Big 12's Bowlsby Says Calendar, Site Selection Biggest Issues For CFP
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby believes the four-team CFP is working, but there may be work to be done with the site selection and calendar placement for those playoff games. Bowlsby, speaking at the '19 Learfield IMG College Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, said he didn't see a need to expand to six or eight teams at this time (six years into CFP deal). "We have to look at what we've developed in light of modern circumstances," he said. "We're about halfway through. It's worked successfully." But Bowlsby was cognizant of the fact that it has been harder on some P5 conferences -- including his own in some years -- to be on the outside looking in. Bowlsby does feel there can be improvement in site selection and when games are played. The CFP was created to be a Super Bowl-like event for college football, and Bowlsby acknowledged it is a made-for-TV event. He also admitted a site like Santa Clara last season was a struggle as a championship site and the committee will have to look at what sort of rotation exists in the future (championship sites are set through '24). Bowlsby remains very content that college football has retained a strong regular season, which he called the "best regular season in all of sports."
EVOLVING ENVIRONMENT: Bowlsby touched on what the future holds for Big 12 media rights. The conference this season began a branded-section on ESPN+ that is called Big 12 Now, and Bowlsby was confident in the streaming product despite some buffering issues. Having been at Iowa around the launch of Big Ten Network and at Stanford when Pac-12 Networks rolled out, Bowlsby called any early-stage issues with Big 12 Now "miniscule" compared to the launch of those linear networks. "I feel very good about where we've gotten to," he said. Bowlsby expects eight schools to be producing all their own content by next season. In terms of deals with Fox and ESPN that come up in a few years, given the current landscape, Bowlsby said he would expect any rights holders to look to preemptively act before those deals expire.
ALARM BELLS: Bowlsby hit on the evolving issue of name, image and likeness, and he feels, like many, that having 50 different sets of rules across the states is not tenable. He also does not want student athletes being paid employees. While he feels a '21 deadline for the NCAA to get something done on NIL is doable, he noted "fast and the NCAA legislative process are not often mentioned in the same sentence." Meanwhile, Bowlsby was concerned about the rise of buyouts for college coaches, sometimes after only two seasons. He feels there cannot be a "legitimate evaluation in that amount of time." Bowlsby acknowledged the pressures from fan bases and the rise of social media comments, but noted that fans have always had mechanisms for reaching ADs. "It used to be talk radio," he said.
• On the rapidly evolving media landscape: "The day may come where we're watching the Super Bowl on the inside of our eyelids."
• On difficulties in media rights negotiations: "Anyone who tells you they have a crisp vision of where this is going, I think, is delusional."