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Bob Bowlsby announces he is retiring as commissioner of the Big 12 Conference

Randy Peterson
Des Moines Register

A day after a Big 12 school won the men's NCAA basketball championship for the second straight year, Bob Bowlsby announced he’s retiring as the conference’s longtime commissioner.

"After more than 40 years of serving in leadership roles in intercollegiate athletics, including the last 10 with the Big 12, and given the major issues that college sports in general and the Big 12 specifically will address in the next several years, I have reached a natural transition point in my tenure as commissioner, as well as in my career," Bowlsby said in a Big 12 press release Tuesday afternoon.

"The Big 12 will soon bring in our four new members and negotiate a new grant of rights and media rights agreements. I truly believe the Big 12 and our member institutions are in a strong position now, and as we look into the future.

“As such, this is an appropriate time for me to step away from the commissioner's role so that the next leader of the conference can take the reins on these significant matters that will come to the forefront before the end of the term of my employment agreement in 2025 to set the stage for the Big 12's future ongoing success."

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby addresses reporters during 2014 Big 12 Media Day.

Bowlsby said his plan is to “step away from the commissioner's chair later this year,” but remain in office until the Big 12 appoints a new commissioner. At the request of the conference, Bowlsby will transition to a new interim role with the conference.

Before running the Big 12, Bowlsby, of Waterloo, Iowa, spent six years as the athletics director at Stanford. Before that, he was the athletic director at Iowa for 15 years and at Northern Iowa for seven years.

Iowa State’s athletic director, Jamie Pollard, and Cyclones president Wendy Wintersteen could not be reached immediately for comment.

"On behalf of the Big 12 Conference, I want to extend my sincere appreciation to Commissioner Bowlsby for his outstanding leadership over the last decade," said Texas Tech president Lawrence Schovanec, chairman of the Big 12’s board. "Bob has consistently driven distributable revenue growth for the conference's member institutions, has stood strong during turbulent times in the world of collegiate sports, has led innovation within collegiate athletics, and has worked tirelessly to ensure the stability and future of the Big 12 conference.

“Bob's leadership contributed to the opportunities afforded to our students and their success beyond their athletic experiences. The conference will continue to excel, and we are confident of an even brighter future. I appreciate that during this transition, Bob will continue to be a trusted resource for the Conference in whatever appropriate role on which he and the new Commissioner mutually agree."

Most recently, Bowlsby led the charge to keep the Big 12 relevant, after the sudden and surprising announcements that Texas and Oklahoma were joining the SEC. While many figured their defections would be the demise of the conference, Big 12 leaders eventually announced that BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF would join the conference.

The Bowlsby retirement announcement said Big 12 is interviewing and engaging an executive search consulting firm to assist in what will be an extensive national search for the new commissioner.  

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby addresses the reporters at a past Big 12 football Media Days

"I have been honored to serve the Big 12 Conference membership, and I am tremendously proud of the incredible professionals in the conference office and in the extraordinary coaches and athletics departments of our member institutions with whom I have worked to serve the student-athletes who participate in our member's sports programs," Bowlsby said. "When my transition is complete, I will miss the daily interaction with these wonderful colleagues and with the student-athletes but will welcome the opportunity to spend more time with my wife, my children, and my ten grandchildren.

“I have consistently sought to align my professional actions with the best principles of higher education and intercollegiate athletics. Now, I look forward to the next chapters of my personal and professional activities and, as I do so, I am very confident in a vibrant, highly competitive, and prosperous future for the Big 12 Conference."

of the Big 12.

Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson can be reached at and on Twitter at @RandyPete.