NCF Nation: Bob Bowlsby

Were we all deceived?

The answer is yes, according author and writer Michael Weinreb. In a Rolling Stone piece published Monday, he argues that the College Football Playoff selection committee pulled the wool over the collective eyes of America with its vaulting of Ohio State past TCU in the final rankings released Sunday.

He backs Baylor and makes excellent points. But each of the three sides in this discussion are supported by a good argument. Weinreb describes the way in which the committee kept us interested for six weeks, then shuffled the deck at the end, as a “long con.”

That’s where I disagree.

TCU and Baylor got the shaft when the College Football Playoff’s selection committee got down to business.

But was their exclusion from the big four as simple as there being no Big 12 championship game? It’s not that simple.

Yes, the conference’s lack of “One True Champion” hurt the cases for TCU and Baylor -- the only Power 5 teams with one or no losses which did not make the playoff – and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby admitted on ESPN airwaves Sunday that the believed it hurt his conference’s teams.

“It’s clear that we were penalized for not having a postseason championship game. It would have been nice to have been told that ahead of time,” Bowlsby said.

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The Big 12 might not be great at slogans. But it's good at finding loopholes.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby finally clarified Monday that "One True Champion" -- the grandiose slogan the league has trumped-up on TV commercials this year -- doesn't actually mean, well, one champion.

Instead, Bowlsby confessed the slogan smacks of the league's nine-game, round-robin schedule. Not about the league crowning one champion at the end of the season.

"'One True Champion' is really about everybody playing everybody," Bowlsby said. "A loss is a loss, a win is a win. We believe that playing everyone every year is the right way to determine a champion, even if ends in a tie."

And so, the Big 12 is left in need of a new motto that isn't the laughingstock of college sports (I recommend, "We play everybody!" which gets the actual point across).

But not necessarily a new format.

Going into the final week of the season, the Big 12 is the only conference still able to slap the "conference champion" label on multiple teams. Bowlsby said the league will officially put the TCU-Baylor debate in the hands of the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Should No. 5 TCU and No. 7 Baylor both win on Saturday and finish tied at 11-1, Bowlsby said the Big 12 would inform the 12-member selection committee it has co-champions, despite Baylor's 61-58 win over TCU on Oct. 11.

Playoff director Bill Hancock has said the committee will recognize all conference champions, in whatever form they are produced. And playoff selection committee chairman Jeff Long has maintained that conference championships will be a factor in determining which four teams make the playoff. That means while the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC will be left with only champ to lay at the feet of the committee after this weekend, the Big 12 will offer "two true champions," seemingly increasing its chances for playoff inclusion.

Is the league gaming the system?

That appears obvious. But the playoff format, as currently constructed, allows for the Big 12 to submit co-champions to the committee.

"It's not our prerogative for us to tell them who is our best team," Bowlsby said. "It's not within our prerogative to bind the selection committee that way."

But by dodging the prerogative, the Big 12 is able to prop up TCU and Baylor, instead of just Baylor. Whereas, had Mississippi State prevailed in the Egg Bowl this past weekend, the SEC would be left advocating Alabama (assuming the Tide handle Missouri) as its only champion, even though the Bulldogs would have been 11-1 in the rugged SEC West.

"Our model is different," Bowlsby said. "Time will tell if it is an inferior model, a superior model, or neutral."

The Big 12 model, however, is beginning to look superior in a season in which it claims two playoff worthy teams.

In addition to holding the head-to-head edge over TCU, Baylor has the best win of any playoff contender with its victory over the Horned Frogs. But in turn, TCU has the best loss, on top of five wins over ESPN FPI Top 45 teams. That's two more than either Baylor or No. 6 Ohio State has.

By submitting Baylor and TCU to the committee as co-champions, the Big 12 is able to reward Baylor without punishing TCU for its head-to-head defeat.

"[The committee is] going to select who they think is the best team," Bowlsby said. "This is an important distinction. Because the committee's charge is not to select the most deserving teams. The committee's responsibility is to select the four best teams based upon their objective and subjective criteria."

We'll find out Sunday whether Baylor or TCU or both or neither passes the committee's criteria test.

But while the "One True Champion" slogan proved to be buffoonish, the league's two true champion format could prove opportune.
Tuesday night wasn't good for the Big 12's playoff hopes. Thursday night proved to be much better.

