DALLAS – Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby gave his State of the Conference address to kick off this year’s Big 12 Football Media Day activities at the Omni-Dallas Hotel in downtown Dallas.
Schools in town today include Baylor, Kansas, TCU, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech while tomorrow’s block of schools will consist of Oklahoma, Iowa State, West Virginia, Kansas State and Texas.
During this morning’s remarks, Bowlsby touched on a number of hot-button topics, including:
- A college sports forum to be held in New York City Aug. 6 that includes WVU Director of Athletics Oliver Luck
- The Big 12’s non-conference football schedule
- Student-athlete safety, service and support
- On-going NCAA lawsuits, including the Ed O’Bannon case
Afterward, Bowlsby took questions from a large contingent of media assembled in the Omni’s spacious ballroom.
Bowslby was asked to elaborate on his eye-catching opening remarks concerning the future status of men’s Olympic sports, which he believes could be in jeopardy in light of recent on-going NCAA lawsuits.
The commissioner believes a negative lower court decision in the O’Bannon case could make for some difficult choices for respective NCAA institutions regarding men’s Olympic sports in the coming years.
“There's only so much money out there,” he said. “I don't think that coaches and athletic directors are likely going to take pay cuts. I think that train's left the station. So that's some of the tension in the system. And I think over a period of time what we'll find is that instead of keeping a tennis program, they're going to do the things that it takes to keep the football and men's and women's basketball programs strong.”
Bowlsby says schools are running out of revenue generating opportunities, despite the enormous media rights deals the Power 5 conferences have been able to negotiate in recent years.
“The lines of trend between the expenses and the finance and the revenue are going to cross in a negative way in the not-too-distant future. The revenue from NCAA television packages mostly is going up about 2 ½ percent a year and expenses are going up about 4 ½ percent a year,” he explained. “When those lines cross, they're going to stay crossed for a while, and so we need to get busy and anticipate how we run the organization, how we get back to the core values of the organization and how we make sure that we put in place a system that will allow it to be self-funding going forward.”
What that ultimately entails will be lots of self-evaluation, says Bowlsby.
“I think it’s a good time to re-evaluate what our core purposes are, why does it exist, what is it doing for people and to people and how can we go about sharpening our focus and making sure that we're spending where there's appropriate return on investment and where the membership needs to have that investment,” he said. “We have lots of challenges on our hands. I don't think there's any question that none of this is going to go away soon. I expect to be in court most of the rest of my career.”
On the court (or on the field), the commissioner believes his conference is in a strong position to vie for national football championships based on its current, 10-team, round-robin setup that does not include a postseason championship game.
“I like our path to the championship. Our champion has been decided on the last day of the season for about five years. So we have great competition at the end of the year,” he noted. “I think there will be a year when we'll say, ‘Gosh, if we could have just played one more good opponent we might have been able to demonstrate that we were good enough.
“But you also - when you play that playoff game at the end of the year - you also have two of your better teams presumably that play each other, and one of them becomes damaged goods. And it may not be the one you want,” he said.
However, Bowlsby indicated that that does not mean the conference would not reconsider hosting a football championship game if that is beneficial to the league and its member institutions.
“The rule as it stands now says you have to have two divisions. They have to be at least six teams. You have to play a full round-robin in your division in order to put forth a team. Ourselves and the ACC have advocated for that rule to be deregulated, just so that we could have some prerogatives,” he said. “I think in their case they might like to have more than two divisions and have fewer teams in each division.
“In our case, we would like the prerogative to, at some point in time, have that discussion and make a decision as to whether or not we might want to take our two highest ranked schools in the poll and have them play each other at the end of the year. Now, you always run the risk of maybe having to have a rematch that just got played a couple weeks earlier. You may recall that Stanford and UCLA had that situation a couple of years ago. It was after I left Stanford, but I believe they played the last game of the season and then they played the next week.”
Bowlsby added, “It's an imperfect process, if you don't play the divisions - and I don't know that we would do it - but we think it would not be a bad idea to have the prerogative.”
Big 12 Media Day activities continue Tuesday morning with the second group of schools, including West Virginia.
The Mountaineers will open fall camp on Thursday, July 31 in preparation for the 2014 season opener in the Chi-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta on Saturday, Aug. 30 against Alabama.