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Big 12 commissioner feels good about conference despite negative perceptions

| Monday, July 17, 2017, 6:57 p.m.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby shakes hands before speaking during the Big 12 media days Monday, July 17, 2017, at the Dallas Cowboys practice facilities in Frisco, Texas.

FRISCO, Texas — The Big 12's decision to restore a football championship game was based only on the league wanting to boost its chances of getting a team into the College Football Playoff, commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Monday.

At the start of football media days, Bowlsby said he feels good about what the Big 12 is doing, and he defended the league against the idea it is among the weakest of the power five conferences.

“I think our perception is somewhat a product of not being in the playoff two of the three years. That's a really short window,” Bowlsby said. “It gets a little tiresome because I know we play at a very high level, and I know top to bottom we're the best in the country in terms of balance.”

Bowlsby touted the postseason success last season — the league was 4-2 in bowl games, including 10-time Big 12 champion Oklahoma's 35-19 win over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. The Sooners were part of the CFP in 2015, the only Big 12 team so far to make it in the current “final four” format.

“Make no mistake, it's not about making the playoff,” Bowlsby said. “It's about winning national championships.”

Texas, one of three Big 12 teams with new head coaches this season, won the league's last national championship with Vince Young at quarterback during the 2005 season.

The Big 12 is the smallest of the power five conferences with 10 teams, and the only one to play a full round-robin schedule each season. It also was the only one without a conference championship game, which was added for the upcoming season after a six-season hiatus.

“The decision was made 100 percent based upon our ability to compete at the national level,” Bowlsby said. “We relied in large measure on our intuition and some data that we saw that indicated that playing a championship game and having that 13th data point would, in fact, deliver that advantage.”

Bowlsby said he doesn't recall finances of the title game ever being discussed, though it could generate another $30 million to the league that split a record $348 million among its teams for the 2016-17 academic year.

Without divisions in the Big 12, the championship game will match the top two teams from the regular season on the first weekend in December at the Dallas Cowboys' home stadium. The date isn't finalized, and could be played on a Friday or Saturday.

The 65-year-old Bowlsby, who recently marked his five-year anniversary as the Big 12 commissioner, said he expects to soon sign a contract extension that would take him through the 2024-25 academic year. That would also take him through the negotiations of the league's next media rights contract.

“I feel I'm a pretty young 65. I like what I'm doing,” Bowlsby said. “I plan on being here a while.”

Bowlsby took a moment during his opening comments to recognize Bob Stoops, who suddenly retired as Oklahoma's coach last month. Stoops won 10 Big 12 titles and a national championship in his 18 seasons with the Sooners.

“The Big 12 is poorer for not having Bob Stoops any longer as a head coach in our league,” Bowlsby said. “He was a tremendous influence on his staff, on his players, on his university over a very long period of time. His legacy is extraordinary.”

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