Scott Dochterman, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa –
Bob Bowlsby’s track record provided the blueprint for his hire Thursday as Big 12 commissioner. As athletics director at two different Iowa universities, Bowlsby also brings familiarity to Iowa State, which senior associate athletics director Steve Malchow deems a plus.
“I think even more than that, both Jamie (Pollard, ISU’s athletics director) and I have a personal relationship with Bob,” Malchow said. “Myself from my time at Iowa, and then for Jamie when we were both at Wisconsin, we both worked with him. We have immense respect for what he has accomplished in his career to this point.
“You could always tell he’s a guy who has big visions and a strategy to get things accomplished, and that’s exactly what our conference needs right now. It’s a perfect match. With the fact that he’s got some background in this state and familiarity with our program and our campus can’t do anything but help.”
Bowlsby, 60, previously served as athletics director at Northern Iowa (1984-91) and Iowa (1991-2006) and recently led Stanford (2006-2012). Bowlsby, a Waterloo native, will start June 15. He takes over for interim commissioner Chuck Neinas, who replaced the ousted Dan Beebe last fall.
Two issues are pivotal to the league’s long-term viability, both now and into the future — television rights and expansion. Last fall eight Big 12 schools pledged a grant of Tier-1 (major network) and Tier-2 (secondary network) television rights to the league for a six-year period. That means the revenue goes to the league first and then is equally distributed among the schools.
“Those are two things that Bob and his team of folks at the Big 12 are going to have to make decision on relatively soon,” Malchow said.
The league has faced major upheaval since 2010. Four league members have left or are leaving for other conferences. The league has added West Virginia and TCU, which begin conference play this fall.
Bowlsby told reporters Friday members are committed to one another and the to league.
“I think the future of the Big 12 is exceedingly bright or I wouldn’t be here right now,” Bowlsby said.
Regarding expansion, Bowlsby said there’s no imminent answer.
“There needs to be carefully formed strategic initiatives to get to a predetermined point (on expansion),” he said. “There isn’t anything magical about getting to 11 or getting to 12. … I don’t think the attainment of a specific number makes sense to us.”
Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis, who also serves as chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, said there’s no consensus on expansion and “there are a lot of variables that need to be considered.”
Bowlsby also dismissed suggestions that he would kowtow to the wishes of Texas. He touted Texas as “a major player” and “an extraordinary athletics program.”
“I haven’t been really good at being a puppet over the years,” Bowlsby said.
“I have been very impressed and fully convinced that the University of Texas will be a great partner for the other institutions of the Big 12.”
Bowlsby’s experience as an athletics director and not purely as a league administrator will help him understand the challenges each school faces, Malchow said.
“Jamie had shared with me that his group of athletics directors at the very start of this process had identified and targeted Bob as the No. 1 candidate,” Malchow said. “I think it’s really valuable for us that Bob had been an AD. He’s been on a campus. He’s run athletics departments. I think that’s a huge asset. He’s got an understanding of the challenges that we have and the needs that we have.”