Bob Bowlsby to step down as Big 12 commissioner amid realignment shaking up conference landscape

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby will step down from his leadership post at a later date in 2022 after a decade leading the conference, the league announced on Tuesday. Bowlsby’s decision comes after what has been a tumultuous year for the conference. Last summer, Texas and Oklahoma suddenly announced that they would leave the conference they co-created in 1996 for the SEC. The league followed up by opting to bring in BYU, Houston, UCF and Cincinnati as new members no later than the 2024 season. 

“I truly believe the Big 12 and our member institutions are in a strong position now and as we look into the future,” said Bowlsby in a statement. “As such, this is an appropriate time for me to step away from the Commissioner’s role so that the next leader of the Conference can take the reins on these significant matters that will come to the forefront before the end of the term of my employment agreement in 2025 to set the stage for the Big 12’s future ongoing success.”

The timing of Bowlsby’s decision sticks out as the Big 12 has some critical new decisions to make. The conference must negotiate a new grant of rights and television contract in 2025. Additionally, the new commissioner must ease the transition between Texas and Oklahoma leaving the league and four teams entering the conference. Other key issues remain unsolved, like long-term solutions for NIL legislation and College Football Playoff expansion. 

Bowlsby served on a College Football Playoff working group with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. The group proposed a 12-team playoff model in June 2021 that the group expected would be rubber stamped by the 10 FBS conference commissioners in time for the 2024 season. Instead, the CFP released a statement earlier this year confirming that no expansion will happen before 2026 — one year after the Big 12’s television contract expires. 

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