DALLAS — Bob Bowlsby has come a long way from being skeptical about the future of the Big 12 Conference.
The Big 12 has lost four members in the past two years, but Bowlsby is happy with where the league is. The Big 12 lost Nebraska and Colorado before last season, and Texas A&M and Missouri are in the SEC starting this season. West Virginia and TCU will join the Big 12 starting this season.
"If we were to press for raised hands in a meeting room around the issue of expansion, I don't know that we'd get two votes for moving to a larger number," the new commissioner said. "Now, having said that, expansion is on every conference's list of discussion items. I don't think we can ever afford not to think about it. But if the Big 12 had to vote on it today, we wouldn't take any new members in."
Bowlsby was Stanford's athletic director the past two summers when the Big 12 seemed to be on the brink of collapsing, something that was clearly on his mind when first approached about becoming the league's new commissioner. His perception has changed since taking the job and now being the Big 12 leader full-time for almost six weeks.
"I think the best days of this conference are ahead," Bowlsby said Monday at the start of Big 12 football media days. "I came into this process skeptical, (that) would probably be a fair way to portray it. ... I think we have a stability that is far better than perhaps the public perception."
The Big 12 is in a unique situation this season of having three teams coming off conference championships. Along with defending Big 12 champ Oklahoma State, both newcomers, TCU and West Virginia, won their respective leagues last season.
While not finished yet, Bowlsby said details are being worked out on a new 13-year television contract for the league.
There is also the planned New Year's Day bowl game starting in 2014 that will match the Big 12 and SEC champions. And if the Big 12 or SEC champions are involved in the NCAA's new four-team playoff, which seems likely based on past success by both leagues, then a runner-up would replace the champs.
"In addition to the strength and the revenue that is derived from a major media contract, we really are headed for a period of stability," Bowlsby said.
Things are so good that expansion beyond the current 10 members seems unlikely for now.
"I think it's a stable conference right now, if there is such a thing in college football," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said, citing the strength of the two newcomers as a reason.
"It should be pretty obvious that it's a great league," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "The quality of teams shows great strength for us to move forward and to continue to develop our conference."
The Sooners, who won seven Big 12 titles from 2000-10, are the preseason pick to win another conference title. Newcomer West Virginia is picked to finish second, followed by Texas, defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma State and TCU.
West Virginia will take part in Tuesday's portion of the Big 12 media days, along with Texas, Baylor, Kansas and Oklahoma State. Oklahoma, TCU, Kansas State, Iowa State and Texas Tech participated on the first day.
The Horned Frogs won their third consecutive outright Mountain West crown last season, while West Virginia shared the Big East title before a 70-33 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
TCU won 24 consecutive Mountain West games, not losing a league game the past three years, and has won 50 of its last 55 games overall.
"We're excited about our inaugural year in the Big 12. Obviously it's been a long journey for us," said TCU coach Gary Patterson, whose team won or shared titles in three different leagues since the Southwest Conference broke up and the Frogs were left out of the original Big 12 configuration in 1996.
"I think Fort Worth, before we play a ball game, wins. I think before we play a ballgame, TCU wins," he said. "Financially, credibility-wise, Gary Patterson's job got harder. That's OK."
The start of the Big 12 media session came right after the NCAA announced severe penalties against Penn State in the wake of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky being found guilty of sexually abusing young boys. While wiping away 14 years of coach Joe Paterno's victories, the NCAA also fined Penn State $60 million, banned the school from postseason play the next four seasons reduced scholarships by 20 over that same period.
Stoops and Patterson both used the word "tragic" to describe the Penn State situation.
"The whole situation is just incredibly tragic. That's the only word I can use to describe the whole thing," Stoops said. "I don't know all the facts. I'm not one to judge. But in every way, in every way possible, children should always be protected by adults."