Big 12 commissioner remains hopeful fall season won’t be devastated by pandemic

By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer

Bob Bowlsby has been a busy man. The Big 12 Commissioner has had anvils falling on his face since the NBA postponed its season, as has the rest of the sports world. And he still isn’t sure when the industry will be back on its feet or what the consequences are so far.

Bowlsby addressed the media Thursday, with the bulk of his discussion on the financial ramifications of losing the spring season and the possibility of losing next fall. He said he’s had “several” calls with the NCAA over the past few weeks, and the Big 12 athletic directors have been holding calls twice weekly, if not more.

The conference is looking at losses of $6.6 million for the Big 12 Tournaments and $14 million for the NCAA Tournaments. With some refunds here and there, as well as not having to operate tournaments that are negatives in revenue, the commissioner predicted total losses to the conference this spring in the ballpark of $15 million-18 million.

After discussions on balance sheets, football took center stage. Bowlsby made sure to emphasize there are no contingency plans for a lost or shortened football season, and that it is “too early” to look at missing revenue from its possible cancellation, even though it would be consequential. He did say that without a spring ball to rely upon, competition may have to look different.

“I think it’s very unlikely that we’re going to have any spring games. We’re looking at a window for a return to activity that’s six or eight weeks,” Bowlsby said. “The month of May typically is a heavy lifting and training month. Then the athletes get some time off, and the coaches have camps and clinics. It may be that we can’t do any of that this year, so what do you do to get ready? I think that’s the part that we’re thinking about, what does that transition look like?”

The Big 12 Board is meeting Saturday to discuss reactions and plans on COVID-19, and among the items on their agenda is the Sunday deadline set to reconsider the rules for what can be sent to student-athletes during quarantine season. Bowslby did say that the conference will not reconsider the ban on virtual team meetings in lieu of spring practices.

“Given the circumstances nationally, everyone should shut it down,” Bowlsby said. “Coaches ought to go home and take care of their families, and kids ought to go home and do what they’re directed to do in their locale.”

To add insult to injury, the conference was looking at a potentially successful spring. Baseball had a team ranked in the top four, softball had two in the top six, women’s basketball had a top-three team, and men’s basketball featured two in the top five. Bowlsby said Baylor and Kansas had a chance to bring serious recognition to the conference.

“It hasn’t been lost on us that this could have been a year that we would have competed at a very high level,” Bowlsby said. “It probably had a financial impact on us too. They are both excellent basketball teams, very well coached, and both would have had a chance to play very deep in the tournament.”