Bob Bowlsby, one of the most respected athletic administrators in the nation, was named the fourth full-time Commissioner of the Big 12 Conference on May 4, 2012. The hire was praised throughout college athletics circles as yet another step in the continuing strength and stability of the Big 12.
In his short time with the Conference, Bowlsby secured one of the most lucrative television deals in college athletics and played a key role in the formation of the College Football Playoff that will begin in 2014-15, the first postseason playoff in the history of the sport. He also finalized a partnership with the Southeastern Conference in which both leagues’ champions will meet each year in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in addition to confirming the league’s other bowl partnerships, giving the Big 12 some of the premiere postseason destinations in college football.
Improved scheduling has been another priority under Bowlsby which resulted in a men’s basketball Big 12/SEC Challenge that was staged for the first time in 2013-14.
In his first two years, Bowlsby has seen six national championships added to the Big 12 trophy case and 38 NCAA individual crowns. Eight additional conference squads finished as runner-up in NCAA competition and three football teams competed in BCS games.
Bowlsby has been at the forefront of change in collegiate athletics as NCAA schools revise and establish new governance rules that will oversee and guide all of college sports. He also led the Big 12 Conference to record revenue amounts in 2013-14, with a record $220.1 million - $8.1 million more than projected – recorded.
Prior to his role at the Big 12, Bowlsby spent six years directing a Stanford University athletics department that sponsors 35 varsity sports and claimed an unprecedented 17 consecutive Learfield Sports Directors Cups, emblematic of the top overall athletics program in the country. The department maintained an annual budget of $75 million.
Bowlsby arrived at Stanford after a 15-year stint as the chief administrator for the University of Iowa Department of Athletics. In his final four years, he guided and supervised the merger of the Hawkeye men’s and women’s athletic departments that included 24 varsity sports.
Throughout his career, Bowlsby has emerged as a national leader in intercollegiate and amateur athletics. He was appointed to the United States Olympic Committee Board of Directors in 2007 and completed that term at the 2014 Winter Olympiad in Sochi, Russia. In 2002, President George W. Bush chose Bowlsby to be a member of the Commission on Opportunities in Athletics.
Bowlsby has previously served as president of the NCAA Division I-A Athletics Directors’ Association, chair of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee (2003-04, ’04-05) and chaired the NCAA Management Council. In addition, he has also chaired the NCAA Wrestling Committee, served on NCAA committees on Financial Aid and Amateurism, the Special Committee to Review Amateurism Issues and the Special Committee to Review Financial Conditions in Athletics.
The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) named Bowlsby in 2001-02 as Central Region Athletic Director of the Year and Sports Business Journal selected him from the four regional award winners as the National Athletics Director of the Year. The award highlights the efforts of the athletic directors for their commitment and positive contributions to campuses and their surrounding communities.
Before his stint overseeing the Hawkeye athletic department he served in the same role for seven years at the University of Northern Iowa. A native of Waterloo, Iowa, Bowlsby was named to that post in 1984. He was previously in the role of Assistant Athletic Director for Facilities at the school.
Bowlsby earned his bachelor’s degree from Minnesota State University (Moorhead) in 1975 and his master’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1978. In February 2013, he was named to the NCAA 40th Anniversary Tribute Team, which recognized the 40th anniversary of NCAA Division II competition. He was a four-year letterwinner in wrestling at MSUM and served as captain during his senior year when he won a NSIC title, and in 2013 he received the Alumni Achievement Award. Bowlsby was inducted into the Dragon Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 and the University of Northern Iowa Hall of Fame in 2007. He also serves on the National Advisory Board of the Positive Coaching Alliance and the Board of the National Football Foundation.
Born on January 10, 1952, Bowlsby has been married to his wife, Candice, for 36 years and they have four children and three grandchildren.