One of the most powerful positions in college sports is opening up: On Tuesday, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced he will relinquish the commissioner role later this year.
The conference said it will work with a search firm and formally start the process to find a new commissioner in the coming weeks. When a new commissioner is found, Bowlsby will move to an “interim role.”
The decision comes as the conference is headed for an inflection point. It’s losing Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, while preparing to add four new members. It’s also approaching negotiations to replace its current TV deal and grant-of-rights agreement, which expire in 2025.
Bowlsby said he wished to step away so a successor could “take the reins on these significant matters.”
Bowlsby also exits during a major period of change in college sports. The NCAA is less than a year into allowing athletes to profit off their name, image, and likeness. The College Football Playoff expansion project — which Bowlsby helped spearhead — gained steam and then stalled. Further athlete compensation reforms — like paying players salaries — could be imminent if federal courts, Congress, or the NLRB have anything to say about it.
Throughout his decade-long tenure as Commissioner, Bowlsby has built an impressive resume. He was at the helm when the conference signed a major deal with ESPN and FOX, reportedly worth $2.6 billion. He helped launch the College Football Playoff in 2014-15, and was the commissioner when the NCAA created the “autonomy” designation for Power 5 conferences in 2014.
More recently, Bowlsby can be credited for arguably saving the Big 12 from ruin after two of its biggest brands left for the SEC.