Let me start by saying with 100% confidence that I know absolutely nothing about running a NCAA Power 5 Conference. I will follow that up by saying I know that the decisions we see the Big 12 conference make are not the result of one person the large majority of the time but we unrightfully give the face of the conference all of the credit or blame because we can see them. Now that I have said that, I haven't liked Bob Bowlsby as the commissioner of the Big 12. He spoke at the Big 12 Media Days yesterday and my opinion still has not changed. To me, he appears a weak leader by the way he presents himself and his regime's seemingly reactionary behavior. Let's set that to the side for a second though and read through some of his quotes. He had a few opening remarks then really kicked off his speech with this:
"This year has been interesting, challenging. It certainly was a wild football season last year and ended in a way that was hard for us to accept. But it is what it is."
First off, what did you expect when you label the conference "One True Champion" but fail to actually commit to crowning one champion. I refuse to believe that having co-champions didn't hurt the chances of Baylor or TCU getting into the College Football Playoff (not that I am upset by them not getting in). The fact that a team shares a conference championship had to be on the voters' mind. If they had voted either Big 12 team into the playoff, the other team would have caused more of ruckus than they did. Then Bowlsby ends with "but it is what it is." That is a very weak statement. Speak about the changes you have made to rectify a similar situation occurring in the future, instead of coming off as if you have thrown in the towel. The conference has made strides to improve over the offseason, so again highlight those changes.
He said college football in general needed to work on these areas "the recruiting environment, signing day, contact windows, oversigning and transfers." This sounds like the recruiting process could undergo a complete overhaul. There isn't a part of the recruiting process that isn't under one of the areas he said they needed to work on. I would like to see some things change. An early signing period and a singular set of rules for transfers so messy situations can be avoided would be the first two areas I would like to see addressed. He also said "There are growing concerns about the summer environment, the 7-on-7 leagues, the camps' environment and the recruiting processes that go along with that." Personally, I am glad to see concerns voiced over the 7-on-7 leagues. This is the first time I have read anyone high up in the NCAA speak out about it, although I am sure others have and I've just missed it. They understand how AAU has dirtied the college basketball recruiting process. Hopefully the NCAA can get out in front of this before it is too late.
A hot offseason topic was the rules regarding storming the court as it relates to players, coaches and officials safety. Bowlsby said "we took the approach to manage it as opposed to prohibit it." I am interested to see how it is handled in the Big 12 office when a field is stormed for the first time. They may make the decision to prohibit it quickly if they decide they can't manage it.
The biggest new piece of information that Bowlsby touched on was limiting full contact to two days per week including game day. A few coaches were asked about this following Bowlsby, and they indicated it doesn't hurt them too much. In fact, Dana Holgorsen says WVU has been limiting full contact to two days per week for quite awhile so it was no change for his team. I am not sure how I feel about this. I am 100% for player safety and think this is a very small step in the right direction, but why is the focus on practice and not overall safety regardless of the competitive climate. This sounds like a classic case of addressing the symptom and not the disease. In other words, "we can't make football safe so we will just limit how much you play it." Not a completely ludicrous idea, but again not addressing the root of the problem.
The conference's new slogan is "Every Game Matters." That reminds me of the attempt of the MLB to make the All-Star meaningful with the "This Time It Counts" slogan. I am not a fan of this one, because this slogan will stick around until we get a championship game at which point every game doesn't count because teams could conceivably play in the regular season and the championship game which sort of renders their first meeting worthless. Here's the promotional video for 2015. Enjoy!