KANSAS CITY - New commissioner Bob Bowlsby arrived here Wednesday night for the Big 12's spring meetings. Friday afternoon, he departed for the West Coast to attend Pac-12 spring meetings - one of his final duties as Stanford athletic director.
In between, he sat in on his first meetings with the Big 12's governance groups.
"After these meetings, I'm even more comfortable with my decision," Bowlsby said Friday at a news conference sitting at a dais with Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis, chair of the Big 12 board of directors, and acting commissioner Chuck Neinas. "This conference is solid, stable and excited about the future."
Bowlsby's short-term future will continue the whirlwind in which he has resided since the May 4 announcement that he would take over as commissioner. In addition to moving to Dallas, his official take-over date is some time in June. On July 23, he'll be at Big 12 football media days in Dallas, then make his way to London for the Summer Olympics. Bowlsby is on the United States Olympics committee board of directors.
The Summer Olympics run from July 27 through August 12. Bowlsby doesn't expect to be there the entire time. There's a little matter of he and his wife will be celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary.
"A trip to London is not the most convenient," Bowlsby said with a smile. "All this is good time and not so good timing."
Bowlsby noted that the USOC has gone through turmoil recently, with seven different executive directors over the last 11 years. Bowlsby joins the Big 12 after it has survived two years that saw the departure of four members, the addition of two ... plus the moves that has put the Big 12 in a position of strength.
"We're not gonna get left behind," Bowlsby said. "We're gonna define the agenda. We'll continue to be in the vanguard of major college athletics. When it's right (to expand), we'll know it's right."
The topic of expansion was broached and Bowlsby made the Big 12's philosophy clear: "We should be the hardest fraternity in college athletics to join."
The Big 12 announced that it distributed a record $187 million in revenue. Eight schools received $19 million each. The revenue includes withdrawal fees paid by Missouri and Texas A&M while $10 million went to West Virginia to help it pay its exit fee from the Big East Conference. (By the way: The Southeastern Conference announced revenue distribution Friday that averaged $20 per school.)
A 13-year agreement with FSN for second-tier (cable) rights kicks in starting with the 2012-13 season. The Big 12 is also in the midst of finalizing an agreement for first-tier rights with ABC-ESPN and FOX. Those deals are expected to further enhance the revenues shared with 10 schools a year from now and into the future.
"My sense is that everybody is committed to doing what's best for the conference," he said. "Texas has been vilified as an outlier on this but they've been very magnanimous on everything we've worked on. All this is a continuing effort to make sure our business aspects are maximized."
New Academic Awards
The Big 12 board of directors approved adding a Scholar-Athlete of the Year award plus an academic all-rookie team for all sports. The scholar-athlete award would be selected via a vote by coaches while the rookie academic team will have a minimum level of academic qualifications.
"The Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award was created to recognize those individuals exhibiting academic and athletic excellence," said Big 12 assistant commissioner Dana Scherf. "Although the Conference has several academic honors, currently the awards the coaches vote upon are strictly athletic in nature. This award gives them the opportunity to not only select an individual who is an outstanding athlete in each sport, but also an outstanding student.
"Since the current Big 12 academic awards require a year in residence, the All-Rookie Team was created as a way to recognize those student-athletes who have started their careers with strong showings in the classroom."
The genesis of the awards came from two different groups in the Big 12. Softball and volleyball coaches had discussed a Scholar-Athlete of the Year as some other conferences have it. The all-rookie team came from the Directors of Student-athlete support services.
Kirby Hocutt told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that the mood at the Big 12 meetings this year was considerably different than what he experienced in 2011: "We've got 10 members sitting around the table who are excited to be at that table. It was a very enjoyable 48 hours and definitely had a different feel than this time last year."
There are at least three in-person meetings scheduled this month to discuss what will replace the BCS as college football's championship format. Bowlsby confirmed what was said by everyone associated by the Big 12. "We're committed to the 4-team playoff," he said. "There are structural decisions, selections and sites will all come to closure within the near team. I don't consider the Plus One a compromise but there is room for compromise. The discussions has been in the spirit of doing what's best for college football."
Acting commissioner Chuck Neinas on the playoff debate: "It's unfortunate that it has been cast as a competition. From the beginning, we've had a good exchange of ideas and respect for the other person's opinion. In that spirit, I think we'll find something that is satisfactory. I think a Plus One is a retreat. The four-team playoff was supported by everyone at one time."