Kansas State's 26-20 win at West Virginia provided a boost that the Big 12 really needed. About 48 hours earlier, the league saw one of its playoff hopefuls, TCU, fall a spot to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff Rankings despite a win last week. Its other contender, Baylor, remained stuck at No. 7, now languishing behind Ohio State instead of Arizona State.

As ESPN.com colleague Jake Trotter wrote Wednesday: "Instead of either/or for the Big 12, it could be neither/nor."

Kansas State likely is out of the playoff chase with two losses, but the 12th-ranked Wildcats are alive in the Big 12 race. More important, they're a résumé-enhancer for TCU (which beat K-State on Nov. 8) and possibly Baylor (which hosts K-State on Dec. 6). The Big 12 can lay claim to three elite teams, more than the Big Ten, its primary playoff competitor.

Some might have seen Thursday night's game as a Catch-22 for Baylor, which lost convincingly at West Virginia on Oct. 18. But the selection committee has made it clear that impressive wins count more than unimpressive losses (West Virginia, a much improved team, is far from a bad loss in my view). Baylor needed another opportunity to impress the committee, especially on a day when the other Power 5 conferences are holding championship games.

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With the NCAA's announcement that Georgia running back Todd Gurley has to sit for two games for his NCAA-violating, off-field transgressions is sad for the world of college football. We lost arguably the sport's best player for a couple more weeks because he decided to profit off of his name for what appears to be a few thousand dollars.

More than $3,000 in cash, actually.

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According to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, intercollegiate athletics are on the verge of a tipping point.

That’s why Bowlsby and the Big 12 will be holding a forum on Wednesday afternoon in New York City to discuss the state of college athletics.

‘In its earliest form, we were conversing about the fact that there really wasn’t a format for a thorough debate and vetting of the issues in place in college athletics right now,” Bowlsby told ESPN.com. “It’s hard to do it in 30-second sound bites and video clips. Between the class-action lawsuits and the O’Bannon case, the NCAA restructuring and all the things going on in intercollegiate athletics, it just felt like a good thing, to have a full and robust discussion about all of the issues.”

[+] EnlargeBob Bowlsby
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsBob Bowlsby backs his controversial comments from Big 12 media day with a forum on athletics from New York on Wednesday.
NBC broadcaster Jimmy Roberts will moderate the forum (3 p.m. CT) at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel, which will be streamed live over Big12sports.com.

The rest of the panel, along with Bowlsby, is: Kansas State athletic director John Currie, Texas athletic director Steve Patterson, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, Baylor president Kenneth Star, Maryland journalism professor and former Dallas Morning News columnist Kevin Blackistone, 60 Minutes Sports correspondent Armen Keteyian, New York Times sports columnist Juliet Macur, former Texas running rack Selvin Young and Donna Lopiano, president of a consulting firm that focuses on solving issues in intercollegiate athletics.

“I think it will be a tremendous event. I’m really looking forward to it,” said Bowlsby, who indicated a desire to hold other like forums in the future. “We were careful to make sure to get as many sides of the issues represented as we could get.”

Bowlsby said the panelists will dictate where the discussion goes, but he has an idea of the subjects that might get broached.

“It will be interesting to see where it evolves,” Bowlsby said. “I certainly expect discussion of what the scholarship is constituted of. Whether or not we have transitional healthcare. Whether we have multi-year scholarships. How we get control of coaches’ compensation, perhaps. What kinds of academic and admissions challenges we have. I suppose we’ll talk about unionization and whether or not student-athletes are student-athletes or employees. I think all those things will be among the topics.”

Bowlsby has been at the forefront of challenging the NCAA status quo. At Big 12 media days last month, Bowlsby drew plenty of headlines for suggesting that “cheating pays” at the moment in college athletics and that NCAA “enforcement is broken.”

Both Alabama coach Nick Saban and NCAA enforcement chief Jonathan Duncan took issue with those comments.

"I don't see players getting bought. I don't see players getting extra benefits any place," Saban recently told ESPN. "I think recruiting is so transparent now, I think most people are scared to death that they would get caught publicly — not by the NCAA, not by the conference office.”

Duncan defended his office, too.

"We don't pretend to be able to catch every violation in any given year," Duncan told the Associated Press in late July. "So the next question is: Do we have a handle on it? And the answer is yes, I think we do. The people who violate the rules will be found out, and we will report them back to the committee on infractions."

Bowlsby reiterated that he didn’t think cheating is rampant in college sports. But he stands by his words from media days.

