Though Bowlsby has been on the job a very short time, he represents a new beginning for the Big 12. That’s something that was badly needed following two years of conference realignment.
Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri are gone. But West Virginia and TCU have arrived. For now, everything appears stable.
Currie has always believed in the Big 12, and uses an analogy about meat on a grill to describe why he thinks the conference is capable of big things: “We feel like we have got a lot of steak. We just haven’t been able to get the sizzle right at some times.”
Maybe former commissioner Dan Beebe deserved blame for that. Maybe he didn’t. But in Bowlsby, Currie sees a commissioner that “certainly brings both steak and sizzle to our league.”
“He has really done a tremendous job of stepping right in and providing some instant credibility to our league,” Currie said.
Bowlsby hopes he can continue helping the Big 12 as his career moves forward. He has plenty of ideas, and hopes to put them into action. On Friday, he talked about many of his plans and the status of the conference.
On the expansion front, he said the Big 12 still has no immediate plans to pursue other teams. But expansion will always be a subject he discusses during league meetings. How could it not be after the way four teams bolted in the past two years?
Though the Big 12 has no current plans or strategy for expansion, he detailed what the league might look for if that changed.
“This should be a tough fraternity to get into,” Bowlsby said. “We have something that is very good. If we move ahead at some point in time with expansion or affiliate membership it should only be after a well-thought out process and it should be only for the purpose of bringing in somebody that is compatible with the league and brings in great value.”
Of course, some fans will push for the Big 12 to expand because they think more teams will create extra stability. No K-State fan wants to worry about the future of their conference again. I asked Bowlsby what he would say to fans who were fearful about the future in past years. Could he ease their concerns today?
“I don’t know that my telling anyone is necessarily going to put them any more at ease,” Bowlsby said. “… I’m not sure that confidence is as high in the public as it is privately. It’s just going to take some time, both by our comments and our actions. We’ll have to engender confidence. I think we will.
“As we go forward and we complete things such as the Champions Bowl and the grant of rights for our television properties, with each passing decision the confidence level in the external environment will rise. As to the internal environment, I think our representatives from institutions are confident this is a strong, stable, forward-looking group.”
One issue that K-State football coach Bill Snyder would be interested in is the possibility of bringing back the conference championship game. Last year, Snyder said he would be in favor of seeing the Big 12 stick with 10 teams but split off into two five-team divisions with the champion of each meeting in a title game.
NCAA rules stipulate that a conference requires 12 teams to stage a conference championship game, but many believe the Big 12 could appeal that rule and play a title game if it wanted to.
But Bowlsby said it is highly unlikely that the Big 12 will ever play a championship game with 10 members. He likes the round-robin schedule and the true champion it produces much more than the idea of the conference’s top-ranked team losing in the championship game.
“All of a sudden both of your teams become damaged goods,” he said.
“We have a much better path to the playoff than going through a conference postseason championship,” Bowlsby said. “… We would have to get to the point where we satisfied ourselves that having a playoff, however you got there at the end of the year, is a better path than the current one we have.”
Third-tier media rights is also still a hot topic, with the creation of university-owned television channels such as The Longhorn Network and K-State’s subscription-based Internet service. In the past, Texas has tried to televise extra games on its network.
Is that trend likely to continue? Bowlsby doesn’t think so. At least right now.
“Ideally, we would like our partners on the first two tiers to buy more and pay us more money for (those games),” Bowlsby said. “The more we can sell to third-party providers, the better off we are because that enhances distributable revenue.”