John Klein: Big 12 'confident' 10 teams is right number, says commissioner
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Friday, February 22, 2013
2/22/13 at 4:23 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Bowlsby says 10 is 'right size' for Big 12
THE BIG 12 Conference is leaning heavily toward a future with 10 teams, regardless of what happens around it, and it would love to have the option for a championship football game even if the league doesn't want to play it.
"Ten is the right size for us," said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. "We have taken a look at all of the circumstances. We went through the entire process.
"There could be circumstances that change, but 10 is the right position for us. We will be prepared for anything. We won't just wait around and watch. But, we feel confident that 10 is the right number."
Bowlsby spoke to about 600 people at the Hyatt Regency in Tulsa on Thursday as part of the Tulsa Business Forums presented by the Oklahoma State University Spears School of Business.
"All of us are singing off the same sheet of music," said Bowlsby of the Big 12's new spirit of cooperation.
In a wide-ranging interview before his speech, Bowlsby seemed to hint that it would take some major movement for the Big 12 to change its position on size or makeup of the conference.
"I haven't been around (he's been on the job less than a year), but from what I've been told, there hasn't always been this high of trust level among the members as we have now," said Bowlsby, in what most would agree is a major understatement.
In fact, since the mid-1990s the existence of the Big 12 has been in constant doubt because of the unending turmoil with feuding members.
That has dramatically changed in the past year as the league settled comfortably into a renovated 10-team league.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have been saying for months the Big 12 has never been stronger.
At present, there just aren't many options and certainly no motivation to expand or change the membership in the Big 12.
The Big 12 distributed revenues of about $300 million to members a year ago. OU and OSU received roughly $26 million, the highest annual payout of any college athletics conference.
Financial is one of the primary reasons for the rush to conference realignment over the past five years.
It nearly led to the destruction of the Big 12 as recently as 18 months ago, when OU and OSU were rumored to be heading with Texas and Texas Tech to the Pac-12 Conference.
Instead, a deal was reached to keep the Big 12 together and then it was reorganized after losing Missouri and Texas A&M by adding TCU and West Virginia.
After two years in the new configuration there would appear to be little incentive for additional moves.
The 10-team model has provided huge financial payouts for the membership.
In addition, Bowlsby believes the 10-team model provides for adequate competitive advantages, as well.
If Oklahoma State and Kansas State had won late-season football games the past two years, OSU and KSU would have advanced to the national championship games the past two years without a Big 12 Conference championship game.
"I like our path to the (national) championship game," said Bowlsby. "We had teams in a position to play in the national championship game in late November had they won those games."
Bowlsby said Big 12 members would like to have the option of adding a Big 12 championship game, without needing 12 members or two six-team divisions. The league plans to challenge the current rules, which would prohibit a 10-team league from having a championship game.
Yet, he said there are no plans to add a Big 12 championship game. The league simply wants the right to add one if they feel it necessary in the future.
"It simply isn't in our plans right now," said Bowlsby.
OU athletic director Joe Castiglione and OSU athletic director Mike Holder have said in recent weeks that cooperation in the Big 12 has never been higher.
The 10-team model has been wildly popular with all the members.
In addition, the outrage over the Longhorn Network has gone away as individual schools have made deals for third-tier products such as Olympic sports and other television products.
In other words, the Longhorn Network may have been much ado about nothing. That issue, which Texas A&M claims was a major factor in its decision to leave the league, has died out as a wedge issue among members.
Bowlsby said no one should ever say never when it comes to restructure in the Big 12. He knows the future of college realignment has probably not finished.
He believes the idea of four 16-team conferences "was more of a media issue" because he said he has never heard anyone in the actual college athletics business propose such an idea.
He also doesn't believe there is soon to be another rush to expansion, especially among the Southeastern Conference and the Big Ten.
"We're already seeing some issues with the size of conferences," said Bowlsby. "We're seeing some growing pains for those conferences that have undergone recent expansion."
Although conference expansion remains a front-burner issue in the national media, it doesn't appear to be a topic for the Big 12.
Bowlsby confirmed what the Sooners and Cowboys have been saying. Things are fine. The true round-robin schedule is good. Ten is good. The money is good. No need to change.
"There is a robust debate going on out there," said Bowlsby. "We're going to find out if bigger is better."
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks Thursday at the Tulsa Business Forums luncheon. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World