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Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby both hopeful and confident that calm has taken over conference realignment
Thursday afternoon, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby made a visit to Lawrence, one of 10 stops the new commish plans to make on conference campuses by the end of September.
It was refreshing to see the league commissioner stand in front of the room and not be peppered with questions about conference realignment, as had been the case during the past two summers.
This summer — after a questionable start — the realignment mess slowed down considerably, something that Bowlsby, the former athletic director at Stanford, Iowa and Northern Iowa, said was an encouraging sign for the future of college athletics.
“I don’t usually think much of hope as a strategy, but, on this occasion, I hope that it’s calmed down,” Bowlsby said. “We, we being intercollegiate athletics in general, would be well served by a period of calm. I think some very bad decisions have been made in conjunction with the conference moves and I think history will bear that out.”
For the Big 12, calm has not exactly been the right word. Although the panic and craziness of having teams poached or bringing new teams aboard has subsided, the league appears to have been busier than ever. From reworking its television deals with ESPN and FOX and creating the Champions Bowl with the SEC to continuing to push the league back into a positive light, Bowlsby’s plate has been plenty full during his first couple of months on the job.
With connections and constant contact with people across the country, Bowlsby said he believed that the more stable summer of 2012 could again become the norm for college athletics.
“I think we have a chance to have that,” he said. “But only one institution has to move before the dominoes begin to fall and that possibility is certainly out there.”
With that in mind, Bowlsby said the Big 12 would remain prepared for any and all possibilities.
“(Realignment) gets talked about at every conference meeting in every conference and we’ll have to talk about it, too,” he said. “But I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with 10 and I think it needs to be a very high bar if we’re gonna take anybody else in.”
Even though the Big 12 is not actively looking to expand, Bowlsby said he thought it was important for the league to be ready for anything.
“I think you have to have a plan for it, and the plan may be that we like where we’re at and we’re committed to it,” he said of the 10-team Big 12 set-up. “I think we’re closer to that than we are having some strategy or tactical expectation relative to expansion. We’ll likely talk about it at every meeting. I don’t think we’ll talk about it in terms of, ‘Here’s a candidate, should we take ’em or not?’ I think it’s, ‘How are we doing, how does this fit together, what kinds of relationships do we have and are we missing anything by not being 11 or 12 or something larger or are we gaining things by staying smaller?’ We think about it at a strategic level not at an individual decision level.”
If the past two summers were a necessary part of getting the Big 12 to where it stands today, it was worth it. In terms of stability, financial gain and public image, the league certainly appears to be stronger than ever. And with Bowlsby now at the helm, it also appears to have the necessary leadership to move into the next era of college athletics, whether that’s more change, a return to stability or some other path that we haven’t even considered yet.
Either way, Bowlsby seems to be up for the challenge and also projects a great amount of confidence and competence.
“I did come in with some apprehension,” he admitted. “There isn’t any doubt about that. But what I’ve found was the private reality was a lot more stable and a lot more unified than the private perception.... Everyone is forward-looking, everyone is committed and I think everybody is very genuinely enthusiastic about what it is we have going.”