“I think there are people gaining an advantage outside the rules, and I think they’re profiting from it,” Bowlsby said. “It’s not widespread, but it’s real. My comments were not critical of the NCAA or Mark Emmert or anyone else. I was just making comments about the difficulty of the task. There are just certain things we can’t get to the bottom of. As I said then, I don’t think cheating is rampant. But I do think there are people out there that are getting away with things. I think Jonathan Duncan is doing a great job, I’m very supportive of what they’re doing. But they don’t have the tools to fully completely the job. … So that’ll likely be a topic at the forum, as well.”

Big 12 media days roundtable: Day 1

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It was an action-packed day as Big 12 media days opened in Dallas, Texas. Baylor carried itself with the look and confidence of the defending Big 12 champion, while Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby made it clear that change is on the horizon for college athletics. ESPN.com Big 12 reporters Jake Trotter, Max Olson and Brandon Chatmon answered four questions in our roundtable to conclude the first session, which was comprised of Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech.

What stuck out to you most?

Trotter: The confidence Baylor carried throughout the day. The Bears are the defending Big 12 champs, and they walked and talked like it Monday. Defensive end Shawn Oakman even took issue with Oklahoma getting voted as the preseason favorite, saying Baylor's 41-12 win over OU last season showed that the Sooners' "product was nowhere near as good as the product that Baylor was putting on the field." Bears coach Art Briles said the preseason seeding was fair because OU beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, while Baylor fell to UCF in the Fiesta. But there’s little doubt the Bears will go into this season with the swagger of the league's best team.

Olson: Other than Bowlsby's scorched-earth, "Winter is Coming" assessment of today's NCAA, I enjoyed Briles' presence at this event, as always. He had his usual great lines -- when Baylor was called a heavyweight, he said "I try to eat as healthy as possible" -- and Texas charm, but unlike last year he's not out to play hype man for his program. He was resolute in saying he's aiming for the College Football Playoff and that OU deserves to be the Big 12 favorite considering how last season ended. He also seems to have taken it personally that QB Bryce Petty wasn't a Heisman finalist last year. With former Texas coach Mack Brown now out of the picture, it appears Briles is the guy reporters love to gravitate toward. He seems as confident and relaxed as ever when it comes to his team's chances in 2014.

Chatmon: Bowlsby didn’t mince words at all Monday. He kicked off Big 12 media days with a bang, talking about the need for restructuring in the NCAA, the possibly bleak future of some Olympic sports, and the potential for cheating in college football nationwide. The cheating discussion was easily the part that stood out to me, as Bowlsby’s candor was unexpected. “The infractions committee hasn't had a hearing in almost a year, and I think it's not an understatement to say that cheating pays presently,” he said. He went on to say he didn’t think it was rampant and didn’t have any concerns “on a local basis” when asked specifically about the Big 12.

What's something new you learned?

Trotter: TCU added Texas A&M transfer quarterback Matt Joeckel in the spring. But Trevone Boykin is not going to relinquish the job and slide to receiver without a fight. “He wants to be the guy,” coach Gary Patterson said. Whether at receiver or quarterback, Boykin is going to help the Horned Frogs offensively. But he’s going to try to help them at quarterback first.

Olson: I was hardly surprised, but Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy loves Tyreek Hill. OSU will play Hill at running back and receiver, and Gundy said his goal is to get the speedster the ball 15 to 20 times a game. Hill was voted Big 12 Preseason Newcomer of the Year, and Gundy admitted that the blueprint for how to maximize Hill's talent hasn't completely come together yet. But the guy has a chance to be a Tavon Austin-type playmaker all over the field. Gundy would be wise to put the keys to the offense in Hill's hands, and it's good to see that the coach gets that.

Chatmon: Sam Eguavoen is a confident guy … who doesn’t like spiders. The Texas Tech linebacker has a lot of confidence in the Red Raiders’ potential this season, pointing to Tech’s narrow road setback to Oklahoma as a key moment in 2013: “If it wasn’t for the out route to a slot receiver, we had that game. The bowl game showed what we’re capable of. That’s the expectation for this season.” Eguavoen went on to say he’d pick Tyrese Gibson, Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant to kick it with if he could hang with celebrities. He was then asked about Tech cheerleader Kendall Jones, who gained national attention for posting photos of her hunting exploits in Africa this summer, and responded with this gem: “I’ve killed a couple of roaches before, but she’s out here killing bears and tigers, and I’m scared of spiders. I respect her. If I ever see a lizard in my backyard, I’ll have to hit her up.”

