AUSTIN, Texas -- After two football seasons marred by the storm clouds of conference realignment, the Big 12 is back on solid ground.
That’s the message Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and University of Texas president Bill Powers tried to send on Tuesday, when they met with local reporters during Bowlsby’s tour of his new conference.
“We have been through some changes in the conference, but I can say unequivocally I have never, in my six and a half years here, seen the conference in as strong a position as it is now,” Powers said.
Bowlsby’s stop in Austin was his sixth on this tour. The response he’s received from presidents, athletic directors and coaches around the league has been one of common optimism.
“It’s been really kind of striking,” Bowlsby said. “I know that there’s got to be some scar tissue, but it’s not palpable on the campuses. Maybe it’s the time of year, to be honest. This tends to be a very hopeful period of time.”
Of course, Bowlsby had to chuckle when a reporter congratulated him for not losing any Big 12 members in the first three months of his tenure. His job has only just begun.
The topic of conference realignment did arise on Tuesday, as did a handful of other pressing issues. A recap of what we learned:
Big 12 expansion on the back burner
Bowlsby repeated the company line that the Big 12 is currently not interested in expansion.
He sees no need to expand in part because reviving a conference title game might not be beneficial for the league’s playoff hopes. Bowlsby believes having no title game creates a more direct path for a Big 12 team to make the four-team playoff system, and he likes the current nine-game round-robin conference slate.
“I would say that right now there’s a supermajority in the league that likes 10 and is content to stay at 10,” he said.
Rumors swirled this summer that Notre Dame, Florida State and other schools had interest in joining the league. When asked where the Big 12 stood with the Fighting Irish and vice versa, Bowlsby declined to comment.
“I can’t get specific about any institution,” he said. “We’ve heard from a number of institutions that might have interest. I’ll just leave it at that. We have no active consideration of new members right now. But we certainly are not going to not have it on our dashboard.”
Later, in one-on-one interviews, Bowlsby was pressed about what it would take for Notre Dame to join the conference and what would prompt the commissioner to consider adding the Irish. Again, no dice.
“Guys, you’re not going to get me talking about Notre Dame,” Bowlsby said with a smile.
Solving the playoff questions
Bowlsby said the response he has received about the upcoming college football playoff have been exceedingly positive.
“I think we got it right,” he said. “And we didn’t necessarily get it right for the Big 12 or the SEC or the non-AQs. I think we got it right for college football. It feels like we did.”
There are still many details that need to be ironed out when the College Commissioners Association (CCA) and BCS officials hold meetings on Sept. 18 and 19 in Chicago.
The Big 12’s new head man favors a selection committee of as many as 20 to 24 members, and he's not opposing to having former commissioners and football coaches in the group. Bowlsby is not a fan of applying an RPI ratings system to college football but does believe strength of schedule needs to be graded and rewarded.
Another issue: Where will the big game be played? Bowlsby said he’d be “astounded” if the title game location isn’t rotated across the country annually, but he has concerns about playing it in cold-weather climates.
These are important details. But the big picture is promising.
“At the end of the day, we’ll determine a champion that the public will accept as legitimate,” he said. “And, I think, along the way we’ll see a lot of great games too.”
Thanksgiving Day dilemma
Texas is still looking to solve its Thanksgiving Day dilemma after Texas A&M’s SEC departure left a gaping hole on its end-of-season schedule.
Athletic director DeLoss Dodds has a clear goal.
“Our hope is that it stays on Thanksgiving night and our hope is it stays in Austin every Thanksgiving,” he said.
Most likely, that could mean trying to arrange a rotating schedule with in-state foes TCU, Texas Tech and Baylor. Texas will host the Horned Frogs on Nov. 22 this fall.
Will those other schools be on board with such a plan? That remains to be seen.
“I’ve not had those conversations,” Dodds said.
Dodds talks Longhorns
If there was any question as to where Mack Brown’s job security stood with his bosses after going 13-12 in the past two years, Dodds had an answer on Tuesday.
Brown isn’t even close to being on the hot seat.
“Mack does it the right way,” Dodds said. “There’s nobody in the country who could do what Mack has done here. He is the best of the best.”
What does Texas’ AD think of his 2012 Longhorns?
Well, it’s usually around this time every year that Dodds starts believing the Longhorns will go undefeated. Happens almost every year, he said.
“I’m fired up,” he said. “I’ve watched practice. I love the coaches. I love this team. Whether we win or lose, I don’t know, but I guarantee that our kids are going to play hard. We’re going to be pretty darn good.”