Bob Bowlsby still isn’t quite in his new job as Big 12 commissioner, but the league made a move Friday that will shape Bowlsby’s tenure.
The Big 12 and SEC announced that it would pit the two teams in a New Year’s Day Bowl beginning in 2015. The initial deal is for five seasons. Maybe let’s think of it as Rose Bowl South, with a probably landing point being the Sugar Bowl. (Sound the sad trombone for the Fiesta Bowl.)
“I am very excited by the prospects for a game between our champion and the champion of the Southeastern Conference,” Bowlsby said.
The Big 12 still only has 10 teams, although the Florida State trial balloon has been floated within the last week. It still has a mish-mash of a TV deal. Yet the league made a power move Friday when it aligned with the SEC.
Now, the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and SEC have marked their New Year’s Day territory. (Sound the sad trombone for the ACC and Big East, which will, after all, welcome Boise State eventually for some reason.)
The league was near death just last summer. Now, this from current commissioner Chuck Neinas: “We may not be Facebook but the Big 12 would get a strong ‘buy’ rating on Wall Street today.” (Remember, Texas and Oklahoma reside in the Big 12. Mostly Texas, and that’s a hammer.)
There’s a possibility we could see Bowlsby back in the Kinnick Stadium press box this fall. Iowa State will carry the newly reinvigorated Big 12 flag into Kinnick this fall when the Cyclones try to snap a four-game losing streak in Iowa City. (Go ahead and try to put a spread on this game. I think even or ISU maybe -1 right now.)
Bowlsby fired up the donor base and fandom to raise $90 million for a Kinnick renovation project that was completed the season after he left for Stanford.
Bowlsby has seen a game at Kinnick. Now, it could be in an official capacity.
“At Stanford he had a home that was part of his package, so I joked with him he’s going to have to be a property tax payer again,” said Iowa athletics director Gary Barta, who worked for Bowlsby 20 years ago when they were at the University of Northern Iowa.
“He’ll be a great leader for the Big 12,” Barta said. “It seems like the right time, the right fit. He’s familiar with the commissioner’s role from his time in the Big Ten and his time with Jim Delany. It makes sense. I think it’s good for college athletics.”
During the Big Ten meetings in Chicago this week, Delany said about Bowlsby, “An old friend in a new position.”
Barta doesn’t know if Bowlsby will make the trip with the Big 12 contingent on Sept. 8, but the invitation has always been there.
“He and Candy (Bowlsby’s wife) came to a game at Kinnick a few years ago,” Barta said. “He always has an open invitation.”
Barta’s make-no-mistake stance on a playoff
Barta has said this before, just as he stated his stance on seven-win bowl teams in February, but he is not a playoff guy.
“My preference would be to not have a playoff,” Barta said. “My preference would be to have an ‘and one.’ Keep the BCS, keep the bowl system intact. I love college football and I love the bowls. I think it’s a unique part of that sport that makes it so popular and so special.
“Every week when we go out to play, I view it as a de facto playoff game. I like the system we have a lot.”
But Barta isn’t naive. It’s coming and he knows it. The Big Ten knows it and that’s what the majority of Chicago was about.
“It sure appears to me there’s a lot of momentum and sentiment and maybe a tipping point to have a four-team playoff,” he said. “If that’s the case, my preference would be to keep it within the bowl system.”
That’s the Big Ten’s preference, too. On the day the Big Ten stated this position, Texas AD DeLoss Dodds had another thought.
“This entity needs to be separate,” Dodds said of the final grouping of four. “It needs to be their own bowls, their own TV, their own sponsors. Those four selected would not play in the bowls.
“And I’d have them bid it out to cities and stadiums for the three games, and I favor neutral sites for the games because using the campuses would be too much of an advantage.”
So much for harmony. Barta sees the popularity of the game at an “all-time high,” and he wants to protect that. (For the record, the Big Ten ADs didn’t vote on which playoff scenario the league would favor. But the four-team semifinal model was the one they all talked about. Except for Penn State and Indiana. Those ADs skipped Chicago.)
“We all want to make sure that whatever we do, we don’t damage the game,” Barta said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m hesitant toward a playoff. I think potentially, you could damage the regular season. That’s the last thing I want to do.”
2015-16 Big Ten schedules
Barta was coy on this, saying he didn’t see Illinois on the schedule.
If Illinois isn’t on the Hawkeyes’ schedule those two seasons, then tear up the league. The last time Iowa played Illinois was 2008 (a great game at Champaign that saw the Illini pull out a 27-24 win). By the 2015 season, it will have been six years between meetings.
Look for Illinois and Penn State to be on Iowa’s schedule. Ohio State and Wisconsin will likely drop off.
Iowa will have Phase I (the indoor practice facility) finished for use this season. Phase II has been approved by the Board of Regents and is a go. It includes new locker, equipment and meeting rooms, strength and conditioning center, medical facility, coaches’ offices and a public entryway. Phase II has a targeted completion date of 2014.
The cost of Phase I and II is $55 million. Iowa has $20 million raised for the project.
So, Phase III?
“You know, someday there may be a Phase III, but there’s not one on the books,” Barta said. “In terms of ‘what’s the next thing,’ someday we’ll have to do some new things to Kinnick Stadium, whether it’s scoreboards or sound systems, but those aren’t hard and fast right now.”
What’s the deal with the lights at Kinnick?
The ones that have been installed are permanent and will be used for practice this fall. The Hawkeyes will be pushed into Kinnick for outdoor practices on FieldTurf. That light system is designed to complement a permanent system for games “if we ever go that route,” Barta said.
Before that happens — if it happens, remember the TV pays for the lights at least for now — Musco Lighting out of Muscatine will continue to light up Kinnick for TV.