Your favorite exchange of the day?

[+] EnlargeArt Briles
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsAccording to Baylor coach Art Briles, Bears quarterback Bryce Petty has "name recognition" all the way up to Salem, Oregon.
Trotter: Briles was in fine form Monday. Besides verbally tussling with Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher about the Big 12 not playing a conference title game, Briles explained why QB Bryce Petty has a better chance to win the Heisman this season. “Go to Salem, Oregon ... and talk to the guys at the Dairy Queen that follow college football and say, ‘Bryce Petty.’ And they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s that quarterback from Baylor.’ That’s why. Because he’s got name recognition.” Petty certainly has more name recognition, though maybe not so much in Salem. A Portland radio station called all six Dairy Queens in Salem to see if anyone had ever heard of Petty. The results for Petty weren’t good.

Olson: Patterson elicited a lot of confused frowns when he said, regarding his changes on offense, "I like Gatorade. When you have to beat people 17-13 just drinking water, you'd like to be able to go back and find out what the different Gatorades are and do everything, you know, for a few years, Rose Bowl year and all that when you score a lot of points." Makes no sense, right? What Patterson was getting at is that, when you're coasting at the end of a blowout win, there's plenty of time for sports drink taste-testing on the sideline. That's a luxury the Frogs rarely enjoyed last year. So, uh, his new offense wants more points and more blowouts. At least, I think that's what he meant ...

Chatmon: Anything Oakman-related was gold. As the hashtag #OakmanisSoBig began to make waves during media days, the Baylor defensive end said his favorite was “#OakmanisSoBig his cereal bowl has a lifeguard." The Bears’ beast of a defender went on to question Oklahoma’s win over Alabama and its preseason favorite status in the Big 12. “It’s kind of disrespectful. You have your starting QB back, most of the front line back, and you’re still ranked No. 2. That doesn’t make sense to me. We beat OU,” he said.

On Tuesday, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia will take over the stage in Dallas. What are you looking forward to Tuesday?

Trotter: The newcomer to the league, Texas coach Charlie Strong, will be in the house. Mack Brown was always great in the media days setting. How will Strong acquit himself in his Big 12 media days debut? A good first impression can go a long way.

Olson: Gee, I wonder if Strong is going to face any scrutiny? He's the Big 12's only first-year head coach and he's hoping to change the perception that he's not a savvy public speaker. Plus, Mack was kind of the king of soapbox speeches and offering his take on college football issues at media days. So I'm guessing the many reporters who crowd around Strong will be practically waiting for him to slip up. He's always said he's OK with the media responsibilities of being Texas' head coach, and his performance Tuesday is truly inconsequential to the big picture, if you ask me. But can Strong make a good impression and inspire some believers on Tuesday?

Chatmon: I’m looking forward to what West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen will say as a huge year looms for the Mountaineers. The veteran coach is hitching his future, to begin the season at least, on the shoulders of senior quarterback Clint Trickett. The Mountaineers have plenty of skill-position talent and could have an explosive offense with good quarterback play, but people tend to forget WVU had superb quarterback play with Geno Smith in Year 1 in the conference and still finished 7-6 in 2012. So I’m interested to hear what Holgorsen has to say about his defense and the changes on that side of the ball, as well.
IRVING, Texas -- Despite the dissolution of the BCS, the Big 12 leadership decided during the first day of spring meetings Wednesday that it would keep the same formula for breaking three- and four-way ties.

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AP Photo/Tim SharpBig 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby addressed several topics during the first day of spring meetings, including a tiebreaker tweak and unlimited meals for student-athletes.
With one slight tweak.

The BCS standings previously determined the third step of the tiebreaker. Beginning this season, it will be the College Football Playoff committee that will do the tie breaking.

“The biggest change we made was we struck the places where it said BCS and inserted CFB poll,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “So there really wasn’t much of a change to it.”

Going forward, in the event of a three- or four-way tie, the highest-ranked team in the College Football Playoff poll (that does not advance to the playoffs) will be the Big 12 representative in the Champions Bowl (aka, the Sugar Bowl) against the SEC.

Everything else in the three-way tiebreaker will remain the same, including the head-to-head clause that was added following the 2008 season.

That year, Oklahoma emerged out of a Big 12 South Division three-way tie with Texas Tech and Texas despite losing to the Longhorns earlier that season. The Sooners were ranked one spot ahead of Texas in the BCS standing and thus advanced to the Big 12 title game.

