Bowlsby Bonanza: Big 12 Paid Commish $17.2M After Retiring

In the wake of former commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s retirement in 2022, the Big 12 Conference created an award for athletes named in his recognition.

But perhaps Bowlsby’s ultimate honor was revealed Thursday, when the conference publicly released its fiscal year 2023 tax returns. The filings showed that Bowlsby, who ran the Big 12 for a decade, received $17.2 million from the league in FY23.

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Bowlsby’s stepping down came after Texas and Oklahoma announced their plans to leave the Big 12 for the SEC, moves that Bowlsby would publicly criticize and acknowledge had caught him off guard. In an interview with the Austin American-Statesman, UT’s hometown paper, Bowlsby characterized the surreptitious manner of the programs’ defections as a “personal betrayal.”

The Big 12 reported FY23 gross receipts of $511 million (compared to the SEC’s $853 million), while distributions for its members ranged from $41.9 million (West Virginia) to $48.3 million (TCU). Bowlsby’s successor as commissioner, Brett Yormark, received $1.2 million in compensation.

Earlier this year, Bowlsby told Sportico that, given the ongoing state of college athletics, he felt it was necessary for modern power conference commissioners to have a legal background—something he lacked. He also warned of the perils of increasingly “active” university boards of directors, and trustees who were “intruding” in the affairs of athletics.

“They treat the athletics program like they are the ownership group,” Bowlsby observed.

In November, the 72-year-old began a five-month stint as interim athletic director at Northern Iowa, a position he had previously held from 1990 until 2006. In this latest stint, UNI gave Bowlsby a monthly salary of $6,250, according to a copy of his employment agreement. Additionally, the school also hired Bowlsby Sports Advisors—a consultancy run by Kyle Bowlsby, Bob’s son—for $45,000 to assist UNI in its hiring search of a permanent AD.

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