AMES, Iowa — New Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby views the league as healthy and stable, with its 10 members committed to each other.
Now he's trying to get everyone else to see it that way too.
Bowlsby said Tuesday that one of the Big 12's biggest immediate challenges is in changing the minds of those who saw the league brought to the brink of extinction more than once and still look at it as a shaky alliance of disjointed institutions.
Bowlsby acknowledged during a visit to Iowa State that even he was skeptical of how dedicated the Big 12's members were to each other. But Bowlsby said those concerns were alleviated by the leadership of the member institutions, and he left one of the nation's top athletic director jobs, Stanford, for the Big 12 in May.
"The private reality is much more stable and much more strong and much more forward-looking than the public perception is. I think we're still recovering from some of the tumultuous times over the last two years," Bowlsby said. "We're still moving in the direction that we'd like to eventually reside, but I feel very good about the reality of the conference at the present time."
The league still has some work to do to prove its stability. But Bowlsby said the Big 12 is in the "late stages" of solving the final issues with a lucrative new, multi-year TV contract. That, in turn, will allow the member institutions to officially sign a grant of media rights deal that would essentially make their commitment to each other iron-clad.
The Big 12 will also take on a new look this fall with the departures of Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC and the additions of West Virginia and TCU.
Bowlsby isn't anticipating a drop-off after losing the Tigers and Aggies and is confident the league has a chance to end the SEC's strangehold on the national championship in football.
"I like the dog we have in the fight. I think the top of our league is competitive with any in the country. There's no doubt about that. We add two good football schools in West Virginia and TCU, and I think our league top to bottom in our major flagship sports are better."
For now, Bowlsby said that although the conference realignment madness that nearly wrecked the Big 12 will always be on the league's radar, the majority of its presidents are happy with the current 10-team model.
Bowlsby said the best way to ensure the league's long-term stability is to make the Big 12 into a conference so strong no school would ever want to leave.
"What we have to do is incentivizing people staying rather than penalize them leaving," Bowlsby said.