Spearheaded by former Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, the Big 12 amended the three-way tiebreaker to allow head-to-head to come back into play should the top two teams be ranked within one spot of one another. Had the clause been in effect in 2008, Texas would have played for the Big 12 title instead of the Sooners.

"DeLoss' lasting legacy," Kansas State athletic director John Currie joked of the amendment.

Currie added that the three-way tiebreaker would be on the agenda during the athletic directors’ meeting in August in case “something developed” within the College Football Playoff ranking system.

No momentum for early signing period

Two weeks ago, the ACC concluded it would recommend an early signing period in college football to the College Commissioners Association.

The Big 12, conversely, was far from reaching a consensus on the issue on Wednesday.

“I don’t perceive any extreme momentum for that,” Currie said of the Big 12 opinion. “For every argument for that, there’s a big stack of arguments against it. Whether or not the intended result of an early signing period would reduce chaos on the back end, does that really offset? Is an early signing period going to drive more early recruiting and more early decisions? I personally believe those decisions are being made far too early in many cases.”

An early signing period is on the agenda for the College Commissioners Association’s June meeting. The ACC wants the early signing period to begin Aug. 1.

“The biggest challenge we have is a lot of people are in support of it, but there are a multitude of different options out there,” Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw said. “The football recruiting subcommittee is going to gather feedback from high school coaches, student-athletes, coaches and try to make a determination on a date that makes sense. It’s something that will be looked at extensively.”

Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt is actually chair of the NCAA football recruiting subcommittee.

Feeding the monster

Last month, the NCAA's legislative council approved a proposal to allow Division I schools to provide unlimited meals and snacks to all athletes, including walk-ons.

A chunk of Wednesday’s meeting in Irving was spent discussing how the Big 12 would implement the new legislation, which takes effect Aug. 1.

“I was really surprised during the meetings at how much variance there was among schools,” Bowlsby said. “And yet there was a fairly high comfort level that although there were uniqueness, that institutions could deal with them in their own way without others thinking, ‘Oh gosh, they’re going to get an advantage on us.’

“It was an interesting discussion that we maybe we can move into an era where all of us don’t have to do exactly the same things.”

One possible area of variance? How much each institution might spend on the unlimited meal plan.

Currie said he expects Kansas State to spend somewhere between $700,000 and $1 million a year. Texas athletic director Steve Patterson, meanwhile, estimated Texas’ cost could soar “north of $2 million.”

While the details are still being worked out across the board, Currie said Kansas State would add a morning snack to its student-athlete training table, as well as “fueling stations” in different facilities for before and after practices. Currie also said inside Kansas State’s new $65 million Vanier Football Complex will be a “significant nutrition area” that will give Kansas State's student-athletes access to items like banana smoothies into the night.

“This is going to be very positive,” Currie said. “One of the best things we’ve done.”
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is among the nation’s top-paid conference commissioners.

[+] EnlargeBob Bowlsby
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsBob Bowlsby was named Big 12 commissioner in May 2012.
Bowlsby made $1.2 million in just over six months as the conference’s commissioner, according to a report on the USA Today website. Bowlsby was named Big 12 commissioner in May 2012 after spending the previous six years as the athletic director at Stanford.

According to the USA Today report:
Based on his monthly base pay, Bowlsby's annual salary projects to about $1.8 million, which would be about $600,000 more than the base amount the SEC reported paying commissioner Mike Slive for the 2012 calendar year.

SEC commissioner Slive, Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and ACC commissioner John Swofford have a reported base pay between $1.2 and $1.6 million, according to the USA Today report.

During Bowlsby’s first 6 1/2 months on the job, he helped negotiate a significant jump in income for the conference thanks to new television deals with ESPN and Fox. The annual revenue for the Big 12 increased roughly $57.6 million during the first year of the new deal.

The eight individual schools who remained in the Big 12 after realignment saw their income increase by roughly $6.5 million per school to between $20 million and $22 million. West Virginia and TCU, the Big 12’s two new members, each received less than half that total, between $8 million and $10 million.

The reported income and expense data in the report came from conference’s fiscal year, which ended on June 30, 2013. The compensation data is based on the most recent calendar year.

Bob Bowlsby's delivery isn't flashy, but the content of his opening address at Day 1 of Big 12 media days turned heads across the country. His was one of the sharpest criticisms of the NCAA's enforcement and structure in some time, arguing that the big five conferences -- the Big 12, SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 -- should explore creating a fourth division within the NCAA.

