FRISCO, Texas — While Bob Bowlsby wasn’t ready to advocate for the Big 12 naming its championship trophy after Bob Stoops, the commissioner recognizes how Oklahoma’s coaching change creates ramifications beyond the field.

Stoops retired June 7 after coaching the Sooners to 10 conference titles in 18 seasons, relinquishing the job to 33-year-old Lincoln Riley, a first-time head coach.

Beyond those 190 victories — and owning one of the Big 12’s two national championships since the league formed in 1996 — Stoops’ influence shaped policy on practice limitations to realignment.

“He has been a real leader among our coaches. He has been a voice of moderation. He has been a voice for change. He has been active in implementing change. He’s been very innovative. The Big 12 is poorer for not having Bob Stoops any longer as a head coach in our league,” Bowlsby said.

“We’re really going to miss him in the meeting room, where he always was very thoughtful and very impactful with his
colleagues.”

Riley, unproven as a boss and trained for only two years as a Power Five coordinator, inherits the unforgiving expectations of overseeing a team talented enough to compete for the College Football Playoff. Yet Bowlsby understands the trust afforded Riley, an assistant widely pegged as a rising star in the coaching profession.

“He’s been the hottest young assistant in the county for several years,” Bowlsby said. “In fact I remember (from Oklahoma athletics director) Donnie Duncan telling me he’s a guy that I should really keep my eye on, and that was before he came to Oklahoma.”

“He’s a very humble guy with the right kind of temperament to come in after a legendary coach.”

Bowlsby nears new deal

In contrast to Stoops stepping away at age 56, the 65-year-old Bowlsby said he’s close to signing an extension to remain commission through 2024-25. That happens to be a year after new TV contracts are likely to be negotiated.

“That’s not a coincidence,” said Bowlsby, noting Big 12 presidents crave continuity with digital distribution platforms entering a period of uncertainty.

“My health is good and I feel like I’m a pretty young 65, so I’ll stay at it for a while.”

SEC media days in Texas?

Bowlsby shrugged off reports the SEC may wedge into the Big 12 footprint by moving its preseason spectacle to The Star.

“I don’t know anything about their process,” he said.

When asked about sharing the venue with the SEC in a so-called festival of football, Bowlsby didn’t twitch.

“Haven’t thought about it at all.”

Changing perception

The league’s 4-2 bowl record last season included two wins over SEC opponents, yet there’s no dodging the fact that the Big 12 took a hit by failing to crack the CFP.

“You can have as good a postseason as we had last year and still you are viewed as being (only) marginally successful if you’re not in the CFP and not playing in the title game,” Bowlsby said.

The commissioner noted “it gets a little tiresome” dealing with perception of the league taking a backseat to the SEC, ACC and Big Ten.

“I know we play at a very high level, and I know that top to bottom we’re the best in the country in terms of balance,” he said. “It’s cyclical. I think we’ll win our share of national championships.”

 

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks to the media during the Big 12 media days at the Frisco Star Ford Center.

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