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05-05-12, 10:56 AM #1
FoxSports-Bowlsby New Commissioner ( FSU / Clemson are mentioned as targets) 5/5
Big 12 introduces new commissioner Bowlsby
May 4, 2012
Let's start with Friday morning, when Bowlsby, the newest commissioner of the Big 12 conference, was asked about the Longhorns and — more specifically — their reputation for being, um, less than a team player.
"Well, I guess I would just suggest that you do a little homework on me," Bowlsby replied in a firm tone. "I haven't been good at being a puppet over the years."
What he has been is awfully good at politicking. Bowlsby, the former athletic director at Stanford, Iowa and Northern Iowa, is the consummate glad-hander. He's also a good listener, a master consensus-builder. When it comes to herding cats, Bob's your man.
"Bob has the ingredients to bring people together," offered Wayne Duke, the former commissioner of the Big Ten and Big Eight who's known Bowlsby for almost three decades. "I know Tom Jernstedt, who ran (the men's basketball tournament) for many years as an NCAA executive. And he told me Bob's contributions and his ability to bring people together as a chairman (of the men's basketball selection committee) was one of the real factors in the tournament's continued success."
If you're a fan of the Big 12 — and bless you for hanging in there over the past 30 months or so — Friday was a good day. A very good day, now that you mention it. Bowlsby is one of the most respected administrators in all of college sports, one of the circuit's biggest behind-the-scenes power brokers. The Waterloo, Iowa, native has more connections than Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. When he talks, people listen.
In addition to setting the bar for his work as chair of the NCAA selection committee, Bowlsby's also a member of the United States Olympic committee's board of directors. He helped get the Big Ten Network and Pac-12 Networks off the drawing board and onto their respective runways.
Presidents trust him. Television executives like him. Bowlsby doesn't have the pizazz of the Pac-12's Larry Scott or the chutzpah of the Big Ten's Jim Delany, but he can do the handshake dance as well as both of them.
"He just has a good demeanor, and he still keeps his cool under pressure and just does a good job," noted Dick Schultz, the former executive director at the NCAA and the United States Olympic Committee. "He's also a creative guy, and I think with the way these conferences are moving around, it's going to take somebody that's creative in order to do that job."
Creative and patient. Since 2010 — longer, really — the Big 12 has come off like the ultimate dysfunctional family, a bad reality show. Texas allegedly did what it wanted, when it wanted, and in the process managed to drive Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri away from the flock. From afar, Bowlsby had seen enough episodes of The Real Housewives of Irving (Texas) to be wary when a headhunting pal he knew contacted him on behalf of the league.
"It was hard during the middle of that process to not think, at least in the back of my mind, that it was like rats leaving a sinking ship," Bowlsby said. "But cooler heads prevailed."
That ship is sailing more smoothly again, by all accounts. The league has a six-year grant of rights designed to keep media revenue, and schools, in the fold and on the same page; word on the street is that an extension is probably coming soon. The Big 12 has a $1.2-billion agreement with Fox and is believed to be close to working out a $1.3-billion deal with ESPN.
The addition of Texas Christian and West Virginia brings more beef to the conference's football cache — the tide that lifts all boats these days. With Kansas and K-State on league's the west border and the Mountaineers on the east, it's still a major player in men's basketball.
"I think the public perception is significantly less positive than the private reality," Bowlsby said. "I think we need to go about the process of making sure we shout it from the rooftops — that this a group of 10 schools that are going to do big things, support one another and move forward together."
While we're on the subject of moving forward, one of the hot potatoes that's bound to land on Bowlsby's desk when he reports for duty June 15 is expansion. There've been whispers that the Big 12 wouldn't mind pairing another eastern school with West Virginia. Depending on whom you talk to, the targets range from Louisville and Notre Dame to Clemson and Florida State. The major-college landscape has taken on the law of the jungle, where the only rule seems to be: Kill or be killed.
"There isn't anything magic about getting to 11 or getting to 12 to get to a playoff," Bowlsby said. "I don't think simply the attainment of a number makes any sense for us. We have to add institutions, if we ever do, that are going to specifically fortify (us) and make the sum of the parts exceed the whole."
As for Texas, well …
"It's a big challenge," Schultz said. "I don't know everything they gave Texas to stay, but it seems to me like Texas is probably going to have to be willing to give up some things right now if they're going to be able to attract some other schools."
Yeah. Good luck with that.
"I had a vision of this conference as being unstable," Bowlsby countered. "What I found was a group of CEOs committed to one another, and it very quickly put my mind at ease."
Bowlsby, a former college wrestler and avowed New York Yankees fan, isn't the type who likes to throw his weight behind losing ventures. The Cardinal won 10 NCAA championships during his tenure in Palo Alto. While he was lambasted in some Hawkeye circles for not luring Iowa alum Bob Stoops back to his alma mater, the football hires of Kirk Ferentz in Iowa City and Jim Harbaugh at Stanford both turned into gold.
He's not afraid of bold shake-ups, either. Bowlsby eased out Tom Davis as men's basketball coach at Iowa in favor of up-and-coming Steve Alford, a shift that seemed like a great idea at the time, only to blow up in his face. A decade earlier, he brought Eldon Miller to tiny Northern Iowa, who subsequently led the Panthers to their first NCAA men's basketball tourney appearance in 1990.
As a desk jockey, Bowlsby had few peers. He got Kinnick Stadium renovated, shepherded UNI into the Missouri Valley conference, and booked the Rolling Stones to play in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
Which brings us back to the part about the rain.
Before he got the head job, Bowlsby was UNI's assistant director of athletics for facilities — which meant he coordinated events at the on-campus UNI-Dome, a Teflon-and-fiberglass bubble just a few miles north of Highway 20. The Stones' promoters agreed to turn up for a sold-out concert in November 1981.
The ground was packed with snow — winter had come early, as it usually does in Cedar Falls — and so was the roof of the dome. The heat from all the bodies crammed inside, some 24,000, was so great that water started to actually condense during the show. Before long, it was actually seen dripping from the ceiling.
"I didn't know it rained indoors," Mick Jagger remarked to the crowd.
Hey, in Bowlsby's World, anything's possible. But getting the Longhorns to play nicely with the rest of the kids in the sandbox might be his neatest trick yet.
05-05-12, 06:09 PM #2West Virginia fan (122 points)
- Join Date
- Feb 2012
- Almost Heaven
Good article thanks for posting.
I do think this conference is going to do big things!
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