In addition to his experience as an athletic director at Northern Iowa, Iowa and Stanford, Bowlsby's long career has included membership on just about every sort of committee in the amateur sports world. He has been the chairman of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball and Wrestling Committees, the chair of the Big 10 Administrator and NCAA Management Council, and chair of selection committees for the Pac-12 conference commissioner and the U.S. Olympic Committee CEO.
He's also on that organization's board of directors, and also served as a member of the NCAA/U.S. Olympic Committee Task Force and Board of Directors. His NCAA experience also includes membership on the organization's committees on Financial Aid and Amateurism, the Special Committee to Review Amateurism Issues and the Special Committee to Review Financial Conditions in Athletics.
Clearly, Bowlsby is not just an administrator with a narrow view. He's worked all angles of NCAA athletics, and that wide range of experience has to help him as he enters a new frontier as a major conference commissioner. However, it's a factor at the basic level of every one of those committee memberships and assignments that give him the foundation to succeed in his new post.
"I think you end up building a lot of relationships," he said when asked to identify the key factor in his career and how it positions him for the future. "When I went into the BCS negotiations, I felt like I had an easier ramp-up because I had worked with Jim Delaney and the Big 10 for 15 years. I had worked with Mike Slive on the basketball committee when I was the chair, and John Swofford and I had worked together.
"I guess if you hang around long enough you build relationships, and I have been blessed and fortunate to hang around long enough to build a lot of those," he continued. "I think it serves well in terms of settling in. I've seen a lot of different circumstances in the business and helped work through them in ways that have been productive."
Of course, such an impressive history means Bowlsby has been around for awhile, but that doesn't figure to impede him as he takes the helm of the Big 12.
"Some of the commissioners now were interns [on the committees]. which made me feel very old," he joked.
Now that he has finished his duties at Stanford and is fully immersed in the Big 12 ("I was carrying two cell phones and two iPads for a while"), his workload might have lessened some, but the importance of the tasks still in front of him and the league haven't diminished. Television contracts need to be finalized and signed, as do the 13-year grant-of rights formal documentation (member schools have agreed to it in principle, but final execution will wait until the TV contracts and new playoff structures are formally approved). There's also the matter of working with the second tier of bowls below the six that will host conference champions and the playoff semi-finals.
"There will be a trickle down effect [on those bowls]. There's no question about that," he confirmed. "If the Champions Bowl is not a national semifinal, the Big 12 representative will move out of that and we'll have to move another team in. That has a trickle down effect on the next bowl, and so on. We'll have a process where we go back and renegotiate those contracts with those bowls, I think. We will work through those in a positive fashion because the league has been a good partner with those bowls for many years. Because of that they are going to want to continue to partner with us. There will be some changes, but I don't think it will damage our relationship."
Once change that likely won't come into play is a reduction or elimination of the requirement for participating schools to buy a minimum number of tickets for a bowl. Bowlsby acknowledges that is an issue for the school, but says it is out of the league's control.
"I don't know that required tickets can be reduced, because that is the bowls' prerogative," he observed. "As much as we collaborate, there are some things that reside with the bowls and that is one of them. But the conference can help mitigate that if someone gets sent somewhere that is not an easy trip. In the conference we have some ways to assist and subsidize that. Obviously, West Virginia will benefit from that approach."
Bowlsby has obviously seen a lot during his career, and he admits, at least indirectly, that the stories behind things such as the BCS negotiations and West Virginia's move to the Big 12 are even deeper than what has been publicly revealed. However, like any savvy negotiator and administrator, he's keeping those items close to the vest.
"You'll have," he said with a laugh and a knowing smile, "to wait for the book to come out."