Changing rules and the inability to offer full-cost scholarships -- most major schools can afford it and most lower-division programs cannot -- are the main motivations, but Texas coach Mack Brown is fully on board with Bowlsby's proposal.

From colleague Mark Schlabach:
"I agree with it," Brown said. "I think that at some point we need to realize that's where we're headed. We've always tried to make rules for every level and have it under one umbrella, and it's never worked. When we tried to get instant replay, we couldn't because some [schools] couldn't afford it. When we tried to go to the 40-second [play] clock, we couldn't because some couldn't afford it. When we wanted to put the microphones in the helmets for quarterbacks, we couldn't because some couldn't afford it."

Very good points from Brown, who drew on examples fans could understand and remember to illustrate his points. All of those things clearly improve the quality of the game, but are hardly fundamental changes. Their progress was slowed because of the voting power of lower-division schools, which far outnumber schools that can afford relatively minor changes.

When it comes to passing legislation, any school that plays an NCAA sport has a vote. Each school is going to vote to protect its interests, and those will obviously be different based on budgets.

"You have to say, 'Here's the minimum. If you can't live up to that, go do something else.' I think that's the only way to do it," Brown told Schlabach. "It sounds harsh, but really and truly we're putting too much pressure on those that can't live in this world. If we pay them all and let them live in their own world, who cares? Make it a good league and make it fun."

Not everybody has the luxury of a $163 million budget like Texas, but I'd like to live in a college football world that covers more costs for players and features more high-quality games between major conference teams.

So, apparently, do Brown and Bowlsby.

The best of Big 12 media days

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Let's take a look back at the week that was at Big 12 media days.

Best overall performance: Art Briles, Baylor. Briles has a reputation as the king of the podium, and he delivered during his 20 minutes in front of the few hundred print media in the room, and kept going during his two hours of breakout interviews. A few choice cuts:
  • On having two first-place votes in the Big 12 media poll for the first time ever: "I don't know how many people vote, I guess 25. I was wondering why those other 23 didn't believe in us."
  • On Baylor's all-gold helmet on stage: "There's two shiny things up here, that helmet and my head, probably."
  • Also on the gold helmets: "If it was made of actual gold, it probably wouldn't still be here because somebody would conveniently put it in their bag."
  • On expectations of QB Bryce Petty: "Break every Baylor record there is offensively, which is what we expect him to do and what he plans to do."
  • On the final score of Baylor's bowl game: "4914. 4919. I'm sorry. I don't want to cheat them out of five points. 4919, Baylor. "
  • On the Big 12 title race: "It's wide open and the wind is blowin'."
  • On his preferred playoff format: "One with Baylor."
That, folks, is how you win media days. Truth. Wit. Optimism. Self-deprecating humor that doesn't lessen your accomplishments.

Second-best overall performance: Bob Bowlsby, Big 12 commissioner. Bowlsby delivered a solid blow to the NCAA structure, but did so with a good mixture of class and memorable quotes that will stick out while this debate rages in the months to come. He campaigned for NCAA transformation and better enforcement, while stopping short of an unrealistic split from the organization. Considering past Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe's poor national perception, that was good news for the Big 12 as a whole.

Best trash talk: Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia. Asked about Alabama coach Nick Saban and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema's complaints about up-tempo offenses in college football, Holgorsen lobbed some strong words in the direction of the SEC. "I'd tell him to get over it because it's not going to change. It's going into the NFL, for crying out loud," he said. "Don't see it changing any time soon. So you'd better learn to adapt to it." We'll get a chance to see it on the field soon. WVU faces Alabama to kick off the 2014 season.

Best quote: Charlie Weis, Kansas. Weis made all kinds of headlines when he talked about his recruiting pitch. "Have you looked at that pile of crap out there? Have you taken a look at that? So if you don't think you can play here, where do you think you can play?"

Best dressed: Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech. Kingsbury's gray suit fit him perfectly, and the lavender touches were a nice accent. I was always partial to Tommy Tuberville's red and black look and suits for his players as well, but Kingsbury lived up to the hype when it came to his fashion sense.

Best one-liner: Mack Brown, Texas coach on preseason expectations. Asked about being picked fourth by national pundit Phil Steele versus the Big 12 media picking his Longhorns fourth in the league, Brown didn't mince words. "I really like the first guy better," he said.

