STANFORD (CBS/AP) – Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby has accepted the Big 12 Conference commissioner job to replace the ousted Dan Beebe, people with direct knowledge of the situation said Thursday.
Bowlsby, who had passed up several chances to leave Stanford over his six years at the school, will take over one of the BCS conferences that seems to have found some stability after losing four schools over the past two years. It will head into this fall with 10 members, including two new additions in TCU and West Virginia.
Bowlsby’s hire was confirmed by another person with knowledge of the negotiations. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because the Big 12 had not yet announced the move. Bowlsby called an all-staff meeting on the Stanford campus for Thursday morning, according to an email to the athletic department staff that was obtained by the AP.
Bowlsby is a nationally respected college administrator who was hired away from Iowa in 2006 after 15 years spent running the Hawkeyes’ athletic department. Stanford’s rigorous academic standards present unique circumstances, and Bowlsby has shined and helped oversee the transformation of the football program back into a national power.
The Big 12 was hit hard two years ago and wound up losing Nebraska to the Big Ten, Colorado to the Pac-12 and, as of July 1, Texas A&M and Missouri to the Southeastern Conference. Beebe was fired in September as Oklahoma, Texas and others were flirting with the Pac-12 and the Big 12 seemed on the brink of falling apart.
Beebe was replaced on an interim basis by Chuck Neinas, a former Big Eight commissioner. Since Missouri’s departure, the Big 12 has added TCU and West Virginia to get back to 10 members.
The conference is reportedly working toward a new television deal with ESPN, and Neinas was pushing members to agree to a long-term grant of media rights to the league that would make it all but impossible for schools to bolt. No deal has been struck yet, but that will likely be among the first items on the agenda for the next commissioner.
After reaching a 12-year contract worth about $3 billion last year with Fox and ESPN, the Pac-12 announced plans to launch a new conference-owned network to supplement coverage and create more exposure for Pac-12 athletes. Bowlsby had a role in the venture, which will launch this fall with the national cable network, six regional networks and a digital network.
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