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Bowlsby has reasons to feel bullish about Big 12 Conference

(AP Photo/Cooper Neill)

By STEPHEN HAWKINS

AP Sports Writer

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Bob Bowlsby never bought into the negative perceptions some have about the Big 12, and these days the commissioner has plenty of reasons to feel bullish about his league.

Even more money is coming into the Big 12, the smallest of the Power Five conferences with only 10 schools, and there are fewer contentious issues around the league.

Three-time defending league champion and preseason favorite Oklahoma went the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years last season. The Big 12 was the only league this past year to have teams in the CFP, along with the NCAA Final Four in men's basketball, the College World Series and the Women's College World Series.

"I thought it was a perception previously, and things have gone well for us," Bowlsby said Monday at Big 12 football media days, the seventh for the former Stanford athletic director since taking the Big 12 job in 2012. "I couldn't be any more excited about the future."

Bowlsby touted the overall health of the league, even without specifically mentioning the record $365 million in revenue generated for the 2017-18 academic year. The average distribution per school trailed the SEC and Big Ten, but was more than the Pac-12 and ACC. It was the 12th consecutive increase for the Big 12, and it will grow even more in the upcoming year.

The Big 12 remains the only Power Five league to play a round-robin schedule in football, and last year resurrected its championship game and matched the top two finishers in the league standings.

"We think the Big 12 path to the end of the season is not only the most challenging but the highest quality," Bowlsby said. "Nobody is going to win the Big 12 by who they don't play. It's a difficult path but I think it's one that will serve us well."

After a six-year hiatus, the Big 12 championship game returned last year. Oklahoma beat TCU for the second time in a four-week span in a game at the home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys that drew about 63,000 fans and was termed "an unqualified success" by Bowlsby.

Big 12 teams had a winning record in postseason games for the second year in a row, even with Oklahoma's double-overtime loss to Georgia in the Rose Bowl that was one of the national semifinal games.

"We were 5-3 in the postseason. We had a chance to win a couple of more of those, and had even more of a positive buzz about it coming into this," Bowlsby said. "I think Oklahoma last year was every bit good enough to win a national championship."

Among other items addressed by Bowlsby:

- Oklahoma State announced last week it would start selling alcohol at football games this season, joining Texas and West Virginia. Said Bowlsby: "It's largely a matter of institutional culture. From a personal standpoint, I do think that probably selling alcohol in the stadium is probably superior to having pass-outs at halftime where everybody goes out and power drinks for the length of the halftime. I think that from a game management standpoint it's better managed with a controlled environment inside."

- On whether the four-team playoff should be expanded: "Frankly I think it's been pretty good. We've had good matchups. ... We had three aspirations going into the playoff. We wanted to keep the postseason strong, keep October and November as the best regular season in all of sports and we wanted to strengthen September. I really feel like we've accomplished all of those things, so I think we have to be a little bit careful moving away from it."

- The Big 12 is still working to verify that Baylor is fully implementing 105 recommendations for reforming the school's Title IX process after a campus sexual assault scandal broke two years ago.

"I expect we will bring it to a close in the not too distant future," Bowlsby said, adding the league will issue a written report when that is completed.

- The media days were held in the Ford Center at the Star, where the Dallas Cowboys have their headquarters and practice facility. Bowlsby said the media days will be held the next two years at AT&T Stadium, where the NFL team plays its home games and is the host of the Big 12 title game through at least 2021.

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Updated July 16, 2018

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