DALLAS – Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby had criticisms and warnings about college sports during his opening address Monday at the conference’s football media days.
Bowlsby said the NCAA enforcement program “is broken,” noting there have been no hearings before the infractions committee in almost a year.
“I think it’s not an understatement to say cheating pays presently,” he said. “If you seek to conspire to certainly bend the rules, you can do it successfully and probably not get caught in most occasions. …
“They (NCAA personnel) are in a battle with a BB gun in their hand. They’re fighting howitzers. We have to find a way to make progress on it, because it undermines the confidence in the system.”
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Bowlsby provided little comfort for those who approve of the present state of intercollegiate sports.
“You’re going to hate it going forward,” he said. “There’s a lot of change coming.”
Bowlsby talked about growing financial constraints athletic programs face going forward and the “strange environment” that exists with class-action lawsuits against the NCAA and its member schools.
Bowlsby, 62, said he doesn’t think there is a real understanding of how much lawsuits — which he said numbered seven and are “growing all the time” — could radically alter things.
“I think all of that, in the end, will cause programs to be eliminated. I think you’ll see men’s Olympic sports go away as a result of the new funding challenges that are coming down the pike,” he said. “I think there may be tension among and between sports on campus and institutions that have different resources.”
While acknowledging the outcomes are unknown, the former Stanford athletic director expressed concern about fewer opportunities for some athletes to go college in the future.
“I fear that we will get past the change and then we’ll realize that all the gymnastics programs went away, or that we have agents on campus all the time negotiating playing time for student-athletes,” he said. “There’s all kind of Armageddon scenarios you could come up with. … You wouldn’t have to be a very good fiction writer to come up with some scenarios that would be pretty scary.”
A year ago, Bowlsby’s opening address was part of a coordinated effort by the leaders of the power conferences — the Big 12, Pac-12, Southeastern, Big Ten and Atlantic Coast — in calling for changes in the governance system of the NCAA.
The NCAA board of directors is set to vote Aug. 7 on a proposal to give schools in the highest-profile conferences more influence over college rules. The proposal also would give ADs and athletes bigger roles in the legislative process.
When addressing potential unionization of football and basketball players, Bowlsby said, “Student-athletes are not employees.”
Bowlsby also said the NCAA is “headed down a path of significant financial difficulty” with revenues from TV packages going up about 2.5 percent a year as expenses are rising more than 4 percent annually.
That includes schools paying $1 million or more per year under new rules to start providing unlimited food and nutrition to student-athletes. Plus, future scholarships could provide more money to cover the full cost of attendance.
“In the end, it’s a somewhat zero-sum game. There’s only so much money out there. I don’t think that coaches and athletic directors are likely going to take pay cuts,” he said. “And I think over a period of time what we’ll find is that instead of keeping a tennis program, they’re going to do the things that it takes to keep the football and men’s and women’s basketball programs strong.”