Much like a closely followed celebrity, the Big 12 Conference basks in the sunlight of collegiate sports, marked by rumors of expansion and new additions.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, former Commissioner Dan Beebe and Deputy Commissioner Tim Weiser addressed conference realignment, NCAA postseason changes and the future of the Big 12 at a panel Tuesday.
Bowlsby, who was named full-time commissioner in May 2012, was riding a golf cart to and from work as athletic director at Stanford University when he was offered the commissioner position. Taking the reins of a conference in the midst of realignments that included losses of Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M and the addition of TCU and West Virginia was his challenge.
Bowlsby said the conference will tend to geographic challenges in the upcoming season by strategically scheduling games to accommodate teams that may have to travel further.
“Geography still matters and one of the things that’s gone by the wayside during the course of this expansion is a lot of the traditional rivalries,” Bowlsby said. “You can imagine how people would feel if we went to 16 teams if it meant Texas and OU wouldn’t play each other one year.”
Expanding the conference to potentially include 12 teams is not something the Big 12, despite its name, is currently focused on, Bowlsby said.
“There are a lot of strengths in smaller numbers, and we’re going to be thoughtful about it,” Bowlsby said. “We’re ten for a considerable decision to stay [at] ten, and I expect that until we’re persuaded otherwise, that’s where we’ll stay.”
Weiser, who took on his current role after seven years as athletics director at Kansas State University, said missed classes for student athletes and tough travel times are issues that continue to be smoothed out.
“With TCU, integration has been fairly predictable and fairly smooth,” Weiser said. “With West Virginia, I’m not sure we’ve gotten to a place that we’ve successfully answered those challenges.”
Beebe, who served as commissioner from 2007 to 2011 and departed as the conference sought to stabilize itself during realignments, said the connection between students and alumni is a consideration for teams as they decide to stay or switch conferences.
“I think when you detach institutions from the place where they primarily get their students and where their alumni go to live and work, it’s never a comfortable situation,” Beebe said.
The panel also discussed the addition of a four-team playoff in the postseason of college football, which was approved in June 2012 and will start in 2014.
“We’ve been able to embrace the best characteristics of the bowl system, and I think the four-team playoff with a selection committee is the right way to do that,” Bowlsby said. “We still have some things to work out, but I think this playoff format has a chance to be a great thing for the players and the institution.”