Five Questions For Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby

The Big 12 has had a rough few days, and Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has been making the media rounds answering questions about why the conference’s co-champions, Baylor and TCU, were left out of the first ever College Football Playoff.  After listening to Mr. Bowlsby’s comments, it strikes me that there are several questions that remain unanswered, particularly pertaining to his advocacy on behalf of the league, Baylor and TCU.

Before getting to the questions, here’s what this post is not about.  It’s not about why Mr. Bowlsby chose not to declare Baylor the Big 12’s one true champion in the middle of a season, even with Baylor’s head-to-head advantage over TCU.  Co-champions are not unusual and not controversial.  They occur in many schools in many sports, and to make that the issue is trivial and missing the bigger picture.  The idea that the conference would call the committee and say, “Baylor is our champion,” and that the committee would say, “oh well in that case…” doesn’t ring true to me.

This post is also not about the merits of Ohio State’s selection for the fourth playoff spot over Baylor or TCU.  That debate can certainly be had, but it’s not the crux of the questions Mr. Bowlsby should be addressing.  With those caveats out of the way, let’s get to the questions:

1) Why did the Big 12 not push back against the narrative that Baylor and TCU had something of a lesser championship than the other conferences?  The committee could have been checking the box next to each school for possessing a conference championship; instead, it appears they put half a check, or a check with an asterisk.  It seems as though the Big 12 was so determined to be clear about having co-champions, that it allowed an unnecessary and potentially harmful devaluing of each school’s championship.

2) Why did the Big 12 not fully and forcefully promote BOTH Baylor and TCU as deserving of a playoff berth?  It is completely reasonable and understandable that Mr. Bowlsby didn’t think it appropriate to back one horse over the other.  However, he still had the choice to advocate for each school emphatically while equally, but instead chose not to get involved.  There was plenty of data available to make the case that the Big 12 is among the best conferences, that leaving out its champion(s) would be a huge mistake, and that Baylor and TCU were each worthy of inclusion.  Instead, silence.

3)  Why has the Big 12 not disagreed with, or objected to, the committee’s decision to leave out its champions?  Mr. Bowlsby has spent much of the past two days talking about how he understands the difficulty of the committee’s task and that someone was always going to be left out.  Those comments sound like they would come from Committee Chair Jeff Long, not the commissioner of the one league whose champions were left out.  And not only has Mr. Bowlsby not disagreed with the committee’s decision, on the Dan Patrick radio show yesterday, he said he thought the committee got it right.  If as commissioner you don’t believe in your teams, or for whatever reason aren’t willing to boldly advocate for them, why should the committee or anyone else feel differently?

4) Why does the Big 12 accept the premise publicly that there was something it did to deserve this fate?  Every time Mr. Bowlsby goes down the road of how the Big 12 could change its structure in order to appease the committee, it furthers the notion that the committee got it right and Baylor and TCU were rightfully excluded.  To be sure, conversations about steps the Big 12 can take to improve its chances of Playoff access should be and are occurring (I’ll address this in my next post).  But in public comments responding to why/how Baylor and TCU were left out, why isn’t the response “We’ll of course evaluate our structure and bylaws, but there isn’t a good reason.  The committee had two champions to pick from out of arguably the best league in the country, and it mistakenly chose neither.”

5) Why did Mr. Bowlsby, who didn’t want to pick a horse pre-selection, decide to pick one after?  In the same Dan Patrick interview mentioned earlier, he was asked who he would have voted for at #4.  I can only guess the interviewer was caught off guard when Mr. Bowlsby in fact entertained the question and provided an answer other than “a Big 12 champion” or “I’m not going to go there.”  He answered TCU.  He provided context later, but the damage was done.  TCU fans are upset he didn’t say anything before the selections were made; Baylor fans are upset he said it at all.

All of these questions can really be summed up in one: Why does it appear that Mr. Bowlsby is not inclined to advocate for his conference and his schools, in arguably the most important circumstance they will find themselves in?  I wonder.



  1. D. Kirk says:

    You got it wrong from the get-go. Baylor and TCU finished with 11-1 records. But they were not “even.” Not “co-champions. You had a clear winner in Baylor who
    defeated TCU. That fact cannot be “spun” away.

    • Daniel Hare says:

      Thanks for reading/commenting! Though I disagree and can accept they were co-champions, my point is that fact didn’t have to be the negative it turned into. The Big 12 allowed the narrative to spiral downward unchecked. Thinking more about this tonight after reading a commenter on another site, I do think it’s possible the commissioners had a gentlemen’s agreement at the formation of the CFP not to lobby or criticize the selection committee.

  2. Preston F. Kirk says:

    The sixth question, Mr. Hare, may well be, “How long do you think you are going to keep your job, Mr. Bowlsby? I guess BOWL is a part of his name and not Bob PLAYOFFsby.

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