The Times West Virginian

May 17, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: Work never done for Big 12 boss

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN —  

Bob Bowlsby, the new Big 12 commissioner who seemed to walk into a job after all the work was done, has already learned the lesson that all the experienced collegiate conference commissioners have learned:
The work is never done.
When he took over it appeared that expansion had been completed, that a new TV contract was agreed upon, that stability had come to a conference that seemed ready to implode less than a year ago.
Now Florida State University is screwing up all that serenity, so much so that Bowlsby has put expansion back on the agenda for the Big 12.
It seems there are factions in the FSU family that think leaving the ACC for the Big 12 might be the right step to take … and, of course, if they take that step they would almost surely bring another ACC member with them to make the Big 12 a really big 12.
There is a certain irony in all this.
Is not FSU the school that West Virginia University did not want to play this season and was willing to pay a half million dollars to get out of the game they had scheduled?
Rather than play a game that figured to be one of the jewels of this upcoming college football season between a pair of exciting, highly ranked historic programs that have numerous ties, the Mountaineers opted to play what is a silly, meaningless game against a non-major in James Madison, moving one of their scheduled home games out of Morgantown to play in Washington, D.C.
And now it could be they will be playing every year.
Certainly Florida State would bring another legendary program to a conference that is already rich in history with Oklahoma and Texas, to say nothing of schools like WVU and Oklahoma State, which are writing a good bit of modern history themselves.
They would bring with them, too, a piece of Florida … a football-made state packed with potential television viewers and nice place for school fans and administrators to grab a quickie football season vacation.
In truth, at first glance, there seems to be few drawbacks to Florida State’s arrival, should the factions at the school pushing an exit from the ACC win out.
But there are numerous reasons to approach this with caution, if you are the Big 12.
To begin with, Bowlsby is not in favor of expansion at this time, telling USA Today that “college athletics would be well served by some period of smooth water and not all of the angst and disorganization that goes with moves from one league to another.”
But, knowing that the television take would grow significantly by adding such a commodity as FSU and another ACC team, he understands it can’t be ignored.
“I think the topic of expansion will be on every agenda going forward. But it’s on every other conference’s agenda going forward, too,” Bowlsby said in the USA Today story.
So why the caution?
The Big 12 is currently in a very comfortable situation. With a 10-team conference it can play a nine-game league schedule that produces a true champion, one that has played every other school in the league.
What’s more, without a title game, should it produce an undefeated regular-season champ, maybe even a No. 1 team, it doesn’t risk the prestige that comes from that by possibly being beaten in a conference championship game.
In basketball, too, a 10-team conference allows a true round-robin schedule where 18 games are played, a home-and-home pair of games against each conference opponent.
Adding to the intrigue is the political undercurrent that always exists in Big 12 decisions and that is that Texas stands against expansion and Oklahoma in favor of it … the two big dogs fighting over almost every bone that is put out before them.
So you can bet there will be some back-room wrangling going on as those two try to bring the majority around to their way of thinking.
The truth is, either way the Big 12 can’t come out a loser in this situation and must consider whether to offer Florida State a membership. If the league can take in the Seminoles and another ACC team, the big loser in the whole deal with be the ACC.
And there isn’t a soul in West Virginia that will shed a tear over that.
Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.