By Jackson Schneider
ARLINGTON, Tex. - Big 12 football season officially kicked off Wednesday, as the first of two media days began from AT&T Stadium in Arlington. As per usual, the event began with comments from Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who revisited last year, recounting Coronavirus pandemic.
"I think you'll find that teams in all sports that were the most self-disciplined, that followed the guidelines, that did the testing things that they needed to do, that did the necessary social distancing, adhered to protocols when they were traveling and on the road and in locker rooms and the like, they are the ones that were ultimately the most successful," said Bowlsby.
This season, all teams currently have plans to open their stadiums back up to 100% capacity, but Bowlsby says that with ongoing concerns of variant strains, there will likely still be some forms of testing and protocols surrounding teams.
"Frankly, I'm kind of -- I'm exhausted. I didn't -- I wasn't excited about revisiting protocols for this fall, and yet I think if you're honest with one's self, you have to -- you have to look at this and say, yeah, we wish we were done with it, but we're probably not quite done with it," he said. "We are certainly, as we go forward, encouraging student-athletes to get vaccinated, and in doing that, to minimize the impact that the Delta variant will have on our activities. Frankly, anyone not getting vaccinated is taking unnecessary and unwarranted risks. And that's not just student-athletes; that's anybody in our society. I think the Delta variant may, indeed, be a blessing for us because it punctuates the fact that we're not done with this yet."
According to Bowlsby no protocols have been established as of yet, but alluded to protocols being established later on, stating, "if we've learned anything, it's to be patient."
In 2020, with reduced crowd sizes, the financial footprint left by COVID-19 was also a burning question from media, but Bowlsby wasn't shy about the outcome.
"You know, in our case, we distributed about $35 million per school this year, plus or minus, and that was about probably $4.5 million per school less than we would have expected when we went into the year. "Expected" may not be exactly the way to say it because we were already in the midst of the pandemic and knew that we had to make some adjustments," said the Commissioner. "I think the long-term impact of it is going to be felt more in campus than it is through the central distribution from the conference office. We expect to be able to get our games in this fall, and we derive from that the revenue that we get from two TV contracts and a CFP involvement and other bowl games and NCAA Tournament and the like, and most of those things are likely to return to some semblance of normal."
Bowlsby was then asked about the balance of wanting to return to normal by filling stadiums to sort of correct the financial shortcomings caused by the virus with also battling the ongoing concern of the variants.
"I think all of our schools are relying on local health officials and doctors that serve on our conference medical committee. So we are drawing upon the best information that we can," he said. "In the end, these kinds of decisions have always been made on a local basis, local health officials, in some cases governors' offices. But if we get to a point where public assembly is ill-advised because of a spike in the variant, it's not inconceivable we would go back and try and revisit those things on an institutional basis or collectively. I think it's entirely possible and it's exactly that sort of occurrence that we're trying to anticipate and make sure that when the middle of August comes around, if we find that we've got nine miles of bad road in front of us, that we can make an informed decision."
The Big 12 Football Media Days then continued on to players and coaches from Iowa State, TCU, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas State, with the other half of the league appearing tomorrow.