Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby
COMMISSIONER BOWLSBY: Good morning. Absolutely no response to good morning. I'll try one more time. Even jaded media can respond good morning. Nice to see you all. Thank you for being here.
Doesn't seem possible. It's been a month already. I've been kind of drinking from the firehose these last few weeks. But I have to say that it's been a really interesting and challenging time, and I'm excited that we are getting to the point where we're going to begin some competition and do what it is that we all like to do. You like to cover our sports programs, and we like to put them on the fields and playing surfaces and making sure we're having a good time with it.
As I stated in my introductory remarks at the initial press conference, I think the best days of this conference are ahead. I came into the process skeptical, would probably be a fair way to portray it. And during my first month, it's flown by. I've gotten unbelievable support from the people that are involved. We've been engaged in the BCS process obviously. We've been working hard with our colleagues on the SEC on the Champions Bowl, both the RFP process and the television process that goes along with it. We've made good progress there.
On July1st we welcomed TCU and West Virginia, two members that I think will blend exceedingly well with the eight remaining members. I think we have a stability that is far better than perhaps the public perception.
I think we have members that represent the best qualities of intercollegiate athletics. And I think we are going to do some really remarkable things in the years ahead. One of the things we've been working on is our television package. It is not finished.
I would suggest to you that having two media companies and ten presidents and ten general counsels and ten athletic directors, all, generally speaking, have editorial veto authority over the preparation of the documents, is a complex environment that may very well the understatement of the year.
It's a lot of work and it's a lot of pushing and shoving. And 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. I don't have any question that we will end up with a completed media document before long. But it is long. It is dense, and it has lots of details. And it's still going to take us a while to get it all put together.
As a result of that, our TV selections are a little bit delayed. We have been able to share with the institutions a little bit about game times on certain weekends.
But we are admittedly a ways behind. And I know that creates hardships for all of you, and so I apologize for that in advance. It's been a painstaking process, but I expect in the end we will have a 13‑year grant of rights on television.
We will have a 13‑year grant of rights to cover the 12years that are envisioned with the Champions Bowl, and we will end up with a package that will give us national exposure on two cable and broadcast television giants.
It's going to be unprecedented national exposure for our conference, and it will be remarkable the breadth and depth of the reach that we will have during the course of the coming decade.
I also think that in addition to the strength and the revenue that is derived from a major media contract, we really are headed for a period of stability. This is a group of ten 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.
Now, having said that, expansion is on every conference's list of discussion items. 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.
And so with that and with the round‑robin scheduling that we have in football and men's basketball, women's basketball, we will derive true champions.
Everyone will play everyone else, and it is the best of all circumstances. I think it is also a situation where at the end of the season not only do we identify a true champion, but our true champion is going to have a great chance to get to that four‑team playoff.
And that is obviously a valuable pathway, given the playoff structure going forward. We've seen lots of times when the two best teams in the league come together and one of them is damaged goods after the game is over. Worse than that, sometimes the better team doesn't win.
And so we like very much the situation we're in right now. And I think another thing that's been a major departure from the past is we are in a period of equal revenue sharing.
That doesn't mean that institutions aren't able to go off and do their own work and put their own packages in place, but generally speaking on the largest portion of our television and distributable revenue, we are dividing things equally, which is the first time that we've done that. It's also a process that will I think yield good stability over a long period of time.
Pardon me for reading chapter and verse on some of these next things, but when you talk about the success of this organization, you really can't do it without numerically calling out some things that are really pretty amazing.
Through the first 16 seasons of the Big 12, not only have we gone about extending the rich traditions that have been embodied in these schools before, but we've had 16 of our 23 sports win a national championship.
That's really pretty remarkable. I find that an amazing statistic. In that short period of time, we've had 47 national championship teams and 517 individual titles. That's pretty remarkable, too, and of course including the last two women's basketball championships. We have also had the best winning percentage of men's basketball tournament over the last five years.
And right now with the coaching situations that we've had shifting around, we've got five guys in the league that have led teams to the Final Four. It's really quite remarkable.
In addition to all that, I am preparing to leave and put on my U.S. Olympic Committee board member hat in the next few days. I'm heading to London. And the representation of our conference, not only on the U.S. Olympic team, but on the Olympic teams of many other nations, is really going to be spectacular. It's an exciting thing to have 93 athletes that are participating at the very highest level.
And the opportunity for a young man or a young woman to participate in the Olympic Games is certainly second to none. But just as we aren't here to produce professional athletes as a principal undertaking, we also aren't here to produce Olympians. Both of those opportunities are derived from having a highly productive and highly successful collegiate athletics experience.
