Big 12 Commissioner Hints At League Set-up For 2017 Season

When Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby opened the conference's media days on Monday, he delved into a series of topics - including how the league might look at the start of next season.

Besides the Baylor issues, and how they affect the conference - which Bowlsby discusses in the video above - no single aspect of the conference was more heavily discussed than the potential realignment into divisions and the set-up of the championship game. Bowlsby reiterated that round robin play, and the fact the league is the only one in the Power Five in which every member plays all others every season, was the most challenging way to crown a champion. That written, the commissioner also said that adding the 13th data point, or championship game, to the conference was a must, and should add to the portfolio as a whole as factored in to the College Football Playoff race.

The Big 12 has made no announcement regarding what teams will fall into which divisions, but Bowlsby gave a few hints as to how that decision will be made. First, he said that the Big 12 "will probably end up playing divisions; I think our two champions of those divisions will end up likely playing each other in the championship game and I think we will definitely play the game at a neutral site."

Whenever a commissioner makes those kinds of statements, it's a near-certainty all will happen. Bowlsby said the Big 12 has put an RFP process together and is looking at bids from different cities. It also has a subgroup of three Athletic Directors (no names were revealed) which will spearhead the process and advise the other seven ADs, with any final outcomes being voted upon by the Big 12 board. Bowlsby said he would like to have answers to those questions by late November, and begin to finalize broadcast rights with contractual partners in Fox and ESPN.

"ESPN and Fox both have the obligation and the prerogative to host the games," he said. "I believe Fox hosts on the odd years and ESPN on the even years, but those are ongoing. We don't have those finalized yet. We've asked for a game time that's been 11 a.m. central and 7 p.m. central kick-off, which is the window that we have for Saturday football games."

Bowlsby said there was considerably "less enthusiasm" for sticking with the current format and simply rematching the top two finishes in league play. He also mentioned trying to avoid consecutive-week rematches, as would have happened last season when Oklahoma-Oklahoma State would have met in the regular season finale for Bedlam, then played again the next week in the Big 12 title game.

"I think we could do a geographic designation of some sort, (but) that gets a little bit difficult going east/west or north/south, and oftentimes those don't make sense," he said of the divisional alignment. "The other thing we have to overlay is traditional rivals. How you do that and how you separate the? One of the things we would like to do is avoid late-season rematches if we can. So as you look at divisions, you want to try and be thoughtful about the rivalry games, because you don't want (rematches).

"Had we had a championship game last year, it would have been a rematch of Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, and it would have been a week after they had just played. That's happened some. In the Pac 12 I know that Stanford and UCLA played each other on consecutive weeks a few years ago, but it's not ideal. If we can figure out a model that would allow the divisional games to be played either all early or all late. There's a lot of moving parts. You've got to build in byes and you don't want people that are playing on Saturday having to play on Thursday when one of them had a bye the week before. We've got a lot of work to do on scheduling and the divisional structure is going to be a big part of that."

Bowlsby also detailed the Big 12's new intraconference transfer rule for nonscholarship athletes. The league had a policy in place that allowed nonscholarship student-athletes to transfer within the conference without ever having to sit out a season. That was changed so that if a student-athlete transfers to another Big 12 institution, and that institution has offered the student-athlete a scholarship, that person would have to sit out a season. If no scholarship is offered, the transfer can take place without losing the season of eligibility.

"I know this has been referred to as the Baker Mayfield Rule, but I can tell you we dealt with it on a basis that took individuals out of the discussion," Bowlsby said. "It would be easy to suggest that it was made because he's the Offensive Player of the Year now. I think it's the right outcome. I think he is a terrific player, but we looked at it in the context of who might be in the pipeline that this would apply to, and there probably will be others, not likely as high profile. But I just want to reiterate, the right decision was made. We put forth the right choice. I think we had a number of different options, and I think we got it right. It benefits Baker Mayfield and it would benefit anybody else on our campuses that might be similarly situated in that they came into one institution as a nonscholarship athlete and got another opportunity at another institution."

The Big 12 also adopted a football scheduling policy that allows just one FCS nonconference opponent per school, and requires at least one FBS "autonomy" opponent each year, meaning a Power Five team or Notre Dame, along with allowing two other FBS games. The commish also noted that the league will distribute more than $30 million in revenues this season to each individual member institution, with TCU and West Virginia taking a full share after a scaling up process during their first five years in the league. A conference championship game could add as much as $2 million more per school.

Bowlsby also said the Big 12 "adopted a serious misconduct policy and the policy details (the) due diligence that needs to be undertaken on each campus. It pertains to incoming freshmen as well as transfers and I think it requires that each institution make decisions about young people that have things in their past that may be questionable. It requires each institution to make sure that that due diligence goes beyond the staff of the sport that's involved, goes beyond the athletics department and all the way to the highest levels of the university. I think in doing that, we can count on universities to make the right choices."

Among the other changes, the Big 12 also announced that it is putting in place a multi-capture video system for each conference game that would allow additional video angles on every aspect of play. "That will allow us to get a view from every vantage point within the stadium," Bowlsby said. "This will allow us to capture in-house video Board angles. It will also allow us to capture the stuff that our television partners are putting on the air but we will also get all the angles that they don't put on the air. It should give us an opportunity for replay that is enhanced."

See the full transcript of the press conference here.

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