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Commissioner Bob Bowlsby defends Big 12; planning on extension

FRISCO, Texas -- Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby fired back in response to his league's sagging perception Monday, at the same time saying he plans to sign a contract extension through 2024-25 in part to maintain leverage for the conference in the next round of media rights negotiations.

"I am not at all concerned about our future," Bowlsby said after a 45-minute address to open Big 12 media days at The Ford Center. "I think we compete at a very high level, and we'll win our share of national championships."

The Big 12 has missed the four-team College Football Playoff in two of its first three seasons, last year essentially dropping from contention in October as a result of a poor showing in nonconference play. Oklahoma lost 37-17 to Clemson in a 2015 CFP semifinal, the Big 12's only appearance in the sport's marquee event.

"That's a really short window," Bowlsby said. "It get a little tiresome, because I know we play at a very high level, and I know that, top to bottom, we're the best in the country in terms of balance. And I know that the method by which we conduct our championships and conduct our regular season is the most difficult."

Additionally, the Big 12 signed just 27 recruits in 2017 from the ESPN 300, the fewest of any Power 5 league for the fifth straight year. The league produced only 14 NFL draft picks in April, its lowest total since the conference's 1996 inception.

Bowlsby, 65, touted the league for leading the nation in scoring defense in bowl games last season. It allowed 21.5 points per game in six contests a year after it ranked last among all conferences at 43.9 points allowed per bowl game.

The commissioner, hired by the Big 12 in 2012, said he's set to sign a contract extension through 2024-25.

"I like what I'm doing," Bowlsby said. "I like the schools. The board has been very good to me. They've been very supportive."

The Big 12 board of directors wants Bowlsby in place when media rights are discussed in six to seven years, he said.

"It's not a coincidence," Bowlsby said. "They want continuity, and I think they believe that I'm the right person to go through the process of looking for the right opportunities, optimizing our opportunities and then capitalizing on it from a financial standpoint.

"Our board is as unified as they've been at any time in five years. They are singing off the same sheet music. They've been through baptism by fire, and they feel good about where we are, and that makes me feel good about it. I plan to be here for a while."

A year ago at this event in Dallas, the Big 12 announced a plan to explore growth -- an exercise that ended in October 2016 without an invitation extended to an expansion candidate. Bowlsby described the process on Monday as "successful" in spite of considerable criticism from the media and the public that plagued the period.

Consequently, the Big 12 finds itself as an "easy target," Bowlsby said.

"I think it's a perception, not a reality," he said. "I think we play at an exceedingly high level. And I think over the 12 years of the playoff, you'll see Big 12 teams in there. But make no mistake, it's not about making the playoff. It's about winning national championships. That's what we want to do."