And with regard to the Summer Games, about 85percent of those athletes are coming through a college program of one sort or another.
So our Olympic team is just over 500 members. And for us to have 93 members participating in the Games will be really something special for us.
We've also got big programs in this league. We've had 531 Academic All‑Americans over the life of the league. We've got 18,000 plus or minus student‑athletes, and we have almost a thousand kids that had a four‑point last year. And now it gets lost in us kind of beating each other's brains out on the playing surfaces, but this is an enterprise within higher education, and it generates a lot of revenue and it sometimes puts people in the Olympic ranks and it sometimes puts people in the professional ranks. And most of our student‑athletes, as the NCAA ad says, are going pro in something other than their sport.
But we've done a lot of good for a lot of young people and they are out making a difference in the world, and I'm very proud to be associated with that kind of an organization. I think we're doing it exceedingly well.
Having said that, there are some things wrong with intercollegiate athletics too. There are an awful lot of things that are right. But over the coming years, one of the things that attracted me to a commissioner's position is that it gives one the opportunity to have more of an influence on the national agenda.
And I think to the extent we can, we need to retain and improve upon the things that we're doing well, but there are also some troubling signs and we need to work hard to get ourselves in a position where we can improve upon the things that are not where they ought to be.
And I'd like to see us bring increasing transparency to it. I think we need to‑‑ I think we need to keep the score. We need to be vigilant about making sure we pay attention to the score.
And then we need to be making sure that we're holding people accountable. And we do that as a conference, but we also do it on a national basis too.
And I think there's much to be gained. And there are some of our high‑profile sports where all the best parts of college athletics and all the worst parts of college athletics are embodied in that context.
And so there's plenty of work to be done. I think we're uniquely positioned to have a hand in what intercollegiate athletics looks like in the coming decades. And I am very excited to be a part of that dialogue.
Now, having said all that, we're here to begin the football season. And this conference has an amazing football heritage. It's going to be fun to get out to the venues. I've been on every campus. The one that I've been to least is Baylor. And the only time I was there that I can recall was a time when I went on to the campus for Hayden Fry's induction into the Baylor Hall of Fame. I picked up the Friday paper, the school newspaper, and there was nothing on the front page about Hayden Fry's induction into the Baylor Hall of Fame. I was astounded that it wasn't.
Then I began to read the articles on the front page and found that it was the first weekend where dancing was going to be allowed on the Baylor campus. And needless to say, the football Hall of Fame induction got put on the back burner.
But Baylor is a good example of how you can build a program around some special people and really have a lot of fun doing it the right way in college football.
The year they had last year was truly extraordinary, and as we go into this season, you wonder who it's going to be next.
One of the remarkable things about our league is every team in the league has been in the postseason in recent years. There aren't many conferences that can say that. What makes a great conference is great competition every Saturday.
And we are salty from top to bottom. There are lots of difficult venues to go into. The competition is terrific every Saturday. And we compete exceedingly well within our league, but we also compete exceedingly well against the rest of college football.
We have the uniqueness this year of having the start of the season with three conference champions in our league in West Virginia and TCU and also Oklahoma State.
So I don't know that that's ever happened in the history of college football, that three conference champions have all commenced the season having won the previous year.
We had six teams win ten games last year. That's what I'm talking about when I say competition every day. More Heisman Trophy winners over the last 15years than anybody else and 95 consensus All‑Americans.
The talent pool in the Big 12 conference takes a back seat to no organization. It is going to be interesting to see if that competition shows itself early in the preseason.
As we talk about the postseason and how it's structured and what we would like to do with it, one of the things that is factual is that the regular season in college football is the best in any sport in college athletics. But when we talk about that, we're really talking about the months of October and November.
The second two‑thirds of the season are terrific. But the first month of the season is not always terrific. And as we shape what will become the new postseason, one of the things that we have to build into the system is we have to make sure that it's fair, it's transparent, it's understandable, but we also have to do things in terms of how we structure the selection process 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. I think if the University of Oregon had to do it over again, they might not have played that game against LSU last year, because they fought back from behind for the entire season as a result of it.
We need to encourage those games, we need to relish those games, and we need to make the month of September as good as the months of October and November are. And so as we move forward, we're certainly going to try and do that.
At least 11 times in the 14‑year history we've had somebody finish in the top four. Is that an indicator of the likelihood of future success in the playoff? I would say it is. And coming off of last year where a nondivisional champion in the SEC won the national championship, it's noteworthy that we've had three times where we've had two teams in the top four.