Best anecdote: Bill Snyder, Kansas State. Asked about his first coaching job, Snyder revealed that when he was an assistant at Gallatin High School in Missouri, he thought he'd "died and gone to heaven," despite a mountain of responsibilities. "I was an assistant football coach and assistant basketball coach and assistant women's basketball coach, assistant track coach, drove the school bus, taught four units of Spanish, which I knew nothing about, and I made $6,000 a year."
1. Through the filter of their personalities, commissioners Mike Slive of the SEC and Bob Bowlsby of the Big 12 have delivered the same message of NCAA change. The big five conferences want to live by rules better suited to their budgets. And they should. But here’s one problem. The BCS, by drawing a line between the haves (AQs) and have-nots (non-AQs) set in motion the realignment that rocked intercollegiate athletics. If the haves separate themselves into a Division IV, will they dare set membership requirements high enough to keep the have-nots at bay? Promise them a slice of the pie to stay out?

2. It’s no surprise that the ACC media picked Clemson to win the conference championship. The Tigers have an explosive offense and, with non-ACC games against SEC powers Georgia and South Carolina, the schedule to carry them into BCS championship contention. But here’s the surprise: Clemson has not been the preseason pick to win the ACC since 1991. As the only original member of the ACC to take football more seriously than basketball, Clemson underachieved for a long time.

3. Georgia coach Mark Richt, a former quarterback, underwent hip replacement surgery after last season. He think the problem dates to his playing days. Just not playing football. “People had asked that question,” Richt said, laughing, “and I really have tried to remember what happened to me along the way. I guess it’s OK to mention it. I've mentioned it before. It was a swing-set accident.” What’s worse, he was a grown man. I cannot do it justice. You better listen.
Last year, the chant of "We're No. 2! We're No. 2!" was heard in both Pac-12 and Big 12 country.

That other conference, however much it makes folks grumble, gets to be No. 1 until somebody dethrones it. But the debate among Pac-12 and Big 12 fans for second place was a spirited one.

The Big 12 just clipped the Pac-12 in the ESPN.com Stats & Info power rankings by 0.6 points after going 2-1 versus the Pac-12 in bowl game, with Baylor whipping UCLA in the Alamo Bowl and Texas outlasting Oregon State in the Holiday Bowl.

Of course, Oregon, the Pac-12 North runner-up behind Stanford, blew out Kansas State, the Big 12 champion, in the Fiesta Bowl, and Arizona beat Oklahoma State in the regular season -- by 21 points -- to even the conferences' overall mark at 2-2. So even then there was some wiggle room.

The Pac-12 went 4-4 overall in bowl games, winning two BCS bowls, while the Big 12 went 4-5, losing its only BCS bowl. Both conferences finished with three Top 25 teams, but the Pac-12 had two teams in the top-seven compared to no top-10 teams for the Big 12.

Like we said: It was close. And highly subjective to judge.

This is all prelude to the new Pac-12 bowl agreements, which haven't yet been officially announced but we can strongly conjecture upon.

What the Big 12 could always counter in bowl matchups with the Pac-12 is a lower seed. The past three Alamo Bowls matched the No. 1 non-BCS bowl Pac-12 team against the No. 2 non-BCS bowl team from the Big 12. The Holiday Bowl featured the No. 2 Pac-12 team against the No. 4 team from the Big 12.

(There's even a Pac-12 counter to this, with the Pac-12 sending two teams to BCS bowl games the past three years an the Big 12 sending just one during the same span, which thereby evening out the seeds).

Guess what, though? Since the Pac-12 signed on with the Alamo Bowl, the Big 12 is 3-0 against it. Baylor beat Washington in 2012 and Oklahoma State crushed Arizona in 2011.

But the new bowl contracts likely will match the No. 1 non-playoff/non-Rose Bowl Pac-12 team vs. the No. 1 non-playoff/non-Sugar Bowl Big 12 team.

Previously, the No. 1 non-BCS bowl Big 12 team played in the Cotton Bowl, which got the Big 12's No. 1 non-BCS bowl team but is now part of the College Football Playoff. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has already commented on the change for his conference.

What does that upgrade mean for the Pac-12?

Well, if we go by teams that played in the Cotton Bowl that means UCLA would have played No. 11 Oklahoma, Washington would have played No. 11 Kansas State and Arizona would have played No. 18 Texas A&M.

Now, these trades aren't exact and aren't always better because bowls have their own selection politics. For example, No. 16 Oklahoma State was ranked higher than Texas A&M in 2011 but the Cotton Bowl preferred a Texas-based team.

