Does Big 12's Bowlsby Change the Balance of Power?

It's not difficult to see the landscape of college football as a tug of war between two sides. On the one side, you've got the Big Ten and Pac-12, and on the other is the SEC. The ACC is likely to go along with the SEC thanks to similar geography, similar interests, and a past history of working together.

Somewhere stuck in the middle is the Big 12. It has been burned by both sides. It lost Nebraska to the Big Ten, Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC, and nearly its entire existence to the Pac-12 before only losing Colorado. It's the least stable and predictable of the five remaining power conferences (sorry Big East, but football is king), and its future is never going to seem all that secure after the episodes of the past two years.

The conference finally is letting interim boss Chuck Neinas go back to his former work by hiring former Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby as commissioner. Many of the questions at his introductory press conference centered around league expansion, which, by the way, is more likely to be anchored by Louisville rather than anyone else mentioned by recent, highly speculative rumors.

The more interesting question to me is whether Bowlsby will mark a shift in the power struggle to the Big Ten/Pac-12 side. Bowlsby is coming from Stanford, and prior to his work there he was AD at Iowa for a decade and a half. He is certainly steeped in the mythology of the Rose Bowl that largely is responsible for the divide among the powers.

On the other hand, he was hired by the Big 12 to represent the Big 12's interests. And, after all, the best three Rose Bowls of the past decade were won by teams currently in his conference (two by Texas and one by TCU). Expanded access to the big game in Pasadena would certainly be a good thing for his league. In that sense, the Big 12's interests are a lot more aligned with the SEC/ACC side of the axis. Bowlsby's first official day as commissioner is June 15, which may or may not be before the final playoff system is set, but I can't imagine he won't have any input between now and then.

Ultimately, I think the Big 12 might end up trying to play up its position as the swing vote. It's probably the most effective way for the wounded conference to try to exert some real power again. Whatever Bowlsby feels as a result of his former affiliations, it now takes a back seat to the wishes of Big 12 presidents.

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