Now the selection process is going to be a little different going forward, but in the end the Big 12 is going to be very much in the conversation almost every year. And there will be times when we'll have two in the top four, and there are certainly going to be a lot of times when we're going to have more than one team in the top 12 and thereby falling into that 16 rotation with the national championship series.
So I'm excited about the future of the football teams in this league. I'm excited about the competition that we will have every day, every Saturday that we take the field. I love the teams and the personnel packages and the coaches that we are going to go out and compete against the nation's best outside of the Big 12 conference. And it's just exciting that it's almost football season again.
Now, I have one more thing that I'd like to do, and this one is partly personal and it's partly professional. But, ironically, despite the success of our league, we have had some challenges over the last couple of years that have made us pretty uncomfortable.
And last September, during a time when there was great instability, 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.
Under his guidance, we brought TCU and West Virginia into the league. 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.
And we collaborated with the SEC to start the Champions Bowl. And we're going to open it up for questions right after this. But before I do, in recognition of his service to the Big 12 and the College Football Association and most recently the Big 12 in the last 12months, it is my pleasure to announce that in Chuck's honor the Football Coach of the Year Award from this point henceforth will be referred to as the Chuck Neinas Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year Award.
COMMISSIONER BOWLSBY: So I'd like to ask Chuck to come up and join me and let us properly thank him for all he's done.
Yes, we did it as a surprise. Would you like to make a few comments?
CHUCK NEINAS: I got the right guy, Commissioner, I'll say that. I've been around so long I got a week's vacation, and my wife reminded me that last fall when she said who do you think could be the commissioner of the Big 12 conference, I gave her two names. One was Bob Bowlsby. And, you know, I always thought I was the best coach, so I probably deserve this (laughter).
But I'll tell you what, this is an honor which I will cherish. It's a complete surprise. Thank you so much. I've had great support throughout my tenure with the Big 12, the staff has been superb, and we couldn't have done it without a lot of hard work by good people.
And, as Bob said, people are cooperating now and they're moving forward. And as I've often said, if the Big 12 is a stock, you would get a buy order from me.
Thank you very much, and good luck at the Olympics.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. You mentioned about putting more of an emphasis on early season tough games. Yet, with a nine‑team conference schedule, I think lately there have been some instances where quality non‑conference games have been cancelled. How do you plan, then, to have a tougher September so that way there's not punishment for a four‑team playoff?
COMMISSIONER BOWLSBY: 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 and in most cases is not what's required to get a team ready to play in the conference schedule.
So that isn't what's going to be encouraged in the context of the postseason playoff. 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.
And so I don't know that there are enough data points for the same kind of ratings percentage index that you have in basketball. But I think that there will be some measure of how one has gone about scheduling in the preseason. And if that's valued in terms of the selection process in the postseason, there are incentives there that will, I think, create quality matchups.
Q. The Penn State announcement, the NCAA announcement regarding Penn State, two questions. One, are you surprised at the severity of the penalties, and also just the idea that the NCAA stepped in on such a murky situation and how quickly the NCAA acted?
COMMISSIONER BOWLSBY: Well, acting quickly and the NCAA are seldom mentioned in the same sentence. So I am a little surprised by that.
I don't presume to know all the details of it, and I'd like to spend some time reading and talking to folks before I make a whole lot of comments about it. But the one piece that I was surprised at was the magnitude of the fine. And I'd like to hear a little bit more about how that number was derived and just learn more about it.
I don't know that it is absolutely clear on what basis this becomes an NCAA issue. Having said that, there are certainly elements of our constitution and bylaws that go right to the heart of ethics, and clearly there are some ethical issues here.
I think perhaps the lesson that will be taken away from it is that things can get pretty far afield when there are people running the show that don't ever get frank feedback and don't ever have anybody pushback against them in terms of recentering their decision processes.
And it's obvious this was a pretty insular circumstance. And so I don't presume to have all the answers on it. I just hope that answers your question.
Q. What are some of the lessons you think can be learned from the Penn State situation moving forward, to ensure something like this wouldn't happen again?
COMMISSIONER BOWLSBY: Without having a more thorough understanding of what's being done and why it's being done, I don't know that I can provide any insights on what the takeaways are. I'd like to have a little more time to think about it.
Q. Could you talk about third tier rights in this conference? Because obviously they were a huge point of concern for Texas A&M and Missouri and they could be an inducement if this conference ever expanded, certainly the Longhorn Network, your thoughts on third tier rights and the ability of schools to have their own network?
COMMISSIONER BOWLSBY: Great question. And in all frankness, it's one of the things we're continuing to work our way through during the course of the negotiations. And our model is very unique.
Just as the SEC model and the Big Ten models were unique at the time they were put in place, I was involved with the Pac‑12 model and it is very different than the two I mentioned previously.
