In Horseshoe Bay, Big 12 head Bob Bowlsby says conference is alive and well

STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO

Horseshoe Bay Sports Club members Brad Goebel (left) and Rudy Davalos (right) welcome Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby as the group's featured speaker May 9. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

Horseshoe Bay Sports Club members Brad Goebel (left) and Rudy Davalos (right) welcome Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby as the group’s featured speaker May 9. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

HORSESHOE BAY — Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby told members of the Horseshoe Bay Sports Club on May 9 not to believe the reports that the conference is on the verge of collapse.

“We really believe the public perception and private reality are two different things,” he said. “Pundits suggest we’re going out of business soon. It isn’t going to happen. We’re doing it the right way. We’re helped by having one of the most-recruited states in the country. Texas, California, and Florida produce as many recruits as the other 47 states combined. Everybody is coming to Texas to recruit.”

Bowlsby touched on a number of topics during his talk and question-and-answer portion that lasted about an hour.

Among the topics were concussions, Baylor University, the football early signing period, and what the NCAA Oversight Committee, of which he is a member, is examining.

Bowlsby noted college sports administrators are experiencing “rapidly changing media” in how people, specifically those who between the ages of 18 and 35, watch and listen to sports. He noted mobile digital distribution is up 300 percent.

“Many of you are getting tutorials from your children and grandchildren,” he said to laughter. “Technology will continue to improve. Television as we know it may be a thing of the past.”

He said the Pac 12 Network, for which he helped lay the groundwork while he was the Stanford University athletics director, has struggled financially, while the SEC Network has been a success, though it has lost some subscribers.

As for the possibility of a Big 12 Network, Bowlsby said there are too many good reasons not to have one right now.

“It gives us flexibility,” he said.

He said each conference member has its own enterprises for presenting their third-tier rights. That means that when ESPN and ABC pass on broadcasting a Big 12 contest, the home and visiting schools can show the game on their own website, pay-per-view channel, or network.

The conference will distribute $34 million in revenue distribution payments to every member except Baylor University in 2017, he said. Baylor is being sued by several women over alleged sexual assaults committed by male student-athletes, according to reports.

Bowlsby said the conference decided to withhold 25 percent of Baylor’s future revenue distribution payment share until an outside review determines that the university and athletic department are complying with Title IX guidelines and other regulations.

Baylor has received $10 million of the $34 million already, so the Big 12 will withhold $6 million of the remaining $24 million.

The commissioner didn’t want to guess on what would happen to Baylor beyond the revenue distribution.

“The (Big 12 board of directors) will consider scenarios at some time,” he said. “I don’t want to speculate on what the options are. The NCAA will do an investigation. That likely will be when penalties come.”

The Big 12 Conference will end the 2017 season with a conference title game to provide that 13th data point or game the College Football Playoff Committee wants to see.

Bowlsby said adding the title game will give the conference 10 more percentage points toward earning a Big 12 member one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff because it features the league’s best two teams after a round robin during the regular season.

“We went through a long data analysis,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re making decisions based on facts. We ran 40,000 season scenarios. We found playing a full round robin is by far the best way to demonstrate the full strength of conference.”

He added that while having a conference title game is the right thing to do, no conference has suffered more from it than the Big 12 regarding the number of upsets the favorite has experienced in a title game, keeping it out of the national championship game. The Big 12 had a title game from 1996-2010 until it went from having 12 members to 10 members. The NCAA made a rule change that allowed conferences with 10 members to conduct an end-of-year conference championship contest.

Bowlsby ended his talk by answering questions on the early signing period for high school football players and concussion research.

On May 8, the NCAA voted to allow an early signing period Dec. 20-22, 2017, for high school football players, something other sports have enjoyed for some time.

Bowlsby said the reason the NCAA approved an early signing period for high school football players is because its data indicated most athletes know in October where they want to play college football.

The commissioner also noted the NCAA and NFL are spending money in concussion research. The NFL is spending $5 million in helmet and head protection research, while the NCAA and the U.S. Department of Defense are conducting a joint research project for $30 million.

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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