On the heels of the report yesterday evening that Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby (@BobBowlsby) was formally offered the helm of the Big XII when Interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas steps down at the beginning of July, sources have now confirmed to ESPN that Bowlsby will accept the job and become the seventh commissioner in the league's 18-year history. That report follows a tweet from Jon Wilner of the Bay Area News Group that Bowlsby informed his staff this morning that he would be leaving Palo Alto to take the job.
I'll be completely honest with you: before last night I had never heard of Bob Bowlsby. If you asked me to guess who he was just from his name, I'd say he was a red-shirted character from a James Bond movie or an actor from Harry Potter. I might have gone with one of Churchill's advisers during the Blitz, but probably not. The name Bowlsby positively reeks of Anglicanism.
The more I have since read about Mr. Bowlsby, however, the more excited I have become. A graduate of Moorhead State University in Moorhead, Minnesota, and holder of a master's degree from the University of Iowa, Bowlsby has been Stanford's Athletic Director since 2006. Before that, he served in the same capacity for his second alma mater (Iowa) from 1991-2005. His sixtieth birthday came on January 10 of this year. I'm not going to focus on them, but if you want to know more about the exploits of Stanford's athletic department while under his stewardship, you can read his official biography here. Be forewarned, if Stanford isn't the best overall athletic department in the country, it is clearly in the top two or three, so try not to get jealous from all their trophies.
Rather than talk too much about that, I'm going to focus on what probably made him attractive to the Big XII powers-that-be: his relationship with Pac12 Commissioner Larry Scott (also known as the man who, with the presidents of Stanford, UC-Berkeley, and maybe UCLA, almost set us adrift in the great Realignment Scare of 2010-2011). The two are known to be close friends-- ESPN's report includes the note that Scott vigorously supported Bowlsby's candidacy for this job-- and Bowlsby was supposedly instrumental in helping procure the television and digital media packages that spurred the Pac12's recent growth and made it so attractive. With our own major television packages coming up for renegotiation in the very near future, the Big XII ADs likely looked to Bowlsby as someone with experience dealing with ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS, and their ilk, as well as bringing a conference somewhat behind-the-times into the 21st Century. Lord knows that if he can convince the Big XII's of the value of digital media (and the potential profits, as well), I will certainly be a fan.
More toward the speculation side, Bowlsby is rumored to be the choice of the more expansion-minded members of the current Big XII, including Oliver Luck, the AD of incoming-member West Virginia. The conference, as I noted last night, currently stands at 10 members, several of which have openly voiced their hope for future growth. If this is the case and the Big XII's newest commissioner believes, as many do and should, that the Big XII cannot survive as a major conference with only 10 teams, we may see the next movement of our conference toward growth and greater stability.
The latest reports about this situation say that Bowlsby could be introduced in a press conference tomorrow morning at 10 AM. (I'd say the fact that the official Big12Conference twitter account used the hashtag "Big12Commish" in that post is a pretty good indication that the reports are true, but what do I know?) That would give him a little under two months to prepare himself for the job. He will likely spend a large portion of that time as Mr. Neinas did before he stepped in for Beebe taking a tour of the conference members and further familiarizing himself with our great schools. When/if more information becomes available, you'll be the first to know.
UPDATE: The conference has apparently made it official with a press release. Welcome to the Big XII, Bob!