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Bob Bowlsby to Step Away from Role as Big 12 Conference Commissioner

April 5, 2022
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Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced today that he will step away from the Commissioner's chair later this year after a decade of leading the league and securing its long-term future as one of the five major collegiate athletics conferences. Bowlsby, a steady, influential voice for intercollegiate athletics, will remain Commissioner of the Big 12 until the appointment of a new Commissioner and will then, at the request of the Conference, transition to a new interim role with the Conference, subject to the mutual agreement of Bowlsby and the new Commissioner.

"After more than 40 years of serving in leadership roles in intercollegiate athletics, including the last 10 with the Big 12, and given the major issues that college sports in general and the Big 12 specifically will address in the next several years, I have reached a natural transition point in my tenure as Commissioner, as well as in my career," said Bowlsby.

"The Big 12 will soon bring in our four new members and negotiate a new grant of rights and media rights agreements. I truly believe the Big 12 and our member institutions are in a strong position now and as we look into the future. As such, this is an appropriate time for me to step away from the Commissioner's role so that the next leader of the Conference can take the reins on these significant matters that will come to the forefront before the end of the term of my employment agreement in 2025 to set the stage for the Big 12's future ongoing success."

Bowlsby was appointed Commissioner in 2012, and under his watch, the Big 12 has seen tremendous growth in its national brand, television exposure, distributable revenue for its member institutions, and competitive success. Most recently, he guided the Big 12's addition of four future members, with BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati, and Houston agreeing to join the Conference no later than the 2024-25 academic year.

Over his tenure, the Big 12 has won 25 NCAA team national championships, including last night's men's basketball title game victory by the University of Kansas. In 2020-21 the Big 12 captured 5 NCAA team national championships, including a Baylor University men's basketball title. Also, for four consecutive years, the Big 12 has placed men's basketball teams in the Final Four. In football, the Big 12 has placed teams in the College Football Playoff New Year's Bowls throughout its seven-year history. The Big 12 is the home of two of the last five Heisman Trophy winners and was the only Conference to place a team in the Final Four and CFP semi-finals in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

"On behalf of the Big 12 Conference, I want to extend my sincere appreciation to Commissioner Bowlsby for his outstanding leadership over the last decade," said Chair of the Big 12 Board and President of Texas Tech University, Lawrence Schovanec. "Bob has consistently driven distributable revenue growth for the Conference's member institutions, has stood strong during turbulent times in the world of collegiate sports, has led innovation within collegiate athletics, and has worked tirelessly to ensure the stability and future of the Big 12 Conference. Bob's leadership contributed to the opportunities afforded to our students and their success beyond their athletic experiences. The Conference will continue to excel, and we are confident of an even brighter future. I appreciate that during this transition, Bob will continue to be a trusted resource for the Conference in whatever appropriate role on which he and the new Commissioner mutually agree."

The Conference is interviewing and engaging an executive search consulting firm to assist it in an extensive national search process for the new Commissioner, which will begin in the next few weeks.

As one of the first achievements during his tenure with the Conference, Bowlsby finalized a 12- year comprehensive media rights agreement with ESPN and FOX Sports, one of the most lucrative television deals in college athletics. Subsequently, he oversaw the expansion of the ESPN relationship with the 2019 debut of the Big 12 Now digital distribution platform on ESPN+, on which hundreds of additional Big 12 sporting events and original programming are distributed annually on a worldwide basis. Bowlsby played a key role in the formation of the College Football Playoff that began in 2014-15, the first postseason playoff in the history of Collegiate Football. Additionally, under his leadership, the Big 12 Football Championship Game was reinstated beginning in 2017.

In 2014-15, the Big 12 introduced "State of Collegiate Athletics" forums to examine some of the pressing issues that college athletics is facing. Seven events were conducted in cities across the nation, with panelists of respected experts addressing topics such as "Race and College Athletics," "ESports on Campus," and "Where Do We Go From Here: The Future of College Sports." The award-winning Big 12 Champions for Life program, another initiative of the Conference that is now in its seventh year, has featured more than 400 students and alumni from its members' sports programs in a series of public service announcements highlighting the positive impact of athletics scholarship on their stories of personal growth and success.

On the national stage, he served as a member of the United States Olympic Committee from 2007 to 2014, is a member of the NCAA Presidential Task Force on Federal and State Legislative Issues, and has testified in Congressional hearings on numerous matters relating to collegiate sports. He has served on the NCAA Men's Basketball Committee, including serving as Chairman for the 2004 tournament in San Antonio and the 2005 tournament in St. Louis. He was appointed to the inaugural NCAA Division 1 Council in 2015 and served as chair of the Football Oversight Committee, which oversees all aspects of collegiate football and reports directly to the NCAA Division 1 Council. He also has served in leadership positions on numerous other NCAA committees and task forces.

Prior to his role at the Big 12, Bowlsby spent six years as the Athletics Director at Stanford University, preceded by a 15-year stint as the AD at the University of Iowa and seven years in that role at the University of Northern Iowa.

The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics named Bowlsby as a regional AD of the year in 2001-02. The Sports Business Journal then selected him from the four regional award winners as its National Athletics Director of the Year, which celebrates the commitment and positive contributions to campuses and their surrounding communities made by the recipients of this prestigious award.

"I have been honored to serve the Big 12 Conference membership, and I am tremendously proud of the incredible professionals in the Conference office and in the extraordinary coaches and athletics departments of our member institutions with whom I have worked to serve the student-athletes who participate in our member's sports programs," said Bowlsby. "When my transition is complete, I will miss the daily interaction with these wonderful colleagues and with the student-athletes but will welcome the opportunity to spend more time with my wife, my children, and my ten grandchildren. I have consistently sought to align my professional actions with the best principles of higher education and intercollegiate athletics. Now, I look forward to the next chapters of my personal and professional activities and, as I do so, I am very confident in a vibrant, highly competitive, and prosperous future for the Big 12 Conference."

Discussion from...

Bob Bowlsby to Step Away from Role as Big 12 Conference Commissioner

3,835 Views | 37 Replies | Last: 2 mo ago by Beverly Hills Bear
SMack
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I don't know how we will survive without the steady hand and wise leadership of Bob Bowlsby.
whitetrash
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parch
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I think history will judge Bowlsby as a severely mediocre commissioner and a weak leader, but he deserves a lot of credit for not just keeping the Big 12 afloat after OUT but unarguably improving it from a competitive perspective. That'll be part of his legacy too.
BellCountyBear
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TxRainMkr
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Good Riddance!
Bigkahunaww
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Well""…………………….Bye !
Living the American dream in central Texas !
jdrs
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Woo Hoo! More good offseason news!
CizzLark
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Ding dong the witch is dead (figuratively)
boognish_bear
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I think he "stepped away" about august of last year.

Once mommy and daddy left for the SEC he had no purpose
Doc Holliday
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What the hell do these commissioners even do?

Do they Rubber stamp everything, hand out trophies and hang on to money for too long?
SMack
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I wonder if he is "stepping away" so he can go to work for UT and/or OU to help with their transition to the SEC.

It has always been my opinion that he was doing the bidding of OU and UT; so when their departure became public, he should have been escorted out of Big XII HQ, and his email and all other electronic access should have been deactivated.

I give him little credit for choosing which teams to invite. Cincy, BYU, and UCF were fairly obvious, so the only hard choice was probably Houston vs Memphis. That decision may have been close, but it doesn't take a millionaire commissioner to figure it out.

The only thing he did that may have actually accomplished anything is threaten ESPN with legal action to stop their meddling.
BluesBear
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and he is stepping into another role? What is that role - can we share ? What's the salary? Just ridiculous. He did zero for this conference so stop giving him credit for stuff that the school did outside of his stupidity...
JP1037
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Stepping away or asked to step away?

"Bob it's time, but we want you to retire with dignity. Yada yada."
atomicblast
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The guy who was Texas's stool pigeon is leaving when they leave? You dont say?!
PartyBear
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You have to admit he did a good job for the conference since July of 21 and I'm a Bowlsby critic.
Robert Wilson
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Bowlsby can eat a bag
bear2be2
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PartyBear said:

You have to admit he did a good job for the conference since July of 21 and I'm a Bowlsby critic.
I agree. Bowlsby was largely asleep at the wheel before the OUT debacle, but he did a good job in the aftermath to help the Big 12 not only survive, but lay the groundwork for a sustainable, promising future. His legacy as the Big 12 commissioner is a very mixed one IMO.

I think the one thing his pre-OUT "leadership" showed us is that a league and its commissioner must serve all of his member institutions to have any sort of healthy path forward. Once you start kowtowing to one or two members and giving them outsized influence over the others, you're no longer a conference. You're a marriage of convenience that will be broken as soon as that convenience ends.

Part of that, too, though is that the schools themselves need to view and treat themselves as equals. That was one of the Big 12's big problems is that no one wanted to ruffle OUT's feathers, so we spent two decades trying to appease them, often voting against our own self interests in the process. And to what end? While not nearly as serious, there are parallels that can be drawn to the Big 12's failed appeasement plan with OUT and the western world's treatment of Putin. We spent decades appeasing him to try to stave off the exact outcome we would ultimate arrive at anyway. In both cases, everyone would have been far better off acting for the greater good than pretending they could control egomaniacal bad actors with their inaction or appeasement.
Grumpy
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6 months from now: "Bowlsby announced as new executive Vice President and Advisor to the AD at UT."
Stefano DiMera
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He cost the conference millions with his refusal to name a champion I'm 2014..like the playoff committee in a million years would have taken both us and TCU.
Stefano DiMera
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Names to look for..WVU AD Shane Lyons..he was associate commissioner of ACC...Alabama AD Bill Byrne...and Oliver Luck.
ImABearToo
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Don't leave with our money Bobby Boy. Cash, check, money order, Western Union….just pay us sir.
“Life is short, eat desert first!”
bear2be2
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Stefano DiMera said:

He cost the conference millions with his refusal to name a champion I'm 2014..like the playoff committee in a million years would have taken both us and TCU.
Neither one of us were ever making the playoff over Ohio State, whether Bowlsby had played that differently or not. The bogus 13th data point argument has nothing to do with us being co-champs.
BluesBear
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Hard pass on Oliver Luck.....
Timbear
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It never seemed like Bowlsby was representing and working for the benefit of All the teams in the Big 12.
CorsicanaBear
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Glad the Commissioner for UT and, to a lesser extent, OU is leaving. I wonder what kind of sinecure UT will offer him for his years of service.

Hopefully we can now hire someone who will work for the conference as a whole and work for the good of all the programs. As mentioned above the WVU AD does not move the needle, what great things has he done for that program? Ditto for Luck who's last outing was the hyped but quickly ill fated Alliance of American Football. He was touted as the guy who could make it go.

The most important aspect of this job is the ability to negotiate contracts with media outlets and keep the conference together in these deals without carveouts (I'm thinking BYU here). SEC and B1G prove a united front wins. Who can do that?
Robert Wilson
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Timbear said:

It never seemed like Bowlsby was representing and working for the benefit of All the teams in the Big 12.
He was serving UT and to an extent OU until they announced their departure. Then he hustled ("gentlemen, we have to save our phony boloney jobs! harumph harumph harumph!") when they cut out the back door without telling him. Hurt his feelings and everything.
bear2be2
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Robert Wilson said:

Timbear said:

It never seemed like Bowlsby was representing and working for the benefit of All the teams in the Big 12.
He was serving UT and to an extent OU until they announced their departure. Then he hustled ("gentlemen, we have to save our phony boloney jobs! harumph harumph harumph!") when they cut out the back door without telling him. Hurt his feelings and everything.
I didn't get a harrumph outta you!

I basically agree with you on this, but I do think he deserves some credit for his post OUT leadership. It took losing his golden ticket to start acting for the good of the league, but he did some strategic things that really changed the trajectory and perception of Big 12 for the better in the weeks and months that followed the blue bloods' exodus.
Baylorbears111
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Stefano DiMera said:

He cost the conference millions with his refusal to name a champion I'm 2014..like the playoff committee in a million years would have taken both us and TCU.


1. The conference coaches voted for split titles at the start of that season. More chances for a bonus by being able to claim "conference champion".
2. Because of that vote, Bowlsby's hands were tied. He can't impartially represent all the interests of the conference if he starts advocating for Baylor over TCU, when both are legally champions and both are close to getting into the playoffs.
3. Bowlsby did a poor job advocating for the Big 12 overall and it was rare that he would be turned to for marching orders for the college landscape. He was not respected as a leader, and for good reason.
Robert Wilson
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bear2be2 said:

Robert Wilson said:

Timbear said:

It never seemed like Bowlsby was representing and working for the benefit of All the teams in the Big 12.
He was serving UT and to an extent OU until they announced their departure. Then he hustled ("gentlemen, we have to save our phony boloney jobs! harumph harumph harumph!") when they cut out the back door without telling him. Hurt his feelings and everything.
I didn't get a harrumph outta you!

I basically agree with you on this, but I do think he deserves some credit for his post OUT leadership. It took losing his golden ticket to start acting for the good of the league, but he did some strategic things that really changed the trajectory and perception of Big 12 for the better in the weeks and months that followed the blue bloods' exodus.
I agree with that. I'm just doing so begrudgingly because his pre OUT pattern of behavior was so galling.
ScottS
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ImABearToo said:

Don't leave with our money Bobby Boy. Cash, check, money order, Western Union….just pay us sir.

We should sue him.
TellMeYouLoveMe
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Still trying to understand how a sports conference commissioner is worth $2 million per year.

The guy was a scumbag. F him and his Stanford bureaucrat attitude,
Stefano DiMera
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We've already been paid back.
ScottS
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Stefano DiMera said:

We've already been paid back.

Not the interest. They kept it.
Stefano DiMera
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Technically it was divided to the other schools to fund sexual violence programs.
TellMeYouLoveMe
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Stefano DiMera said:

Technically it was divided to the other schools to fund sexual violence programs.
And LGBT initiatives.

All the while the president of Oklahoma was acting the pedo with his interns.

The conference was corrupt. Until that changes, it doesn't bode well.
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