It doesn't have the same, over-the-top sex appeal of SEC media days, but the Big 12's annual preseason event is just as compelling to cover.
Perhaps the nation's most evenly matched conference, the Big 12 is wide open entering 2013. Five teams—Oklahoma State, Texas, Oklahoma, TCU and dark-horse favorite Baylor—could win the league and few people would bat an eyelash.
Between that healthy existence of parity and the hot-button issues surrounding all of college football, there will be plenty to talk about at the Omni Dallas Hotel this week.
It all gets started Monday with conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby:
Bowlsby Proposes Radical Changes to NCAA
Before Bowlsby even left the stage, he had already managed to draw comments like this from CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd:
In the last few minutes I have heard the most scathing critique of the NCAA by a meaningful person in the Emmert era.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 22, 2013
What did he say to deserve such feedback?
Bowlsby said that the five power conference commissioners agreed unanimously that "transformative change" is needed in the sport. Because of the disparate interests of such a large body of schools, the current system doesn't allow for any meaningful improvements:
Bowlsby says commissioners of the 5 major conferences have "unanimity" that "transformative change" is necessary.— George Schroeder (@GeorgeSchroeder) July 22, 2013
Bowlsby says it has been too easy to get into Division I. He's correct about that, too. Lots of schools wasting students/taxpayers money.— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) July 22, 2013
Basically Bob Bowlsby says great, important ideas are being voted down by the larger majority of D-I schools— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 22, 2013
He proposed the creation of new federations, multiple governing bodies that take into account the size of each school and even the specifics of the sport they oversee. It appeared to be laying the groundwork for a potential Division IV in the NCAA, per ESPN's Joe Schad:
#BigXII commissioner Bob Bowlsby just said in Dallas that it's time to look at "federations" based on size and scope and sport— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) July 22, 2013
Bowlsby promotes change in how the NCAA is governed: You can't rule football and field hockey the same way— Ken Corbitt (@KenCorbitt) July 22, 2013
Definitely sounds like the power conference commissioners are open to a new Division IV to set rules that work for them and their students— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 22, 2013
Frustrated by the inability to make meaningful changes in the current infrastructure, Bowlsby even mentioned the word "secession"—though he made sure to call it an inviable point of leverage, something that nobody of import has talked about, and merely a last resort:
Bob Bowlsby: I don't know that meaningful enforcement can take place under structure that is currently in place— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 22, 2013
"[NCAA] is under fire, there isn’t any question about it. And yet I’m not hearing anyone say we ought to find another organization." BB— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 22, 2013
Bowlsby said big schools have not wanted to put threat of secession from NCAA on the table, only sees it as a last resort.— kbohls (@kbohls) July 22, 2013
Bowlsby on Progressive Uses of Technology
On a less radical note, Bowlsby also discussed some technological advancements the conference plans to make in the near future.
In regard to declining attendance numbers—a trend that persists throughout the sport—he said Big 12 stadiums will begin featuring live and delayed in-game highlights from other conference games:
Big 12 will have in-game highlights at stadiums this year, hoping to address national trend of declining attendance— Ken Corbitt (@KenCorbitt) July 22, 2013
Bowlsby also mentioned that starting next year, players will have devices called "RF chips" inserted into their shoulder pads. These chips will monitor things like speed and collision rate, though Bowlsby said there isn't a specific plan on what to do with the research:
B12 players will have chip embedded in shoulder pads tracking speed etc. "We will not sure what we will do with technology." BB— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 22, 2013
Still, he later addressed his progressive stance on preventing concussions:
Big 12 has developed concussion position statement. Partnership with USA Football. Concussions No. 1 issue in cfb IMO at this moment.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 22, 2013
"This is not an attempt to sissify college football." -- Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby on implementing concussion safety rules— Sean Frye (@SeanEFrye) July 22, 2013
So there's a chance the RF chips could be used to gather research on head injuries.
Bowlsby: Big 12 Adding Eighth Game Official
One of the biggest revelations from Bowlsby’s presser was the implementation of an eighth game official for Big 12 games.
Though most BCS schools toyed with this idea during spring ball, according to Dodd, only the Big 12 has pulled the trigger and made it official for the real season:
Pretty much all BCS leagues experimented with 8th official in spring. B12 only one to adopt.— Dennis Dodd (@dennisdoddcbs) July 22, 2013
The new official will have an offensive focus, used to do things like spot the football:
I really like the idea of adding an extra ref just for spotting the football in the Big 12. Should have been done years ago across football.— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) July 22, 2013
It seems like a low-risk, decent-reward addition—especially in the era of HD instant replay, where at-home fans are extra critical on crews who make a wrong call.
Another pair of eyes should free up everyone to do a better job.
Big 12 Getting a New Logo
Bowlsby rolled out a new logo for his conference, which will be put into full use next summer:
It was interesting they elected to keep the roman numerals. The conference demands writers use the digits '12' in the their pieces, forbidding any stylistic reference to being the Big XII.
Sound off in the comments section with what you think.
Mike Gundy: Spread Offenses are “Great for College Football”
Perhaps a little biased, since, you know, he runs a variation of the spread offense, Gundy was a vehement supporter of the scheme in his presser.
The spread offense has come under fire this summer, in large part due to the concerns of Arkansas’ Bret Bielema and Alabama’s Nick Saban. Those concerns from the SEC made their way all the way to Big 12 territory, but Gundy rebuked those claims:
Asked Gundy about criticism of up-tempo offense: "Spread offenses have been the single thing that has created parity in college football."— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) July 22, 2013
Mike Gundy on hurry-up causing injuries: "I certainly Don't agree with that. I think it's great for college football."— George Schroeder (@GeorgeSchroeder) July 22, 2013
The claim on parity seems fair. Like the three-point shot in college basketball (though to a lesser extent), creative, up-tempo, wide-open offenses are an equalizer of sorts in college football.
