The Times West Virginian

July 23, 2013

Big 12 Media Day takeaways

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Commissioner Bob Bowlsby dominated the opening day of Big 12 Media Day with his talk about reform within the NCAA to allow the power conferences to be in a position where they can get through legislation that benefits them, but he made a number of other points in his State of the Conference address that are recapped here:

• Realignment

“I’ve been here in the building about 30 minutes, and I haven’t had a realignment question yet, which is the first time that’s happened in the entire time I’ve been here. I really am looking forward to 2013-14, and then especially to ’14 and ’15 as we get into some of the new ventures that we’re going to be working on.

“In the case of the Big 12, we take a huge jump between ’13-14 and ’14-15 in our distributable revenue as some of our big contracts kick in. At the end of ’14-15, we get to full and equal sharing with our new members and current members (meaning West Virginia and TCU), and it really will complete the transition that has been in place over the last 18 months or so.”

• Expansion

“As we said before, we’re intentionally at 10 members. We think there are advantages at 10. Among those advantages are the strength of playing three nonconference games instead of four and having a full conference round-robin. I think it keeps rivalries strong. I think it keeps our multimedia packages strong to have good competition every day, every Saturday.

“From a revenue sharing standpoint, I think over a long period of time we will have a smaller pie to divide but the slices will be larger. We certainly like that on behalf of our members.

“I think the other thing is we don’t have any divisional play, and divisional, by its very title, has some divisive elements to it, and there’s fractionalization that comes with that.

“I think the debate about larger being better is still raging, but the realignment battles have really settled down, and I think in the near term to midterm, perhaps even a little longer, I think you’ll see a period of relative calm. I think that’s a good thing.”

• In-game video highlights from other games

“We will be bringing in-game highlights on a taped and live basis into our stadiums this year. This is largely a response to declining attendance on a national basis. Our schools are 85 percent full. We’ve got many that are experiencing hard sell-outs every game. We feel like our attendance has remained relatively strong.”

• An eighth official in use in the Big 12 to make games faster

“(One) thing that we’re doing that is going to be an interesting experiment is that of the eighth official. We have experimented with it in the spring. We’ve even experimented using an eighth official with a helmet cam to see what the vantage point is and how it might be helpful. This official will be on the offensive side of the ball in the backfield, roughly the equivalent location but opposite the referee.

“This will be the person who places the ball in play. So you recall formerly the umpire was doing that from within the area behind the defensive line. This year that will be undertaken by the eighth official. This is really in response to pace of play as much as anything. We’re excited we’ll be the only league experimenting with the eighth official.”

• RF chips in shoulder pads

“Another thing that we’re doing in the way of innovation this year is all of our teams will have an RF chip embedded in their shoulder pads. And this will allow — this is a partnership with an organization called Sportvision. It will allow us to track players, their velocity, their path around the football stadium on a real-time basis.

“To be quite frank about it, we’re not sure what we will do with the technology or what Sportvision will do with the technology, but we think it’s a very interesting innovation that developments in other areas outside of sports have accommodated. So our guys will all have RF chips in, and it ought to be interesting to see how it evolves.”

• Concussion research and prevention

“We have undertaken a very significant concussion research and prevention program that we think is altogether appropriate. We are working on a partnership with USA Football, which is an NFL undertaking that is intended to teach young people to play the game properly and to play it safely.

“The initiative is called Heads Up Football, and there is a link to it on our website if you want to get to the Heads Up Football link. But player safety is a very important element of what we’re doing. The commissioners collectively actually took the initiative and sent directives to the rules committee that we wanted progress made on both concussive head injuries and the cumulative effect of repetitive blows to the head.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.