It’s been easy for me to pick on Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. Over the years, he has been one to be a follower instead of a leader. Whether it came to picking a conference champion in 2014 or many other issues, Bob was never one to speak his mind or stand up to give his own true opinion.
Two weeks ago, at Big 12 Media Days, there were plenty of topics to discuss and surprisingly, expansion wasn’t one of them. In fact, he even made a joke about it while up at the podium. Little did he know that Texas and Oklahoma were on their way out while SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was stabbing him in the back (figuratively speaking) for nearly a full year. When the news broke last Wednesday, Bob came off looking like a clueless fool who would wind up watching his conference crumble before his very eyes.
I’ll be the first to admit, I thought change was needed when it came to leadership of the Big 12. For years, this conference was a punching bag and the butt of most jokes in the college football world. I figured by now, Bob would be hiding under his desk praying that Texas and Oklahoma changed their mind.
Was This Even Avoidable?
Maybe it was inevitable that Texas and Oklahoma were going to leave and there was nothing Bob Bowlsby could do about it. But still, all he had to do was keep those two schools happy. He didn’t do that and to make matters worse, he had no idea this move was even coming.
There are plenty of ways he could have handled things and I thought he would sit back and just take what was given to him. But after getting a tip, he wound up sending a cease-and-desist letter to none other than the very TV partner of the Big 12 Conference, ESPN.
In the letter, Bob says that ESPN reached out to at least one of the eight remaining Big 12 members in an attempt to convince the school to leave in wake of the Texas and Oklahoma exit. Not only that but he also claimed the Big 12 has hard evidence of ESPN and the AAC essentially plotting to undermine the Big 12.
Why would ESPN do such as thing? It’s simple. ESPN wants Texas and Oklahoma to go to the SEC as soon as possible and this whole thing was set in motion for those two schools to get there faster, not have to pay a ton of money and in the process, hope that the Big 12 conference falls apart.
Since Texas and Oklahoma are all but gone at this point, if more schools leave that and the Big 12 drops below seven members, the Big 12 conference as we know it is over for good. And the best part for ESPN if that happens? They would escape paying more than one billion dollars in rights fees that the Big 12 would be owed over the next four years.
While ESPN denied the claims of these allegations (shocking, right?), if you are a fan of college football which you are if you are reading this, why would you want ESPN making these moves? Maybe your school is safe for now but when this is all said and done, that may no longer be the case. ESPN is trying to save money because they made some terrible deals over the years as you can see why so many people get laid off every year.
Our buddy Chris Williams over at Cyclone Fanatic said something the other day that I never really took to heart until now. ESPN used to cover college football but today it is obvious to me that ESPN runs college football. Sure, they are tied in with other conferences, but they really only have had one true love over the years. That of course is the SEC.
Big 12’s Last Stand
Now I have seen plenty of people criticize Bob Bowlsby for taking ESPN head on but what other option does he have at this point? Did you want ESPN to start this war and have the Big 12 sit there and take it? Hell no. If you are the Big 12 or the remaining eight members, why turn down all this guaranteed money? It should be time to stand together and hold Texas, Oklahoma and ESPN to every financial commitment that was made. Remember, ESPN made this deal and if you want to make them pay for it, wait it out and get your money because some schools may not see money like that ever again. Sure, changes may have to be made along the way such as adding schools to the conference, but for now, wait it out and collect the money.
Don’t get me wrong, Bob Bowlsby is certainly not the most popular guy in college football, but when will other conferences maybe realize that this move by Texas and Oklahoma is not good for college football? I am not blaming Texas or Oklahoma here; I understand the move. Money talks but maybe other conferences would say this is not good for the sport of college football. While this may benefit two schools and the SEC, it certainly is not good for the remaining eight Big 12 schools or other conferences as well.
What does Bob Bowlsby have to lose here? The two biggest programs are leaving, and ESPN refused to negotiate anything with the Big 12 after 2025. He no longer needs to kiss their butt. His letter was a clear shot to ESPN and good for him. This is the gustiest move Bob has ever done in his time as commissioner and maybe it’s too late but at least he is going down swinging and fighting. The worst thing this conference can do is just sit back and let everyone pick it apart one by one. Welcome to the fight Bob Bowlsby. It took you long enough but at least you put on the boxing gloves for once.