Texas Tech football: Big 12 hypocrisy on full display with radio crew suspension

Jul 16, 2018; Frisco, TX, USA; Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks to the media during Big 12 football media days at the Ford Center at the Star. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 16, 2018; Frisco, TX, USA; Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks to the media during Big 12 football media days at the Ford Center at the Star. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Apparently, it’s ok for Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby to make dramatic public claims that could hurt the reputation of his conference but it isn’t permissible for the Texas Tech football radio broadcast crew to do the same.  At least that’s the lesson we can glean from this week’s edition of As the Big 12 Turns.

By now, almost every Texas Tech football fan is aware that the team’s radio play-by-play man, Brian Jensen, and the radio color analyst, John Harris, have been suspended from broadcasting this weekend’s home finale against Oklahoma State and have received a public reprimand from Bowlsby.

Those unprecedented actions stem from harsh criticism that Jensen and Harris levied on air against the officiating crew in last Saturday’s 41-38 Texas Tech victory over Iowa State.  During the game, after a handful of 50-50 calls all went in Iowa State’s favor, Harris suggested that the conference wanted the Cyclones to win being as ISU was still mathematically alive for a spot in the league title game at the time.

Meanwhile, Jensen on one occasion called out Bowlsby by name during the broadcast and at a later time red off the names of the entire officiating crew (something that is easy to find in the game notes, which are published on the Texas Tech athletics website and elsewhere).  Apparently, that was just too much for Bowlsby to stand as he banned the broadcast duo, which has between them nearly 60 years of experience calling Texas Tech football games, from the airwaves this Saturday night.

"“I understand the roles of the play-by-play and color analyst,” Bowlsby said in the official conference statement. “However as University representatives they also have an obligation to adhere to Conference policy regarding comments about game officials.  The comments by the Red Raider Radio Network booth announcers were contrary to expected levels of respect and professionalism.  Questioning the integrity of Conference officials and specifically calling out members of the officiating crew is well beyond appropriate and permissible behavior.”"

Bowlsby’s point is that for anyone associated with the Big 12, in any manner, to question the integrity of the league’s officials, is to undermine the integrity of the conference, therefore, doing damage to the league’s reputation.  What’s ironic, though, is that just a few months ago, Bowlsby did something similar in that he made public statements that did more to damage the Big 12 and its reputation than anything Jensen or Harris could ever dream of doing.

In late July of this year, as the news was breaking that Oklahoma and Texas were planning to bolt the Big 12 for the SEC, Bowlsy issued a cease and desist letter to ESPN.  By doing so, the leader of the Big 12 publically accused an entity (ESPN) of wanting what is worst for his organization and making moves to assure it happens.  Sounds a lot like what Jensen and Harris were asserting on Saturday night, doesn’t it?

"“The involvement of ESPN and the other conferences in destabilizing the Big 12 is intended to allow Oklahoma and Texas to get out sooner than the grant of rights calls for,” Bowlsby told The Des Moines Register. “It’s in ESPN’s best interest, it’s in the schools’ best interest — and it’s in the worst interest of the Big 12 Conference. It’s a tortious interference in our business, he would go on to say though he would decline to name specific conferences that he suspected of meddling."

So it is ok for Bowlsby to make dramatic and specific claims against an entity with which the Big 12 has a contractual agreement but it is not ok for Jensen and Harris to make similar claims against an entity that Texas Tech is in bed with.  That type of thinking is perfectly logical in the illogical world that is the Big 12.

The difference in these two incidences is that Jensen’s and Harris’ comments would have been nothing more than a belch in the wind had Bowlsby chosen to look the other way. (Instead, he brought national attention to the incompetence of his officials by taking the unheard-of step of suspending a radio crew, a move that has put the focus back on the comments he didn’t approve of in the first place.)

However, by officially filing a cease and desist letter against ESPN, Bowlsby essentially declared war on the biggest media entity in sports, one that the Big 12 would likely have wanted to negotiate with when the league’s grant of rights are up for the bidding here in just a few years.

But it is hard to imagine the powers that be at ABC (which owns ESPN) or ESPN itself wanting to sit down with Bowlsby and offer billions of dollars to his league so long as the man in charge of the conference is the same one who essentially accused the network of being a cheat.  This was not some comment made about officiating integrity born in the heat of the moment.  Rather, Bowlsby’s actions were a calculated shot across the bow at one of the hands that feed his league and by taking aim at ESPN, he’s essentially bitten off that hand while making the Big 12 look petty and scared.

But where was the public reprimand or accountability for Bowlsby?  Right.  There was none.  He was allowed to say anything he wanted to say regardless of the damage it may ultimately do to the Big 12.

Unfortunately, Jensen and Harris were not afforded that same opportunity because, well, they aren’t the men in charge.  In the end, it just goes to show that this conference is being led by a buffoon, one who still has egg on his face from letting Texas and OU sneak out the back door in broad daylight and one who will do anything to try to make himself seem more powerful than he is in this period when he has been exposed as nothing more than an empty suit.  But at least he stood up for his incompetent officials.  Because, that’s exactly what this conference needs these days, a feckless leader taking a hypocritical stand to defend incompetence.  Bravo Big 12.  Bravo.