And ours is still another model besides. The pass‑through third tier rights, we think that there is an opportunity to monetize those. We also think there's an opportunity for institutional exposure that is substantial. How those relate to one another and how they relate to the first and second tier rights, they're complex matters, because each institution has its own aspirations and its own opportunities.
And so that's sum and substance of the kind of things we're working our way through right now. And we have some disagreements, but they aren't substantial.
I have no doubt we'll get a plan put together. I agree with you. Your assertion that it could be an attractive element of having others come to our league, and once all the details are finalized, I think it becomes easier to have those discussions.
Although, I think it's a constantly evolving environment. It's going to be within our conference, and I think it's going to be nationally, because even if you think you have it all buttoned up as all of the rights in the Pac‑12 are granted, everything from websites to first tier TV, even if you have all that buttoned up, there may be a new technology that comes down the line 18months from now that completely changes the landscape.
So there may be a day when we're watching the Super Bowl on the palms of our hands. If technology changes as much in the next five years as it changed in the last five years, who knows what we'll be doing.
So I like the position we're in. I think we're in a position of maximum flexibility as a result of how it's been structured. Does it bring more complexity to the negotiation of these kinds of agreements? Yes, it does.
But I like where we are, and I like the opportunities that it provides for us going forward.
Q. Can you just explain kind of the status of the Champions Bowl with the SEC right now and what's your guys' highest hopes are for what that Bowl can become part of the playoff, what is the top level of that, and what's your timetable on kind of getting that all hammered out?
COMMISSIONER BOWLSBY: We expect an RFP to go out jointly from the Big 12 and the SEC within the next two weeks. We have seen draft documents, and that would be the RFP for hosting the event. We expect that there will be significant interest in hosting, and we will solicit input and bids from anybody that wants to get involved in it.
And that would include current Bowls as well as those that might get certified, sites that might get certified going forward. If you ask me did I think it would end up residing in one of the existing Bowls, probably, just because they have a lot of advantages.
The other piece of it is the TV elements, and we are pretty far down the path on the television aspects of it. We think it's going to be a terrific game competitively. Aspirationally, we believe this game will be slotted in prime time on New Year's Day, coming on the backside of the Rose Bowl, and we think with those two games in tandem and in consecutive order, that the eyes of the football world will be solidly upon the SEC and the Big 12 on January1st.
And the playoff with having those six games over a two‑day period I think is going to be a wonderful festival of football on December31st and January1st.
So we expect the game can be as big as any game in college football, and that's our aspiration.
Q. In relation to that, how do you describe the neutral stance on playing a national championship game in the Big 12 footprint for the first time since the BCS began?
COMMISSIONER BOWLSBY: I don't know if I completely heard your question. You want to know how we stand on having the game played in the Big 12 footprint?
Well, we think there are some terrific venues in the Big 12 footprint. There isn't any question about it. And one of the things I should interject about the playoff is we didn't‑‑ as much as there's a lot of money involved in this, we didn't adopt the model that would generate the most money. The most lucrative model we believe is playing two games, the semifinals at a neutral site and the championship game at a neutral site.
For obvious reasons, the championship game has to be at a neutral site, just because of the structure of the deal. But we've made sure that the semifinals are going to be in the Bowls on a rotational basis, and I think that's the right outcome.
Where the championship game resides is anybody's guess right now. We are not far enough along to know even how the RFP is going to be structured. Fortunately we've got a couple of years to get it put together.
But I would guess the way we will move down the path is that we're going to identify the first site and then probably identify multiple sites after that, just so somebody can get started in preparation for that first game.
It's been stated that there are a number of sites and hosts within the Big 12 footprint that will have an interest. I haven't had a lot of discussions about the extent of those interests or anything about the finances or any other aspect of the hosting.
And so those kinds of things are premature at this point. But we would certainly like to be in that conversation. And we think given our tradition and history and resources that it's highly likely that occasionally that game, that national championship game, is going to be in our footprint.
Is the geography of it a critical factor? I wouldn't say it's a terribly critical factor. I think it's a made‑for‑TV Super Bowl type of event. And we want to take it to places where fans can come and have a good time and enjoy the game.
But where it's held is not as important as getting the right teams there and making sure we showcase it so that the football fans of America can really enjoy it.
Because I think we listen to that. I wasn't involved in the early stages of the discussion. But I think we've gotten to a four‑team playoff because people were listening to the fans and listening to the players and listening to the folks that need to have input into it.
So we'd love to have it in the Big 12 footprint, and I think it will be on occasion. I don't see it being a permanent site someplace within our footprint or any place else.
