The dog and phony show known as the Big 12 expansion evaluation is now over. And once again, an adage of many college ATHLETIC administrators proved correct: Presidents need to stay clear of athletic issues.
No one should deny the Big 12’s right to decide not to expand from 10 to 12 schools. Any conference needs to do what it feels is best for its members, regardless of the consequences.
What is at issue here, though, and makes the Big 12 look foolish and arrogant, is the process.
Exploring conference expansion–which almost everyone in college athletics outside of the Big 12 felt was a wise move to make–would have been fine if left solely in the hands of Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and his 10 athletic directors. The outcome might have been the same, although Bowlsby understood the big picture, which showed the Big 12 without expansion at a disadvantage against its Power 5 conference brethren.
Early in the process, Bowlsby had targeted a handful of schools–BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, UConn, USF and UCF as prime contenders. You could make an argument that any of those schools would have enhanced the Big 12. You could also make an argument against all of them, for a variety of reasons.
But it was a manageable group of candidates. That’s what Bowlsby wanted. But then the Presidents stepped in. For whatever reasons, most of them ridiculous, the Presidents wanted to have a large group of schools. Almost none of them made sense, but the group went from 6 to 20. It was eventually cut to 11.
Again, outside of the original six, none of the schools really made sense. Yet, all were asked to put together presentations, which cost time, money and man power. Schools such as Rice, in the same city as Houston, was the most absurd pick.
If Houston were included, there was no way Rice would be chosen. Even more ridiculous was the idea of Rice getting chosen INSTEAD of Houston.
All of this came to a head this weekend when the Board of Directors met in Dallas to make a decision. It became clear even before the meeting began that there was no clear cut consensus of any one team. No school had the required 8 (of 10) votes necessary.
But most outsiders felt that since Bowlsby had been TOLD by his Presidents in July to explore the possibility of expansion, they would at least hear what Bowlsby had to say, evaluate each school and make a decision, and perhaps even compromise on a solution.
That didn’t happen because the first item on the agenda closed the deal. The Presidents said they didn’t want to expand.
“”No vote (on schools) was taken,” said Oklahoma President David Boren. “”No schools were discussed.”
Bowlsby talked to the Presidents for an hour and half, mostly about how they would proceed in the future with 10 schools.
But what about all the schools that had spent time and money making presentations? What about a runaway series of rumors which had floated for the last few months? “”It was perhaps a little more of a sweepstakes than we might have thought it was going to be at the very beginning,” said Bowlsby.
Yes, it was, because it was created when the Presidents made it that way.
Each of the other Power 5 conferences–The ACC, the Big Ten, the SEC and the Pac-12 have expanded in the past several years. None were conducted as ineptly as the Big 12.
The lesson that should be learned here is this: let the Presidents run their universities, let them hire athletic directors, who will then hire coaches and administrators to run the athletic department. Let the Presidents stay in the loop in terms of information if they want it, but under no circumstances should they be part of the process. If a President can’t trust the judgment of his athletic director, the President needs to find a new athletic director.
Having a President decide any kind of athletic issue would be the equivalent of a football coach making a decision on the head of the chemistry department. Presidents, in almost every instance, aren’t qualified to make athletic decisions.
Again, the Big 12 has every right to choose its own destiny, but, in this case, the way the conference did it was mishandled, unfair and embarrassing.