Once again, one of the hot topics this summer is conference realignment, especially in light of the new college football playoffs set to debut in 2014. So, of course, it was a subject of discussion for new Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby in his introductory remarks as the Big 12 Media Days opened on Monday in Dallas.
As both Bowlsby and former interim commissioner Chuck Neinas made clear during the last availability for the media back in June, there currently isn't any impetus for expansion within the league, no matter the interest from schools like Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, or even Notre Dame, which would not join the league as a full member, but would rather schedule a number of games each season against Big 12 members.
Bowlsby began his remarks by discussing the stability of the conference in relation to the new television contracts and granting of rights that are still being hammered out. According to the new commish, the stability in the league is even greater than that perceived from the outside, as the perceptions of a fractured membership still linger from the Dan Beebe era and the near collapse of the conference at the hands of Larry Scott and the Pac-12.
A bold statement then sprung forth from the former Stanford athletic director: "This is a group of ten institutions that if we were to press for raised hands in a meeting room around the issue of expansion, I don't know that we'd get two votes for moving to a larger number."
Well, then. Money is certainly an issue here, as there seems to be little impetus to slice up the new television deal into smaller pieces, a requirement with expansion.
An open-mindedness caveat followed.
"Now, having said that, expansion is on every conference's list of discussion items," said Bowlsby. " I don't think we can ever afford not to think about it."
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Bowlsby then sung the praises of his new conference.
"But if the Big 12 had to vote on it today, we wouldn't take any new members in. We believe it should be very difficult to get into this group of institutions. It should be the toughest fraternity in America to join, and the only people that have a chance to join it are those that bring something that is very substantial."
By substantial, he apparently means, "A big enough fish to cause the networks to shell out more money than splitting the revenues would take off the table." And it's never a bad time to point out again that this is all driven by money in the first place, and money will always be the deciding factor in any decision regarding conference realignment.
Whenever the issue of expansion has come up in the last year, programs like Texas have talked about the value of the round-robin schedule, and whether Bowlsby was simply parroting the position of the most powerful member in the Big 12, or simply expressing a belief he and many of the other schools hold, he reiterated many of the points that people like Mack Brown have made in the past.
"And so with that and with the round-robin scheduling that we have in football and men's basketball, women's basketball, we will derive true champions.
Everyone will play everyone else, and it is the best of all circumstances. I think it is also a situation where at the end of the season not only do we identify a true champion, but our true champion is going to have a great chance to get to that four-team playoff.
And that is obviously a valuable pathway, given the playoff structure going forward. We've seen lots of times when the two best teams in the league come together and one of them is damaged goods after the game is over. Worse than that, sometimes the better team doesn't win."
Without going back and pulling them out, those final thoughts on the hazards of a conference champion seem like an almost verbatim recitation of what Brown has said in the past.
Later in his remarks, in response to a question about expansion, Bowlsby indicated that he believes maintaining the current status quo in regards to realignment would be good for the sport.
"...you've heard me say publicly that I think a period of calm would be highly advantageous for college football and college athletics in general," he said.
So, there it is.
Sorry, Seminoles -- it doesn't look like the Big 12 is going to be casting any come-hither glances in your direction any time soon. Enjoy that mediocre new ACC television deal.