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Bowlsby introduced as Big 12 commissioner, stays mum on expansion

By Bryan Fischer | Blogger

Stanford
athletic director Bob Bowlsby was formally introduced as the Big 12's new commissioner Friday afternoon at the league's headquarters, solidifying the conference's top leadership spot after months in flux.

"We felt he could take the Big 12 to the next level in this new era of collegiate athletics," Big 12 Board of Directors chair and Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis said. "This is a great conference and I think we're proving that, certainly on the fields of battle, and has great institutions. It deserves a great leader, has to have a great leader, and Bob Bowlsby is that leader."

"I have to admit that I came into the discussion with the three presidents whom I met with some apprehension," Bowlsby said. "I had a vision of this conference of being unstable. But what I found instead was a group of chief executive officers that were very committed to one another and very committed to the best principles of collegiate athletics.

"I was very quickly put at ease."

Bowlsby, 60, replaces interim commissioner Chuck Neinas, who took over when Dan Beebe was let go last fall. One of Bowlsby's first duties upon moving to Dallas is to decide if the league should pursue expansion to 11 or 12 members. With the addition of West Virginia and TCU in 2012, the conference has 10 members set for the forseeable future but several Big 12 presidents have pushed to expand for stability.

Industry sources told CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy that if the Big 12 does expand, Louisville would be its first target as a full member and that UL would leave the Big East. The Big 12 also has hopes to try to sway Notre Dame to join the league, either as an all-sports member or just for as an Olympic sports member.

"I'm not going to presume a direction that we will go," Bowlsby said. "I think if you're going to consider expansion, it has to be expansion that has, at its roots, the enhancement of the league. There's nothing magic about 11, 12 or 10. To the extent that we can do things that can advance our agenda, we ought to at least consider that."

After spending last week in Phoenix at both Pac-12 and Big 12 meetings, Bowlsby will also have to get a pulse as to where the presidents stand on a playoff. Coming out of BCS meetings last week were several proposals that the conferences are expected to comment on before some decisions are made in late June.

"It's in its formative stages right now," he said. "The last meeting certainly took some steps forward. I'm looking forward to being engaged in those discussions coming up. I think it would be presumptuous to speculate how it will turn out."

A former college wrestler, the elephant in the room was whether Bowlsby would indeed tussle with the league's heavyweights Texas and Oklahoma. The perception that Beebe was a puppet for the Longhorns led to several fractures in the league and his eventual ouster but the new commissioner dismissed that he would only be doing the bidding of the big schools.

"I haven't been very good at being a puppet," said Bowlsby. "I have found (AD Deloss Dodds and president Bill Powers) to be very thoughtful and very team-oriented in terms of how they view the issues. I asked some probing questions along those lines because the University of Texas is always going to be an 800-pound gorilla in college athletics and that isn't going to change."

Bowlsby has been ahead of the curve in terms of technology and media at Stanford and was influential in the Pac-12 landing their massive new television deals last year. He talked extensively about expanding the Big 12's "electronic footprints" and promoting the image that the conference is one big, happy family.

"I think the Big 12 can do anything the Big 12 wants to do," he said. "There are terrific universities and great sports programs and I think the world is our oyster. The landscape is changing quickly and we're going to have to change with it. I am very excited about the group that we're going to go to battle with."

The first official day for Bowlsby is June 15.
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