Still, this means the bowl competition for the Pac-12 is moving up. It will be a test worth watching.

And the No. 1 non-BCS bowl Big 12 team might like getting out of the Cotton Bowl rotation. The Big 12 has lost nine of the past 10 Cotton Bowls to the SEC, and the lone victory was No. 7 Missouri over No. 25 Arkansas in 2008. Of course, the Tigers are now in the SEC.

By the way, the Big 12 and Pac-12 also appear headed to a matchup in the Buffalo Wild Wings in Sun Devil Stadium -- the Big 12 likely will be replaced by the Big Ten in the Holiday Bowl -- so the conferences will matchup at the top as well as measure each other's depth.

While both conferences would like to move up to No. 1, neither wants to yield the perception of being at least No. 2. The Alamo Bowl will provide a nice annual measuring stick for the two conferences.
IRVING, Texas -- Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds made headlines when he championed an eight-team college football playoff Thursday at the Big 12's spring meetings, despite the four-team version still being more than a year away.

"It's a baby step. It's a good step," Dodds said. "I'm kind of an eight-team person."

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby wasn't biting on the possibility of Dodds' preference becoming reality.

"I don’t see us expanding to eight any time soon," he said.

West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck was also asked about Dodds' comments, but he's not looking for any bracket expansion, either.

"Let’s give four a shot and see," Luck said.

Luck agreed with Dodds' assertion that the debate about the No. 5 team -- aka the first team not invited to the playoff -- would carry more weight and be more heated than a debate about a No. 9 team, but stopped short of saying that would be enough to expand the playoff.

"It’d be interesting to go back and look the last 10 years at who would have qualified and how big of a gap there was between 4 and 5, and then 5, 6, 7, 8. Is there a discussion about 8 and 9?" he said. "A lot of years, it seems like there’s three or four really good teams, and then there’s a little bit of a dropoff, but I’m not sure I’d advocate eight at this point."

Bowlsby, meanwhile, argued that now -- just as the game's power brokers have become comfortable with altering the postseason again -- wasn't the time for further tinkering that might have far-reaching implications.

"One of the reasons why the playoff was eventually voted in was because people who had been opposed to the playoff got comfortable around the fact that it could be accomplished without decimating the bowl environment that has been so good to us over the years," Bowlsby said. "And if you add another four games to this, then you’re going to be playing into the middle of December and over the holidays and irreversibly change the bowl environment and therefore, the postseason."
IRVING, Texas -- The big topic of conversation at the Big 12's spring meetings Wednesday was doing the league's part to help piece together the College Football Playoff selection committee, but plenty more took place inside the meeting room, too. Here are a few notes from the Big 12's business this week.

Big 12 plays officiating guinea pig

Conference officials approved the use of eight-man officiating crews for the 2013 season. It'll be a one-year experiment that's revisited at the end of the season, and the Big 12 will be the only league in college football to use the additional official, who will be located in the offensive backfield, on the side of the quarterback, opposite the referee.

The crews, which will cost an additional $2,000 per school, will be used for all conference games and four selected nonconference games.

"Most people think our officials are as good as any in the country, and [Big 12 coordinator of officials] Walt [Anderson] is a seasoned and successful coordinator and an innovative guy. I think that's why [the national coordinator and other league coordinators] thought the Big 12 was a pretty good place to try it out."

Bowl tie-ins getting straightened out

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the Big 12 won't officially announce its bowl tie-ins this week, but the picture is coming into shape during the week of meetings, and the Alamo Bowl could replace the Cotton Bowl as the top Big 12 game for teams who don't qualify for the four-team playoff.

"We're not finished with that yet, but it looks like it's going to work that way," Bowlsby said. "We're not quite there, but we're not far."

He reiterated his stance that the Big 12 wants its bowl games to remain anchored in Texas but also have games out west (i.e., Arizona and/or California) and a game in Florida (possibly the Russell Athletic Bowl or Gator Bowl), as well as a game with a destination within driving distance for fans. That sentiment was driven in part by 25,000 Iowa State fans showing up at last year's Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

NCAA briefs Big 12 on lawsuits

NCAA attorney Donald Remy updated Big 12 officials on class-action lawsuits filed by former players claiming the NCAA used their images in video games without their permission. Former Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller and former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon are among the plaintiffs.

"This is years away from being resolved, and there’s probably an appeals process after that," Bowlsby said.

He declined to speculate on what a loss for the NCAA might mean, citing "too many moving parts" in any fallout from the lawsuits.

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