Q. You spoke about the venue. (Indiscernible) Alamo Dome and Cowboy Stadium, does that give the Big 12 kind of the upper hand at this point? Speaking of the opportunity that the Big 12 should have that footprint in this area, do you think the Big 12 should be a top dog, should I say, as far as getting the championship series?
COMMISSIONER BOWLSBY: Yeah, I like our chances. I think we don't aspire to be competitive. We aspire to be the best in everything we do. And that's going to be‑‑ that brings with it a measure of aggressiveness that we will bring to everything we're doing, from where we go for our Bowl games to how we position ourselves to compete for the national championship, to hosting and helping to host things within our region.
So I like our position very much, and I like it in the short term and I like it in the long term.
Q. What's your sense of the‑‑ regarding the football playoff, the timetable, what has to happen first in terms of selecting sites, TV contracts, selection committee? How is that going to unfold?
COMMISSIONER BOWLSBY: Well, we've been in a little bit of a position of working behind the scenes right now since the meeting in June where we got the four‑team format put together and announced.
We still have some work to do on revenue sharing and on the selection process. And I think we have frameworks for both of those and Bill Hancock and the staff have been working on it. We've been spending some time on how we go about branding it and structurally putting it together, how we go about bidding both the TV and the sites.
I think the Rose and the Champions, wherever it resides, are both going to be involved in the process. It's our expectation that the Orange Bowl would be as well. But it's unknown who the other three Bowls are going to be at this point in time, so we have to go through that process.
I think most of this will be up and running within the next 60days in terms of at least getting the documents out and beginning the solicitation process.
The thing that's going to make people nervous, I believe, is the designation of the national championship site. And I think that probably has to happen sooner rather than later.
But I would be disappointed if by the first of the year we didn't have a pretty good idea on all the things that I've mentioned and on the site for the first national championship game. And at that point we're still running two years ahead of time. And that gives an organizing committee an opportunity to make sure they get it right. Because that first one's going to be 100 questions that nobody thought to answer.
And so even though that sounds like a long lead time, it's not very long.
Q. Concerning the Champions Bowl, when it was announced, it was a great concept, fabulous thing, it seems like the actual tangible game itself, a lot of teeth is taken out of it by the four‑team playoff. Hardly ever is the Big 12 and the SEC champion going to automatically make it because one or both being in the four teams. Is this more of a symbolic advancement for the Big 12 that you're aligned with the SEC, a conference on the brink of disaster a year ago is now right there shoulder to shoulder with everybody's favorite league?
COMMISSIONER BOWLSBY: Well, it's certainly the most competitive league. I don't know if they're everybody's favorite league (laughter).
But, yeah, I think the Champions Bowl put us on a par with the Rose Bowl, the long tradition that the Big 12 or the Big Ten and the Pac‑12 have had in that bowl.
That's what we want the Champions Bowl to become, and I think we have a great chance to do that. There are going to be years when our champion is not in the top four and we'll play in those years a great opponent in the Champions Bowl. In those years when we move up and out of it and the semifinals are someplace else, we're going to move one of our own teams up into it.
Our runner‑up in the Big 12 and a runner‑up in the SEC is still pretty darned good football game. So there are going to be some years when we meet head to head. There are going to be some years when we don't.
I think that's the same thing could be said about the Rose Bowl. And that's a tradeoff you make when you build a playoff system within the Bowl system.
But I think people were very meticulous in trying to work through and develop a system that would not diminish the tremendous traditions that are in place in the postseason.
I think most of us believe that the Bowl system has been exceedingly positive for college football. And it's because everybody has something to play for late in the season that the regular season is so good.
And so we think the Champions Bowl can be on a par with the very best. But your point is well taken. There are going to be years‑‑ and we acknowledge it‑‑ where our best teams are going to move out in deference to the playoffs.
That's just one of the tradeoffs you have.
Q. Do you think the advent of the four‑team playoff will really slow down expansion or maybe even bring it to a halt until we see how that plays out?
COMMISSIONER BOWLSBY: That's a great question, one that I haven't contemplated, although you've heard me say publicly that I think a period of calm would be highly advantageous for college football and college athletics in general.
Will it have that effect? You know, I think the effect it will have is it will allow everybody to see the cards on the table. I think you'll be able to say here's what we have available to us. Here's how much we can make from it, here's the competitive upsides and downsides, and I think part of the reason for the mad scramble in conference alignment was the fear of the unknown. And I think this diminishes the fear of the unknown. And I think that's a positive thing.
So if I had to take a stab at it, I'd say I think it will have a positive effect. But that remains to be seen.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.