Friday, May 4, 2012
Listening to the new Big 12 commish
By David Ubben
IRVING, Texas -- The Big 12 introduced Bob Bowlsby as its commissioner on Friday. You can expect plenty more coverage from ESPN.com, including a column from Ivan Maisel on what convinced Bowlsby to leave a comfortable job at Stanford to take over a league that many believe is in turmoil.
"I wouldn't have been interested in (the Big 12 commissioner job) if I had arrived at the interview and found that there was fragmentation. I'm not much interested in having my horse shot out from under me," Bowlsby said. "I came in with some reservations, and those reservations were quickly put to rest. We had some very frank conversations about what the challenges were with the league, and what the opportunities are with the league. I came away feeling very good about it. Not knowing whether or not I was going to get an offer, but feeling very good about it."
As the new face of the Big 12, though, where does he stand on the issues facing the league? Here's a quick rundown.
New commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Friday that he won't be a puppet for the University of Texas.
On possible future Big 12 expansion:
"Expansion will be an ongoing consideration for us. I haven’t had the opportunity to talk with all of the presidents about this issue, and I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to all but a couple of the athletic directors. I certainly am not going to presume a direction that we will go. I think, though, 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."
Later, he added that there is no consensus among the members about a number, but there are a lot of variables to consider.
On a playoff in college football:
I think we're going to end up with some form of playoff. Whether it's inside the bowls or outside is yet to be determined. There's certainly arguments to be made for both. If I would have had to bet on it or guess at it a year ago, I'd have said the plus-one model had the best chance, but I think the commissioners group and the BCS leadership has really gravitated toward a position that has four or five legitimate options, and I think time will tell which will be selected, but I think one of them will be.
On the idea that the Big 12 commissioner is a puppet for the University of Texas:
"I guess I would just suggest that you do a little homework on me. I haven't been very good at being a puppet over the years."
On issues revolving around Texas that affected conference unity:
"I think it's in the past. ... I have found them to be very thoughtful and 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 college athletics, and that isn't going to change. But I have been very impressed at the extent of which the folks at the University of Texas are committed to the conference, and committed to the best outcomes -- not only for them, but for the other nine members.
On extending the league's grant of rights:
"The longer we go, presumably the more stable we are."
On equal revenue sharing:
I think the Big 12 can do anything the Big 12 wants to do. I think they're terrific universities and great sports programs, and I think the world is our oyster. The landscape is changing quickly, and we're going to need to change with it, but I'm very excited about the group that we're going to go to battle with. I think we can compete with any conference out there. I think we can compete on the playing surfaces, and we can compete in the marketplace as well.
He later added: "Great competition every Saturday is the best thing you can have. One of the ways you do that is by making sure the rich don't get richer and the poor don't get poorer. I think it's really important to have something resembling equal revenue sharing. It isn't just about the money that makes you competitive, but it is in part about available resources that institutions can use. The best situation you can have is an all-out war on the football field every Saturday or every Saturday on the basketball floor."
On the Longhorn Network:
"I think everybody wishes that they had the Longhorn Network available to them, and not everybody can do that, although there are several in the league that have their own models of third-tier rights utilization. It's a challenge going forward, but I think the presidents have given a lot of thought to how it fits together, and I was satisfied with what I heard from them along those lines.
On having a geographical outlier in West Virginia:
Because of that, we do need to think about how to (make them welcome). It isn't a situation where they're going to have a natural rival in the state next door. their Backyard Brawl with Pittsburgh is natural geographically, but it isn't evident that there's the same geographic vicinity with the Big 12 teams. Having said that, I think it's all about high-quality competition. Football and basketball teams are playing all over the country, so it isn't a particular logistical challenge there, but for some of the non-revenue Olympic sports, it's going to be a challenge. We're going to have to think innovatively about how we don't disadvantage a team that's from some distance away.