Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

July 24, 2012

Big 12 commish is satisfied with 10 schools ... for now

DALLAS — With the Big 12 Conference welcoming two members in West Virginia and Texas Christian University, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Monday that expansion of the conference will stop there — at least for the near future.

Addressing members of the media at the Big 12 Football Media Days in Dallas, Bowlsby said he’s happy with the state of the conference with its new members, West Virginia and Texas Christian University, and that the view is shared throughout the league.

“This is a group of 10 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,” Bowlsby said. “Now having said that, expansion is on every conference’s list of discussion items — I don’t think we can 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,” Bowlsby said. “We believe it should be the toughest fraternity in the country to join and the only people who have the chance to join would bring something very substantial.”

The coaches who spoke Monday at the Big 12 Football Media Days echoed the commissioner’s sentiment on the stability of the conference.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s a great league. ... To me everything is a positive and shows great stability,” Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops said. “And the quality of teams shows great strength.”

The addition of West Virginia and TCU — each of which won a conference championship last year — makes for three reigning conference champions, including Big 12 champions Oklahoma State, taking to the field for the Big 12 Conference this fall.

“We have the uniqueness this year of starting the season with three conference champions in our league,” Bowlsby said. “I don’t know that that has ever happened in the history of college football.”

With the teams fielded in the league, Bowlsby said, he’s happy with the round-robin scheduling for the conference — both in football and basketball — as it will define a regular season champion with each team playing one another.

“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 (which begins in 2014),” Bowlsby said. “It’s obviously a valuable pathway given the playoff structure going forward.”

With the conference looking to finally be stabilized after the exodus of Missouri and Texas A&M over the summer — and Nebraska and Colorado the year before — Bowlsby said talks of television rights are advancing.

“We’ve been working on our television package. It is not finished ... It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of pushing and shoving,” said the Big 12 commissioner who took over on July 1. “As much as we’d like to hold hands and move forward together, we don’t all agree on everything all the time. So we still have some work to do. But I don’t have any question that we’ll have a complete media document before too long.”

Bowlsby, who helped finalize television rights for the Pac-12 while he was an athletic director at Stanford, said the Big 12 has a unique situation with television rights due to third-tier television rights available for universities — such as the Longhorn Network at Texas.

“It’s one of the things we are continuing to work our way through during the course of the (television) negotiations,” Bowlsby said. “Our model is very unique ... this is a way to monetize those. We also think there is an opportunity for institutional exposure that is substantial.”

While the third-tier television rights may lead some universities to increased revenue, Bowlsby stressed the league is at a point where revenue sharing is equal among the 10 league members.

“We are in a period of equal revenue sharing,” he said. “That doesn’t mean institutions are able to go off and do their own work and put their own packages in place, but generally speaking, on the largest part of our television and distributable revenue, we are dividing things equally — which is the first time we have done that. It’s a process that will yield good stability over a good period of time.”

Bowlsby also made a surprise announcement to honor Chuck Neinas, who served as an interim conference commissioner while ushering in West Virginia and TCU. The annual award for Big 12 Conference Football Coach of the Year, which was won by Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy in 2010, will be known as the Chuck Neinas Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year Award.

“I always thought I was the best coach, so I guess I deserve this,” Neinas said of the honor. “But it’s an honor which I will cherish.”

— Jason Elmquist is Stillwater NewsPress sports editor.

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