Bowlsby opened with a joke about trying to get the British Open up on the monitors, and wished outgoing Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky and SEC commissioner Mike Slive farewell.
He then went on to highlight the new autonomy structure, noting the concerns of those who aren't really sure yet what the Power Five conferences are going to do with that power. Issues of concern to the Power Five which he mentioned include transfers and enforcement.
Discussing the playoff, Bowlsby noted about 75% of people consider it an improvement over the BCS, and mentioned the impact the playoff is having on non-conference scheduling.
Probably the most pertinent claim made by the commissioner during his opening address was a firm belief that the NCAA has improved of the situation for student athletes. He cited changes including cost of attendance stipends, completion of degree programs, and loosening of meal restrictions. Bowlsby also touched on new core academic requirements and raised qualification standards. He brought up the Big 12 forums and their role in implementing changes and generating discussion of potential future changes.
He then paused to show a couple of new promo videos, one focusing on the conference's new catch phrase: "Classic Rivalries, No Divisions." Twitter immediately erupted with Kansas-West Virginia jokes, naturally.
Bowlsby expressed a growing concern regarding summer involvement between programs and athletes, specifically mentioning summer camps and recruiting. He also noted a disturbing decrease in Pop Warner participation -- down 15% -- as a concern for the future.
Then came the sportsmanship initiative, including concerns about chants and court storming and field storming. Bowlsby mentions that they're not trying to ban court and field storming; they want to manage it in a safe fashion. As long as the home school manages these things in a safe and efficient manner, the conference intends to take no action. If not, then the commissioner has latitude to fine schools and take other action.
Stemming off this, Bowlsby expressed a concern that college sports aren't doing enough to differentiate themselves from other sports by focusing on what makes them different -- the traditions and atmosphere.
Safety was Bowlsby's next topic, focusing on concussion protocols and brain research as well as repetitive use injuries. Medical professionals now have unconditional authority regarding concussion clearance. In the Big 12, two days of full contact will be allowed, including games.
Bowlsby then discussed competition, pointing out that in the last six years six teams have won a share of the Big 12 football championship. He expects the championship game rules to be relaxed, allowing the Big 12 to hold one without expanding if they so choose, and mentioned the fact that the conference now has a tiebreaker. He also pointed out that the game matching the two highest-ranked teams on Championship Saturday last season was not a conference championship game, but the Kansas State-Baylor game.
Bowlsby then began taking questions. Berry Tramel kicked things off, asking if Bowlsby was worried about the value of the Big 12's television contracts with the Big 10's contract coming up. But Bowlsby noted that with the exception of the Big 10, the Big 12 still comes up for renewal before the other Power Five conferences.
Bowlsby was asked whether the two days of full contact, when other conferences have three, will disadvantage the conference. He noted that most Big 12 coaches were only running two days anyway, and some weren't even doing that much.
Kirk Bohls asked about David Boren's comments regarding expansion, and how many presidents are on which side of the argument. Bowlsby demurred, but did concede that he feels that more presidents are fine with ten teams than want to expand, but that probably half the conference is firmly on the fence at this point. In a follow-up, Bowlsby was asked whether being left out last year placed the conference at a psychological disadvantage. He quipped the he personally always thought he was at a psychological disadvantage, but thinks that we'll have to wait and see. If it happens to the Big 12 again this year, it will probably send a signal. He also noted that 11 times, the Big 12's best team was in line to play for a national championship... and lost the Big 12 championship game five times.
Asked whether he was confident teams will improve their non-conference schedules, Bowlsby noted that he tends to feel it's a coach's prerogative to decide how challenging he wants his schedule to be. At the same time, there's a recognition that a bad schedule affects the entire conference. A follow-up asked whether Bowlsby felt that a time would be coming where the Power Five only played one another, he stressed that the Group of Five conferences -- as well as the FCS conferences -- are actually important to the Power Five, and the commissioners and presidents feel strongly in not drawing a line between the Power Five and everyone else.
Update: FOX then cut away to give Dave Wannstedt some facetime. During that period, Bowlsby was asked about the SEC's initiatives regarding transfers with legal problems, and said the Big 12 hasn't had the chance to discuss that yet.