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Bowlsby talks bowls: Big 12 commissioner on expanded playoff

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Bob Bowlsby

ARLINGTON, Texas一It promises maybe the most lucrative TV contract in collegiate history, but for Bob Bowlsby, the potential expansion of the College Football Playoff is not about the money.

Bowlsby, the commissioner of the Big 12, spoke on expansion and NIL-related matters, among other things, in his Big 12 media day press conference in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium. 

Seated at a table placed on a stage erected over the east end zone, Bowlsby pointed towards another aspect of an expanded playoff as the primary catalyst for change.

“The motivation for expanding the playoff is not the money,” Bowlsby said. “The motivation for expanding the playoff is the realization that participation could be broader and access could be more readily accomplished.”

With just a handful of schools repeatedly cast as recurring characters in the sports biggest show, Bowlsby said the final stage of the season had gotten “fairly predictable.” He thinks expansion would, if approved, provide more teams with a realistic shot of winning a national championship.

“I think the 12-team playoff, if adopted, will be a tremendous asset for the regular season,” Bowlsby said. “There will be 40 schools that have a legitimate claim to a path to the playoff in mid-October, and by early November, there will still be 25.”

The commissioner addressed the surprise of some when talks were happening to expand from four teams to twelve instead of a less drastic number like six or eight.

“Eight (teams), with the highest-ranked six conference champions included just didn't allow enough opportunity for at-large participation,” Bowlsby said. “So that was one of the gating issues.”

Increasing games via postseason expansion begs the possibility of modifying the schedule to keep players fresh. The fate of the Big 12 championship game was raised.

“I don't think it will go away,” Bowlsby said. “One of the things we looked at was moving the season a week earlier. Then you'd have your conference championship games the week before Thanksgiving.”

When getting to the motives of something, it is said to “follow the money.” Bowlsby may not cite cash as the primary driver of expansion, but the conference benefits an expanded playoff would bring in terms of an increased likelihood in TV exposure — which leads to money — is undeniable.

“We haven't had a year in the Big 12 in the playoff era where our champion didn't finish in a position where it was one of the top-six rated champions in college football in the poll,” Bowlsby said. “While it's not automatic, I think our chances of having our champion and perhaps one other in the event are pretty good.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com