DALLAS — Conference expansion, at least for the Big 12, has come to a screeching halt.
At least that's the way Bob Bowlsby sees it, and he's the man who should know. Twenty-three days into his job as the Big 12 commissioner, Bowlsby said Monday that the conference is more than content at 10 schools.
“This is a group of 10 institutions that if we were to press for raised hands in a meeting room around the issue of expansion, I don't know that we'd get two votes for moving to a larger number,” Bowlsby said in a press conference that kicked off the Big 12's annual football media days.
After two straight years of instability, with first Nebraska and Colorado leaving, then Missouri and Texas A&M doing the same only to be replaced by TCU and West Virginia, the Big 12 has found its footing.
Pending, lucrative television contracts with ESPN and Fox Sports give the Big 12 a financial bonanza, and the granting of media rights by the schools ensure the conference's stability. Once the television contracts are finalized, all 10 schools are expected to sign away their media rights to the league, which would effectively prohibit any from leaving the conference for as long as 13 years.
Plus, the new four-team playoff format set to being in 2014 seems to benefit conferences without a conference championship game. The 10-team Big 12 does not play a title game.
“Expansion is on every conference's list of discussion items,” Bowlsby said. “I don't think we can ever afford not to think about it.
“But if the Big 12 had to vote on it today, we wouldn't take any new members in. We believe it should be very difficult to get into this group of institutions. It should be the toughest fraternity in America to join, and the only people that have a chance to join it are those that bring something that is very substantial.”
Bowlsby's stance on a variety of other topics:
* The TV contracts have been delayed because the denseness of the deals. “Lots of details,” Bowlsby said. “As much as we're all trying to hold hands and go forward together, we don't all agree on everything all the time. And so we still have some work to do.”
* The Big 12 must improve its non-conference scheduling. Some conference schools have played solid opponents; others have not.
“The second two-thirds of the season are terrific,” Bowlsby said. “But the first month of the season is not always terrific.
“As we shape what will become the new postseason, we have to … make sure that we encourage high-level matchups in the month of September. It is not satisfactory to lose a game in September and be taken out of the national championship dialogue.
“Don't mistake what I'm saying. I think September is a part of the season that we use to get teams ready to play the rest of the season. And so playing a steady diet of top-25 teams is not necessarily what any coach wants to do.
“Having said that, putting together a schedule that never takes you off your campus, that doesn't play against intersectional opponents, that doesn't create matchups that are significant for the media and significant in terms of comparison of the best teams around the country, the complete absence of that will also likely be penalized.”
* Bowlsby praised Chuck Neinas, who served as the Big 12 interim commissioner from September 2011 through this June, and announced that the league's coach of the year award would be named in Neinas' honor.
“We were fortunate enough to entice Chuck Neinas to come and put his hand on the tiller and try and bring a period of calm to the league,” Bowlsby said. “He had a tremendous calming force. And through his sage advice and insights and experience, we were able to get through a really tough time.”