But the claim on hurry-up offenses not causing injuries? That one requires a little more research.
Gundy Plays Coy on Oklahoma State QB Competition
In a predictable fit of coach-speak, Gundy refused commitment to either of his potential starting QBs. He said Clint Chelf, who started the last five games of 2012, will split even reps with J.W. Walsh:
Gundy: Won't say much about QB situation till after first game. Clint Chelf, J.W. Walsh in mix to start. Chelf started last 5 last yr— Jimmy Burch (@Jimmy_Burch) July 22, 2013
Mike Gundy says Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh will get equal reps in camp. Consider me skeptical of that claim.— David Ubben (@davidubben) July 22, 2013
As ESPN's David Ubben implies, Chelf is considered by many the favorite to start. But anything can still happen in fall camp, and it appears Gundy will hold his tongue until he's sure about his decision.
Gary Patterson: QB Pachall Asked Not to Come to Media Days
In 2011, TCU's Casey Pachall was one of the best quarterbacks in college football. But substance abuse issues forced him to leave the team early in 2012, handing the reins to then-freshman Trevone Boykin who performed admirably in his stead.
Many presume Pachall will inherit the job back in 2013 and were surprised he wasn't one of the Horned Frogs players who traveled to media days. But Patterson said that Pachall was left home because (a) the team doesn't have a starter yet, and (b) he preferred not to come:
Patterson says CPachall not at media days b/c Frogs not sure who starting QB will be. Also, Pachall asked to "just be student" while longer— Jimmy Burch (@Jimmy_Burch) July 22, 2013
Gary Patterson said he asked Casey Pachall if he wanted to go to Big 12 media day and get some of questions out of the way. He's not here.— Jimmie Tramel (@JimmieTramel) July 22, 2013
What's interesting here is the apparent contradiction. Did Patterson leave Pachall home because he doesn't know the starting QB or because Pachall declined the invite? It seems fair to say, as Ubben suggests, that Patterson may have tipped his hand:
I'd infer that Patterson wanting Pachall to come to media days has real meaning re: TCU QB "race," if you'd like to call it that.— David Ubben (@davidubben) July 22, 2013
Either way, whenever he does decide to address the media, it will be interesting to hear what Pachall has to say.
Charlie Weis Is Candid (Perhaps To a Fault) About His Team
Coming of an embarrassing 1-11 season, it came as a surprise to no one when Kansas was picked last in the preseason Big 12 media polls.
Weis was his usual, candid self when asked about his spot in the cellar, saying he doesn't take the low expectations personally. In fact, if he was a voting member of the media, he would have voted the Jayhawks last too:
Weis said "I'd pick us in the same spot" (last place) if he was a media member projecting the 2013 season— Jimmy Burch (@Jimmy_Burch) July 22, 2013
Weis wasn't condemning his team or saying he expects to finish last. He simply understands why voters would rank them at the bottom. It seems like he'll use that indignity as fuel for his players this seasons.
Later in the interview, though, Weis's frankness went to a whole other level. When asked how he recruits players who want immediate plating time, Weis said he tells them to look at the pitiful state of his roster:
Charlie Weis, the KU head coach on recruiting players who ask if they can get playing time: "Have you seen that pile of crap out there?"— Sean Frye (@SeanEFrye) July 22, 2013
Weiss on part of his sales pitch at KU? "Have you looked at that pile of crap out there? ..If you can't play here, where can you play?"— Jimmy Burch (@Jimmy_Burch) July 22, 2013
He went on to compliment his running back, James Sims, saying his backs can compete with any other unit in the conference. It was a rare bit of adulation from the Kansas head coach, but it was immediately countered by saying "[that's the] only position where I can say that."
KU's Weis: Jayhawks' RBs, led by James Sims, may be as good as any group in lg. "Only position were I can say that."— Jimmy Burch (@Jimmy_Burch) July 22, 2013
Baby steps, Charlie. Baby steps.
Opinions Differ—Predictably—On Player Compensation
Some 1,000 miles east of Dallas, Maryland head coach Randy Edsall made headlines at ACC media days by speaking out on behalf of the O'Bannan lawsuit. And a number of Big 12 players did the same.
Texas Tech receiver Eric Ward was particularly outspoken, wondering why players shouldn't be compensated in an industry that profits off things like their jersey sales:
Tech WR Eric Ward: "This is a billion dollar industry. Why are you giving players $12-14k a year to live? We’re the ones bringing money in."— Max Olson (@max_olson) July 22, 2013
More from Ward: "University makes money. Big 12 makes money. Why not get compensated? We're getting marketed. They're selling our jerseys."— Max Olson (@max_olson) July 22, 2013
But, as has always been the case in this circular debate, the opinion was not unanimous. Kansas safety Cassius Sendish championed the other side of the argument, saying that his scholarship was already compensation enough:
KU DB Cassius Sendish: "I'm already getting paid just by being in a video game. I'm not a professional athlete. I am paid w my scholarship."— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 22, 2013
Not much was done in the way of progress, and neither of these opinions, on their own, are enough to make headlines. But this issue continues to dominate preseason media events, proving even further that the player-compensation argument is nearing its tipping point.
Keep it locked here throughout the afternoon for continuing updates of Big 12 media day. We'll be updating this piece with any and all news from Dallas.