DALLAS — Bob Bowlsby doesn’t have to worry about realignment effecting the Big 12 for the time being. He likes having 10 teams in the conference.
But, if he has his way, that might be one of the few things about college football that doesn’t change.
During his 45-minute state of the conference address Monday in Dallas at Big 12 Media Days, Bowlsby called for sweeping reform to the legislative process in college athletics and, while expressing confidence in the NCAA’s staying power, also raised concerns about the effectiveness of its enforcement.
“Our national orgazination is under fire,” Bowlsby said of the NCAA. “I think it’s virtually impossible right now to configure legislative proposals that have any chance of getting through the system intact that would accomplish anything in the way of meaningful change.”
Bowlsby said the other four major conference commissioners — the ACC’s John Swofford, the Big 10’s Jim Delany, the Pac-12’s Larry Scott and the SEC’s Mike Slive — met recently and all agree that things should change and could change quickly.
“If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got,” Bowlsby said. “We all acknowledge, particularly relative to the legislative process, we are very much at a point now where we can’t get anything that’s transformative through the system… It is just very difficult to do anything that would benefit our student-athletes or our institutions that doesn’t get voted down by the larger majority.”
When asked if the threat of secession may be an effective — and possibly necessary — way of triggering the change Bowlsby spoke of, he said the Big 12 would not do that unless it had to but did not totally rule it out.
“I don’t see secession as a legitimate point of leverage except as a last resort,” Bowlsby said. “I really think that leadership and the rank and file believe that there’s a solution within the NCAA, and it’s been along those lines that we’ve had the conversations. Could that change to something that’s a little more harsh down the road? Possibly.”
One major change Bowlsby brought up was the possibility of “federation by sport,” the idea of each college sport governing itself instead of one federation governing all college sports because, as Bowlsby put it, “it’s probably unreliastic to think we can manage football and field hockey by the same set of rules.”
“There are about 75 schools that win 90 percent of the championships in the NCAA, and we have a whole bunch of others that don’t look much like the people in our league, yet through rule variation they’re trying to compete with us,” Bowlsby said. “The NCAA has gotten to be an organization that has very broad ranging responsibilities and oversight. I’m not sure we’re doing as good a job with some of the core competencies as we need to. And perhaps a narrower focus would help.”