Big 12 media days lacked the size of its SEC counterpart—no surprise there, right?—but it certainly wasn't without major storylines.
When it comes to coaches in front of a microphone, the more vocal, the better, especially when it comes to big-picture issues like player stipends and postseason selections.
Which items stood out at Big 12 media days?
The Art Briles-Jimbo Fisher Kerfuffle
Call this manufactured drama with quotes likely taken out of context, but it's July, which means media is looking for something fun. It also involves a timely subject.
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher was recently asked about expanding the College Football Playoff to eight teams, to which he replied that every conference should have its own championship game. Via Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com:
Question: Are you in favor of expanding the playoff to 8 teams?
Fisher: I'm not. Do I think inevitably it will? Yeah I do. But really, are you not in eight now? Because you got a conference championship, you're in more than that right now. You got a playoff game there.
And by the way, I think every conference should have to have one. We got a championship where not everyone plays the same number of games and does the same things. I think it's ridiculous.
Harmless enough, at least until Baylor head coach Art Briles was asked about it at Big 12 media days.
The Big 12, of course, is the only power conference without its own title game, and the league embraces it with the motto "One True Champion." Will the Big 12's round-robin schedule help or hurt it in the eyes of the playoff selection committee? It's impossible to tell.
"I'm not concerned about lack of a championship game," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said during Big 12 media days. "I like our path to the championship. Some years it's a good thing, some years it's a bad thing."
The interesting subplot about the Briles-Fisher exchange is that the Big 12 recently joined the ACC in supporting legislation to deregulate conference championship games, according to Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News.
"We would like the prerogative about whether we want to make that decision," Bowlsby said.
Bob Bowlsby Takes Strong Stance
The start of Big 12 media days sounded like a funeral. The subject in the casket was college football.
That's the tone Bowlsby set during his opening remarks on Day 1 of Big 12 media days.
"If you like the way college athletics works now, you're going to be disappointed when the changes come soon," Bowlsby said.
From the Ed O'Bannon trial over paying athletes for the use of their name, image and likeness to the recent unionization push by Northwestern athletes, it's no secret that college football is on the verge of major change.
No matter which side of the fence you sit on regarding that change, the important thing to know is that it's coming.
According to Bowlsby, that may mean many athletic programs cutting sports while trying to stay compliant with Title IX. As Kristi Dosh of the Sports Business Daily reports, the pressure to fully fund scholarships creates a complex situation.
Bowlsby supports the collegiate model, which is no surprise, but he also hasn't been shy about recognizing the problems within it. "There's more right than there is wrong" with the model, Bowlsby said.
Still, "cheating pays" according to the commissioner, and the enforcement arm of the NCAA hasn't exactly been living up to strict standards lately.
While Bowlsby doesn't think cheating is rampant, it won't end if college football players are compensated more in some form in the not-too-distant future. In what capacity—pay for play, stipends or the like—they'll be compensated remains to be seen.
Bowlsby's tone was bleak, but give him credit, he knows what's coming. The important thing college athletics administrators can do is start finding solutions instead of fighting the problem.
Bob Stoops, Kliff Kingsbury Talk Cost of Attendance, Scholarships
Speaking of compensation, player stipends were on the table as a discussion point. You probably won't find a coach at Big 12 media days vocally opposed to paying their players the full cost of attendance. If nothing else, coaches have to keep up appearances that they're pro-player.
And as a power five conference, the pool to fund such a payout is there: Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reported that eight Big 12 members will earn $23 million in revenue. (TCU and West Virginia are still earning a partial payout.)
"I've always been in favor of [full] cost of attendance," Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said. "I'm in favor of supporting athletes in different ways, transportation home, transportation back to school."
Bowlsby added in his opening remarks that "if left to our own devices, [power conferences] could have passed stipends" already.
As far multi-year scholarships go—another hot-button item for athlete well-being—Bowlsby said the league as a whole is not ready to get behind legislation yet. However, Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury said he gives out multi-year scholarships at his discretion.
"My college experience was great, so if there's anything we can do to help players, I'm all for it," Kingsbury said.
If college football players will still be defined as student-athletes, and if they won't be paid for the use of their image, athletic departments have to come up with a way to better support them. This applies for stipends, safety practices during the week in practice and better medical care.
The sport simply demands too much of its athletes for the status quo to remain. Without a doubt, coaches and administrators are catching on to it and are more than vocal about it.
That's where change starts.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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