The Big 12 got lucky.
Somehow, the once-fractured league enticed Bob Bowlsby to be its commissioner. The guy is no empty suit. The current Stanford AD is an Olympic committee member. Some think he was being groomed to one day take over for Jim Delany in the Big Ten. He knows expansion (having helped the Pac-12) through it and he knows TV (the Pac-12 achieved a monster deal last year). The fact that Bowlsby took the Big 12 job is a huge indicator that the league has achieved stability.
While those around him here this week at the Big 12 spring meetings continue to deny any plans to expand, Bowlsby has yet to weigh in. He takes over in June for acting commissioner Chuck Neinas. In place will be 10 happy schools and – coming soon -- a lucrative 13-year TV contract.
CBSSports.com caught up to Bowlsby prior to the conclusion of Friday's BCS spring meetings in Kansas City.
CBSSports.com: Are there steps that have to be taken toward expansion?
Bob Bowlsby: “I don't know if that will be the case. We have a membership/expansion committee. It's a standing committee. I'm sure we'll have some conversations. Until the BCS situation is known we're not going to do anything very active. I think we're well advised to see some more of the cards.”
CBSSports.com: Does the conference have a stance on a playoff? No campus sites?
Bowlsby: “We'll probably coalesce around some concepts at the meeting. Chuck (Neinas) and I have talked about it a little bit. I certainly don't have a perspective as to how each institution would feel about it. I really don't feel comfortable talking about it until I've heard everybody's perspective.”
CBSSports.com: Would you have foreseen a playoff two years ago? One year ago?
Bowlsby: “I think it has happened fast. There has been a hue and cry from the public. To some extent everybody that's involved has always listened to it but hasn't felt like there was that critical mass to get there among the coaches and ADs and the CEOs and commissioners. But I sense that changed over the last 12 months. I was looking at it from an AD standpoint a few months ago.
“It was interesting when the P-word [playoff] started to come out of some of the commissioners' mouths … There are probably lots of imperfect solutions out there. We're probably going to have to adopt one that's not perfect for everyone. There's been a lot of give and take already. I suspect there will be more going forward.
“I have worked a lot with [Big Ten commissioner] Jim Delany, I had a hand in bringing Larry Scott to the Pac-12. [SEC commissioner] Mike Slive and I worked on the basketball committee together. We have known each other for many years. Same for [ACC commissioner] John Swofford. At least I come into with the relationships necessary to have good discussions, to add lots of ideas without lines being drawn in the sand.
CBSSports.com: Did we get to this point for a playoff because of death by a thousand paper cuts for was it 2 or 3 monumental things?
Bowlsby: “Sometimes a concept's time has come. Maybe it was just as simple as that. There probably was a tipping point in there that presidents and groups … a little larger percentage of them got comfy with it. The pendulum swung the other direction.
“There's always been a lot of money in it. I think it's always easier to move to something you haven't tried before. This is going to be imperfect too. There is always going to be someone on the outside looking in, believing they deserve a crack at it. Anybody who thinks this is going to make the controversy go away is sadly mistaken I believe.”
CBSSports.com: Will there be less complaints about the postseason?
Bowlsby: “Time will tell. That's why every solution has its flaws. It's a matter of whose ox gets gored.
CBSSports.com: How do the commissioners manage that?
Bowlsby: “Is it any more difficult to explain how we got to where we got to in the past 14 years? Nothing we do is going to make all that controversy go away. There's always going to be that human element to it. There's a fair amount of subjectivity in any method you want to design.”
CBSSports.com: If this TV deal wasn't in place, would you have taken this job?
Bowlsby: “The negotiation of TV rights and packaging and all of those kinds are sum and substance of things conference commissioners do. I came into it with my eyes wide open. I came into it as a participant in the process.
“I wasn't particularly daunted by the prospect nor am I discouraged by not being in the middle of it.”
CBSSports.com: At least there is perception of stability
Bowlsby: “I think they're looking to me to contribute to that stability as well. I hope I can do that.
CBSSports.com: What would your leadership be in any expansion talks?
Bowlsby: “I'm going to have to be a real good listener. I haven't had the opportunity to have thorough conversations with any of the stakeholders. I don't come in with any preconceived notions. There are a lot of advantages to 10 to all other numbers as well.
CBSSports.com: Is there a cap number? Is 14 too many? 12 enough?
Bowlsby: “It's more art than science. Each situation is different.”
CBSSports.com: During this interim period how are you involved in talking about revenue sharing, access points, all the things that are going to go into it?
Bowlsby: “I've got 2 cell phones and 2 email accounts. All four are active.”