Big 12

Big 12 Conference remains patient as key decisions loom

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. (AP Photo/LM Otero) AP

Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby made one thing clear following a meeting with conference athletic directors Thursday: The league’s decision-makers won’t rush into anything as they weigh potential changes such as expansion, a championship football game or television network.

The Big 12 has asked consulting firms to compile data on all three topics and to present them to athletic directors at their spring meetings. Bowlsby told The Eagle it is “reasonable to assume” the conference will be ready to make decisions at some point this summer. Until then, there will only be discussion.

“We have just got to see what the process yields,” Bowlsby said. “I don’t think we are going to jump the gun on that. We don’t currently have the data we need to make the decisions we need to make.

“Assuming we can get all the information we need at our spring meetings, we will chart our course from there. But we haven’t put any timetable on it and I don’t think we could at this point.”

Expansion has once again become a hot-button issue in the Big 12. Oklahoma president David Boren and West Virginia president Gordon Gee have publicly supported adding teams, with speculation that Cincinnati, Connecticut, BYU, South Florida and Central Florida are potential targets.

Boren has also supported the creation of a Big 12 television network, which brings up questions about what to do with the existing Longhorn Network. The league could also choose to bring back a championship football game with or without expansion thanks to new rules that allow conferences to host title games between divisional champions or the top two teams at the conclusion of a round-robin schedule.

Bowlsby said the league’s athletic directors discussed all three topics, and several others, with none dominating the conversation.

“All of those things are interwoven,” Bowlsby said.

Basketball was also discussed. In previous years, Big 12 coaches and athletic directors have expressed desires about rotating the conference basketball tournament between sites in Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Dallas, but that talk has disappeared.

The Big 12 likes its current setup and seems committed to keeping it Kansas City, potentially beyond its current contract that runs through 2020. Bowlsby said a “super majority” of the league supports Kansas City as a host site.

“It has become traditional,” Bowlsby said. “Our games are sold out. It’s a tough ticket. We are hesitant to mess with something that is this successful.”

Now, he hopes the Big 12 can post good results beyond its own tournament.

“We have had a wonderful year in basketball, but we need to finish it off with a strong run in the NCAA Tournament,” Bowlsby said. “It is hard to call yourself the best conference if you don’t go far into March.”

Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett