The more Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby thinks about a 10-team conference, the more he likes it.
He also wonders if the conferences that have swelled their memberships will ultimately be content.
“I think it’s fair to say that some that have gotten larger are now wondering if it’s going to be worth it,” Bowlsby said. “There are complexities, especially regarding some scheduling issues, that have really caused some problems.
“In the ACC and SEC there are some institutions that have 100-year histories of playing each other that aren’t going to be playing each other every year. I think the reality of that and the reality of the larger number have kind of sunk in.”
Bowlsby, the former Stanford athletic director who was introduced in May as the league’s new commissioner, visited the Kansas campus Thursday and will be at Kansas State on Friday on his tour of Big 12 schools.
This region will experience a rivalry’s end this year when Kansas and Missouri avoid each other for the first time in more than a century with the Tigers’ move to the Southeastern Conference. Kansas does not want to schedule Mizzou as a non-conference opponent.
Texas and Texas A&M have ended their rivalry for the same reason.
The ACC is about to lose a long-standing rivalry in North Carolina-North Carolina State, at least on a home-and-home basis in men’s basketball. With Pittsburgh and Syracuse joining the ACC next year, the league has assigned one primary scheduling partner.
That means the Tar Heels and Wolfpack will meet home-and-home once every three years. The schools have met at least twice in a season since 1920.
The SEC went through some heated debates about its scheduling after adding Missouri and Texas A&M but agreed to arrangements that preserve such long-standing football rivalries as Alabama-Tennessee and Georgia-Auburn.
As it was last year, its first as a 10-team league, the Big 12 will be the only major conference that has complete round-robin scheduling in football and basketball. Nine football games and 18 basketball games don’t sit well with all coaches, but the league overall was happy with the system.
Realignment has left the Big 12 as the smallest league. The SEC has 14, and the ACC will be there next year. The Big Ten and Pac-12 each have 12 members.
The Big 12 is soon expected to announce a television contract with ESPN that will bring the league’s revenue from that network and Fox to about $2.6 billion for the next 13 years, or about $20 million per school.
That’s another reason Bowlsby likes 10.
“Our distributed revenue is going to be as high as any in college athletics, and with the advent of the Champions Bowl, we’re going to be above most of our competitor institutions,” Bowlsby said. “That’s a benefit of having 10.”
It gets back to scheduling. Playing everybody has meaning beyond selecting a true champion.
“Playing a full round-robin is the most viable way to schedule football, and having a double round-robin in basketball brings us terrific strength when it goes into a selection process. As a former committee member, that’s one of the things we looked at — did everybody else in the league play everybody else, or play everybody twice?”
Expansion will continue to be a front-burner issue, Bowlsby said.
“We have to,” he said. “It gets talked about at every conference meeting, and we have to talk about it, too. But I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with 10, and it needs to be a very high bar if we’re going to take anybody else in. We’re feeling pretty good about 10.”
Bowlsby also said he believes the Big 12 got the better of the membership exchange, bringing in West Virginia and TCU while losing Missouri and Texas A&M.
“We’re also feeling pretty good about the fact we brought in two ranked football teams in exchange for the two that moved out,” he said. “That’s a real source of strength for the Big 12.”