Big 12 Meetings Kick Off In Arizona

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy got on a plane Tuesday morning, and our sources tell us that Bob Stoops the head coach at Oklahoma got on the same plane. Gundy and Stoops have been known to bend each other's ear on coaching, conference, and NCAA issues. There is at least one Saturday each year they stand toe-to-toe but on many other days and with many other issues they stand side-by-side.

Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder, basketball coach Travis Ford and women's basketball coach Jim Littell were also heading to Arizona for the Big 12 Meetings for athletic directors and the coaches of the major sports of football, men's basketball, and women's basketball.

This is the end of the second year and or the beginning of the third year for Bob Bowlsby as commissioner, depending on how you want to look at it. Bowlsby has gradually worked in some of his initiatives, but this should be a golden time for the conference's chief executive to impact his league.

The schools, athletic directors and coaches should be primed to jump on his agenda items based on all that is going on in college athletics. Of course, Bowlsby needs to listen to his constituents too. Let us start with the concerns of those constituents.

The first would be exposure, Texas isn't worried with the Longhorn Network still in operation, and actually finally growing some. Oklahoma carved out a "sweetheart" deal with Fox Sports Southwest that doesn't bring them the financial windfall that Texas receives, but they get almost as much prime coverage and visibility.

Now the rest of the league is not so fortunate and the other eight schools will be asking Bowlsby to push the agenda. My sources tell me that those other schools keep watching ESPN's humongous campaign for the soon-to-be launched SEC Network and they want some of that.

If not for the major sports of football and basketball then for the Olympic sports, especially baseball, softball, volleyball, and track. Something needs to happen or those sports will be crushed by that SEC signal originating out of the ESPN mother ship.

Along those same lines in partnership with the SEC, there is some discussion about moving the Big 12-SEC Challenge from the preseason in basketball where they go against other challenges like the ACC-Big Ten and the host of preseason and holiday tournaments to inside the conference season. That would give it a marquee in exposure, but it will also make it necessary for both conferences to kick up the start of their conference seasons. The basketball coaches discussion of that topic should be a lot of fun.

Football scheduling also will be a topic. The Big 12 is stuck on nine-game conference schedules with no conference championship game. The coaches like it. It presents a true champion, doesn't always saddle a strong runner-up in the league with a late season loss and that could more easily lead to two teams getting in the playoff.

The Pac-12 plays nine and a championship game, and the Big Ten is going to nine games. The SEC has spoken and its teams will play eight, adding for Alabama, Georgia, LSU, and Florida another spot on the schedule for a rum-dum non-conference opponent. Nick Saban will point to those openers like Michigan two years ago, Virginia Tech, or West Virginia (sure) this season. Look at that nice break inside the SEC season with some of those schools the Tide has played.

Nine conference games trumps eight and a title game anyway you cut it. The message needs to be put out there and the Big 12 coaches will be asking Bowlsby to do just that.

Finally, Bowlsby is an NCAA reformist. He announced that last summer at the Big 12 Football Media Days. Now, with the NCAA looking to really re-write rules and head off the starving of any student-athletes or the unionization of the Texas Tech volleyball team, Oklahoma State equestrian team, or Oklahoma women's gymnastics team much less the football teams in the Big 12, Bowlsby is sure to outline the reformist viewpoints he has and look for support from his constituents. There will be plenty of back scratching in Arizona the rest of this week.

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