IRVING, Texas – Bob Bowlsby admits he was skeptical. Admits he had little faith in the Big 12 Conference. Admits he looked at the league like it was a banana republic.
But Friday, Bowlsby became captain of the ghost ship. And that's a very good sign for the conference.
OSU president Burns Hargis, chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, said it's the start of a “brave new future” for the league.
Brave would be the right word to describe Bowlsby.
But look at it this way. Bowlsby was not looking for a job. Was not an outsider looking to bust through the city gates; not an NCAA lawyer or a fringe-sport marketing whiz.
As Stanford's athletic director, Bowlsby was a power-broker. Past chairman of the NCAA basketball committee. Member of the U.S. Olympic Committee. In the middle of conference expansion and a college football playoff and every hot-button issue that juices administrators.
Bowlsby had a good job. To leave it for the Big 12 speaks well of the Big 12.
“In all frankness, I wouldn't have been interested if I would have arrived at the interview and found fragmentation,” Bowlsby said. “I'm not much interested in having my horse shot out from under me. I came in with reservations, and those reservations were quickly put to rest. I think the future of the conference is exceedingly bright.”
Of course, he has to say that now. But Bowlsby didn't have to take the job, which is the point.
“Obviously, I had some inside information on what had gone on and why it had gone on,” Bowlsby said of Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri leaving the Big 12 in the last 23 months.
“It would be hard during the middle of that whole process to not think, at least in the back of my mind, that it was like rats leaving a sinking ship that might go away as an entity sometime.”
Join the club. We all thought that. But Big 12 brass reassessed. Texas never wanted to leave, OU and OSU realized they were better off with the Longhorns than without them, and the league was saved.