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Column: Bowlsby a class act
Charlie's Inside Corner
spt ap Big 12
TCU head football coach Gary Patterson shakes hands with Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby before the trophy presentation after TCU defeated Iowa State to clinch a share of the Big 12 title. - photo by AP Photo

A day after a school from the Big 12 won the NCAA Basketball championship for the second year in a row (Kansas & Baylor), Bob Bowlsby announced he’s retiring as the Big 12 Conference’s longtime Commissioner. The Big 12 will be hard pressed to find another Commissioner as classy and as tough and diligent as Bob Bowlsby.

It brings up memories of when Roy Williams left Kansas for North Carolina. Fans thought, “Oh No! We’ll never replace him with anyone as good!” Then along came Bill Self. My hope is that the Big 12 schools, and their fans, are as fortunate as Jayhawk basketball fans were. Making that happen is a tall task.

Bowlsby has guided the Big 12 for ten years and through a lot of tumult. When Oklahoma and Texas bolted for the Southeastern Conference last year many thought the conference would break up. Instead, Bowlsby kept the remaining schools together and eventually guided them to not only replace those two but add two more members making, once again, the Big 12 a conference of 12 schools! The additions of Houston, Cincinnati, BYU and UCF have matched some of those schools’ greatest athletic years.The Big 12 looks to be “sitting pretty” for the future!

While publicly calling out Texas and Oklahoma for what he thought were “underhanded and sneaky dealings”, he quickly became known as “Big Game Bob” with the media and leaders of the remaining schools.

Bowlsby has picked this time to back off because the Big 12 is adding those four new members and it is time to negotiate a new grant of rights and media rights agreements. He feels like that should be done by the new Commissioner going forward. At the request of the Big 12, Bowlsby will transition to a new interim role with the conference so his stamp will still be on these new agreements as he works with a new Commissioner.

Officials at West Virginia have stated that they desire a more “traditional commissioner”. I suppose that means someone from the coaching ranks who has worked his way up the ladder into being an athletic director. I am not sure I agree with that philosophy. Today’s collegiate athletic world is about business. BIG business! Like it or not, the dollar is what drives college athletics today. You have to look no further than Texas and Oklahoma heading to the SEC to validate that. Simply, they think there is more money in the SEC. Time will tell if that decision is accurate. Big money for Alabama and Georgia doesn’t always trickle down to the other schools. You can check with Vanderbilt and Mississippi State to validate that!

As part of his exit strategy I hope Bowlsby holds Texas and Oklahoma’s feet to the fire concerning their exit strategy. Make them either honor their agreements to the Big 12 until 2025 OR pay the hefty exit fees and do not let them bargain out for a lesser amount. His recent actions and statements show that he will do that as he has expressed great dissatisfaction with the officials of those two schools and how they handled their move to the SEC.

Bowlsby’s critics have called him “stuffy and academic.” Probably because he came to the Big 12 from Stanford, having been the athletic director there. Maybe he earned the labels of “stuffy and academic” rightly but you should also label him as a fighter. When backed into a corner the man has proven to be quite a fighter and the Big 12 Conference has benefitted from that.

Great job Bob Bowlsby. Here’s hoping the Big 12 gets a new Commissioner that matches your abilities and spunk!

Charles Tabler is a guest columnist for the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at