After an eventful 2014 football season, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby recently conducted a lengthy phone interview with ESPN.com to discuss the state of the Big 12, the controversial co-champions rule and the possibility of expansion.
Part II of the interview will run on the Big 12 Blog tomorrow. Part I is below:
How would you characterize the state of the Big 12?
Bowlsby: Well, I don't think there's any question that, top to bottom, our league was very competitive. I think it's difficult to get to the end of the season with three teams with one loss like we had. And so we were fortunate we had some of our best teams playing each other on the last day of the season. Couple of things go different, we probably have two teams in the postseason instead of none. I think competitively our league is excellent. In the case of TCU and Baylor, they are both teams that are highly competitive at the national level. I think we saw a lot of our teams play exceedingly well during the season and compete well against other conferences. We lost a close of games in the postseason. We lost a couple that weren't very close. But I think generally speaking, we play football at a very high level. Our competition at a very high level. And I think there are no weeks off in the Big 12 Conference. You need to be buckled up and have your ankles taped every week. Because if you don't play well you'll get beat.
Considering the 2015 nonconference schedule of the league is not quite as strong as it was last year, has there been any discussion about implementing a scheduling mandate?
Bowlsby: I'm sure our athletic directors will discuss that. But scheduling is the province of the individual institutions. And they each have their own philosophy on how they want to go about making the preparations for playing in the conference. At the present time, we don't mandate that. And scheduling at most times in the past has been province of individual institutions nationwide. So conference wide scheduling principles are a relatively new thing, such as not playing FCS opponents. Or deciding every year there has to be an opponent from one of the other high visibility conferences. So I'm sure our athletic directors will talk about it, where they'll land on it is yet to be determined.
Did you feel misled in any way about the factors that would go into playoff inclusion?
Bowlsby: No. I don't think they misled me at all. I don't think the issue of a 13-game portfolio versus a 12-game portfolio had been discussed previously. But that was something that came out on the last day of the season. What was said was, Ohio State had the opportunity for a 13th game against a ranked opponent. Well, Baylor was higher ranked and played a higher ranked opponent than Ohio State did. And so, that was a little bit of a surprise to us. No, I don't feel like we were misled. It was a work in progress. I don't think anyone knew with certainly what the playoff committee was going to discuss.
If you could change anything about the playoff, what would it be?
Bowlsby: I have always advocated for less frequent polls. Originally I felt like ever other week starting the seventh or eighth week of the season was the right way to do it. We ended up with an every week poll. I think there would be less volatility and a higher quality outcome if the poll was done every other week. There would be more data points in between polls.
Did having co-champions cost the Big 12 a spot in the playoff?
Bowlsby: I don't think it cost either Baylor or TCU a spot in the playoff. I think Ohio State was impressive on the last day of the season. Obviously based upon their performance in the playoff, they demonstrated they deserved to be there. Now having said that, that's another element our athletic directors will talk about, as to whether we want to continue to have the co-champion policy.
It seems like people think you're like a totalitarian dictator who issues edicts ...
Bowlsby: The rules are made by our athletic directors and presidents and chancellors and once the rules are in place, we don't change them during the season. And so, the rule that we had was the rule that we had. And I'm sure they'll look at it and decide if they want to continue with co-champions or use a tiebreaker to determine the champion. And there can be cases made for each of those outcomes because an awful lot more people get to celebrate if you have co-champions. Interestingly enough, that police of co-champions was unanimously adopted by our athletic directors.
Baylor coach Art Briles seemed to be upset with you during the conference trophy presentation. Have you two spoken since then?
Bowlsby: I'm not going to get into it. I speak with our coaches regularly. I'm not going to get into the specifics of relationships with one coach.