IRVING, Texas -- The Big 12 introduced new commissioner Bob Bowlsby on Friday at conference headquarters. Bowlsby will remain the Stanford athletic director until June, when he comes on board to lead the Big 12.
Bowlsby opened his press conference by saying, “I can't tell you how much better I feel about Stanford's (Fiesta Bowl) loss to Oklahoma State this morning, compared to the early January evening in which I lived it last,” Bowlsby said.
“I am very proud and humbled to be here. Very excited to be leading this unbelievably tradition-rich organization. It has been extraordinary over the years. Not only in athletic competition but also in shaping and building some of the greatest student-athletes in the history of American sports.”
Bowlsby answered a variety of questions Friday. Here are some excerpts:
On the problems with the University of Texas that led some to leave the league:
Bowlsby: “I think it's in the past. I've known (Texas AD) DeLoss Dodds longer than either of us would care to admit. I have been very impressed with President (Bill) Powers. I think they're speaking with one voice. I have found them to be very thoughtful, very team-oriented in terms of how they view the issues.
“I asked some probing questions along those lines. Because the University of Texas is always going to be an 800-pound gorilla in collegiate athletics, that isn't going to change. But I have been very impressed with the extent to which the folks at the University of Texas are committed to the conference and committed to the best outcomes, not only for them, but the other nine members.”
On the instability of the Big 12 the last two years:
Bowlsby: “I have to admit to you that I came into the discussion with the three presidents (on the search committee) with whom I met, with some apprehension, because I, like many people, had a vision of this conference as being unstable. What I found instead was a group of chief executives that were very committed to one another. And very committed to the best principles of intercollegiate athletics. I was very quickly put at ease relative to the stability of the group and the ongoing commitment to one another. That made this process a much easier one.”
On the new-look Big 12, which is adding West Virginia and TCU in July, with Missouri and Texas A&M moving to the Southeastern Conference:
Bowlsby: “The addition of West Virginia and TCU are two terrific additions to the league. I'm excited about that. I have the unique experience of having (WVU athletic director) Oliver Luck, not only as a colleague as an athletic director formerly, but as the parent of a student-athlete (quarterback Andrew Luck) at our institution. I know him very well and look forward to working with him and President (James) Clements. Likewise, I've known (AD) Chris Del Conte at TCU for a very long time. Very familiar with that program and what they've done. I think they are extraordinary additions to the conference that fit hand in glove with what we're going to try and do.”
On expanding to 12 or staying at 10:
Bowlsby: “One of the great ironies of college athletics right now is the Big Ten has 12 and the Big 12 has 10. I think expansion is going to be an ongoing point of consideration for us.
“I haven't had the opportunity to talk with all the presidents about this issue and I haven't had the opportunity to talk with all but a couple of the athletic directors, so I certainly am not going to presume a direction we will go.
“But as you consider expansion, it has to be expansion that has as its roots the enhancement of the league. There's nothing magic about 11, 12 or 10. To the extent that we can do things that advance our agenda, we ought to at least consider that. But I come in with no preconceived notions as to what the right number is.
“From what I can gather, we and the people in the conference are pretty excited about the 10 institutions that we have right now.”
On changing the perception of the Big 12:
Bowlsby: “It's one of the early initiatives I need to undertake along with staff. We have to work hard to make it known broadly, not only to people that we're trying to enter in to business relationships with, but also people that are out there in the hustings and are supporters of our universities and observers of our universities.
“I stated my reservation when I came in, I stated them directly to the presidents that were there. I probed and asked some questions about how we got to where we had gotten to. I was very satisfied, and probably be correct to say I was encouraged and impressed with the stability and the mutual commitment.
“At this point, I have no reservations about that and I am anxious to move forward, under the assumption that the 10 members are really committed to one another and committed to taking on the questions that were embodied in the first two questions as a homogenous group, a group that's going to take a thoughtful and one for all and all for one approach as to how we deal with those issues.”
On what promises stability beyond presidential assurance:
Bowlsby: “There are a number of indicators. For instance, the nine-game football schedule is a statement of mutual support. There are a lot of other institutions and leagues that haven't been able to get there, to a full round robin.
The round robin in men's and women's basketball is another indication of that. Those are difficult things to do, because for the most part, coaches oppose those kinds of things. It's easier to find a non-conference opponent for that ninth game than it is to play a league game. That's a commitment to strength.
“Playing a full round robin, if I put my chairman's hat back on for the basketball committee, I would tell you that one of the best markers in the post season of legitimacy is a full round robin conference champion in basketball. When you look at some of the leagues, they have four no plays, four one play and a little bit of a round robin among the rest. You never know what kind of credibility the league schedule has. That's a commitment that, probably if the truth were said, basketball coaches would rather play additional non-conf. home games. But a commitment like that speaks volumes about the philosophy of the league. The combination of the discussions with the presidents, my own research that I've done privately and some things that are very tangible, like the things I've just mentioned, are all indicative of that mutual commitment.”
On the granting of media rights, which for at least six years seems to have stabilized the conference:
Bowlsby: “The grant of rights is certainly the essence of any ongoing media package. The longer we go, presumably the more stable we are.
“But I'm satisfied with the mutual responsibility and commitment each of the institutions have. Just as in the discussion of expansion, it's important we look at it through the lens of what do the various options do for us. You have to take the long view as well as the short view.
“You look at the contracts that are out there, most of them are very long contracts. They're between 12 and 15 years. There always are ongoing conversations about the media environment. We will certainly continue those and engage vigorously. There again, I don't know that there have been any decisions made. I think there will be some options that present themselves.”