13-year grant of rights that will cover the 12 years of our vision with the Champions Bowl. We will end up with a package that will give us national exposure on two cable and broadcast television giants. It’s going to be unprecedented national exposure for our conference, and it will be remarkable the depth and the reach we will have during the course of the coming decade.”

- The likelihood of future Big 12 expansion ...
“In addition to the strength and the revenue that is derived from a major media contract, we really are headed for a period of stability,” Bowslby predicted. “This is a group of 10 institutions that if we were to press for raised hands at a meeting room around the issue of expansion, I don’t know if we’d get two votes for moving to a larger number. Having said that, expansion is on every conference’s list of discussion items and I don’t think we could afford not to think about it, but if the Big 12 happens to vote on it today we wouldn’t take any new members in.

“We believe that it should be very difficult to get into this group of institutions,” Bowslby added. “It should be the toughest fraternity in America to join. The only people who have a chance to join [must] bring something that is very substantial.”

Bowlsby noted that in its current configuration with a nine game round-robin schedule, the Big 12 will be able to anoint a true conference champion, which is very appealing to some schools.

“It is also a situation where at the end of the season we not only identify a true champion, but the champion is going to have a great chance to get to that four-team playoff,” he noted. “That is obviously a valuable pathway given the playoff structure going forward.

“We’ve seen lots of times when the two best teams in the league come together and one of them is damaged goods after the game is over. Worse than that, the better team doesn’t win. We like very much the situation we are in right now,” Bowslby said.

- Equitable distribution of revenue ...
“We are in a period of equal revenue sharing,” Bowslby said. “That doesn’t mean that institutions are not able to go off and do their own work and put their own [tier three] packages in place, but generally speaking, on the largest portions of our television and distributable revenue, we are dividing things equally. It’s the first time that we’ve done that. It’s also a process that will yield stability over a long period of time.”

- Improving the post-season selection process to place a greater emphasis on football games in September ...
“As we talk about the postseason and how it's structured and what we would like to do with it, one of the things that is factual is that the regular season in college football is the best in any sport in college athletics,” Bowslby said. “But when we talk about that, we're really talking about the months of October and November.

“The second two-thirds of the season are terrific. But the first month of the season is not always terrific, and as we shape what will become the new postseason, one of the things that we have to build into the system is we have to make sure that it's fair, it's transparent, it's understandable, but we also have to do things in terms of how we structure the selection process to make sure that we encourage high-level matchups in the month of September,” Bowlsby said.

“It is not satisfactory to lose a game in September and be taken out of the national championship dialogue. I think if the University of Oregon had to do it over again, they might not have played that game against LSU last year, because they fought back from behind for the entire season as a result of it. We need to encourage those games, we need to relish those games, and we need to make the month of September as good as the months of October and November are.

“And so as we move forward, we're certainly going to try and do that.

- Positioning the Big 12 champion for the national championship playoff ...
“At least 11 times in the 14-year history we've had somebody finish in the top four. Is that an indicator of the likelihood of future success in the playoff? I would say it is,” Bowlsby noted. “And coming off of last year where a non-divisional champion in the SEC won the national championship, it's noteworthy that we've had three times where we've had two teams in the top four.

“Now the selection process is going to be a little different going forward, but in the end the Big 12 is going to be very much in the conversation almost every year. And there will be times when we'll have two in the top four, and there are certainly going to be a lot of times when we're going to have more than one team in the top 12 and thereby falling into that 16 rotation with the national championship series.”

- Finalizing the RFP process for the new Champions Bowl ...
“We expect an RFP to go out jointly from the Big 12 and the SEC within the next two weeks,” Bowslby said. “We have seen draft documents, and that would be the RFP for hosting the event. We expect that there will be significant interest in hosting, and we will solicit input and bids from anybody that wants to get involved in it. And that would include current bowls as well as those that might get certified, sites that might get certified going forward.

“If you ask me did I think it would end up residing in one of the existing bowls, probably, just because they have a lot of advantages,” Bowlsby said.

Bowlsby also said television negotiations are a major component of developing the Champions Bowl.

“We think it's going to be a terrific game competitively. We believe this game will be slotted in prime time on New Year's Day, coming on the backside of the Rose Bowl, and we think with those two games in tandem and in consecutive order, that the eyes of the football world will be solidly upon the SEC and the Big 12 on Jan. 1,” he said. “And the playoff, with having those six games over a two-day period, I think is going to be a wonderful festival of football on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. So we expect the game can be as big as any game in college football, and that's our aspiration.”

Member institutions taking part in today’s activities include TCU, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas Tech.

Big 12 media day continues tomorrow with West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Baylor.