New Big 12 chief sees commitment from member schools

IRVING -- New Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby was prepared for the avalanche of questions he received Friday morning at the Big 12 office.

He had already asked all of them himself.

During Friday's introduction, he addressed the conference's stability, expansion possibilities and overall status. But before agreeing to become the new Big 12 leader, Bowlsby, 60, conducted his own interviews.

"I came in with some reservations, and those reservations were quickly put to rest," said Bowlsby, the former Stanford athletic director who visited all 10 Big 12 campuses before accepting the job.

"We had some very frank conversations about what the challenges were with the league and what the opportunities are with the league. I came away feeling very good about it."

First off, Bowlsby needed to know the commitment level of the Big 12's institutions.

"I, like many people, had a vision of this conference being unstable," he said. "What I found instead was a group of executive officers that was very committed to each other."

Bowlsby cited the Big 12 schools agreeing to a nine-game conference schedule, as well as a six-year grant of top TV rights to the league, as signs of unity.

Bowlsby is the fourth full-time commissioner for the league, which began play in 1996, following Steve Hatchell, Kevin Weiberg and Dan Beebe (2007-2011). He is replacing interim commissioner Chuck Neinas.

"This is a great day, and we think it is the start of a brand new future for us," said Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis, the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, who introduced Bowlsby. "We were very deliberate and very thorough in this search. We were looking for a leader that we felt could take the Big 12 to the next level in this new era of collegiate athletics.... It deserves a great leader. It has to have a great leader. Bob Bowlsby is that leader."

In his opening statement, Bowlsby joked about the Big 12 having 10 schools, while the Big Ten has 12. But expanding the Big 12 back to 12 is a possibility Bowlsby has already considered.

"I think that expansion will be an ongoing point of consideration for us," said Bowlsby, who has been an athletic director for the past 29 years.

The Big 12 has lost four schools since 2010 -- Colorado, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri. The conference will add TCU and West Virginia this summer, which was a positive sign for Bowlsby.

"I think they are extraordinary additions to the conference that fit hand in glove with what we are trying to do," Bowlsby said. "I think the future of the conference is exceedingly bright."

Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @bshirley08

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