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Big 12’s Bowlsby affirms desire to see NCAA reformed

By Joshua Kinder

Nothing has changed for Bob Bowlsby.

The outspoken Big 12 commissioner made some waves with his comments during the league’s media days last month — opinions he echoed on Monday — calling for sweeping reform of the NCAA.

“We’re just at a point where what we’ve been doing for a long time is not providing the kind of results we want,” he said during Kansas State’s media day at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. “I think we need to take a fresh look at how we approach our problems. I think it’s very difficult to do with 350 schools because we’re just not very much alike.

“The issues have been here for a very long time and I think if we keep doing what we’ve done, we’re going to have the same outcomes. There is a strong and consistent feeling nationally that now is a very good time to try to take some of these issues on.” Bowlsby, who is in his second year leading the Big 12 after serving as Stanford’s athletic director for six years, has called for fundamental change of the NCAA’s enforcement processes, structure and its legislative practices.

In Dallas during the league media days, Bowlsby said succession from the NCAA to form a new organization is not a viable option, but could be used as leverage if changes aren’t made.

“I don’t think that’s a viable option,” he reiterated Monday. “Whatever the NCAA is today or has been in the past or will be in the future, is a product of its members. It’s certainly not some ogre that resides in Indianapolis. The members put whatever is currently there in place. I haven’t ever sought to blame it on anybody but ourselves. We had a participation in the current state of affairs.”

K-State athletic director John Currie said he doesn’t see a movement among his peers to secede from the NCAA.

“I believe many of my colleagues are committed to the association,” he said. “I don’t ever sense any, ‘hey, lets breakaway,’ or anything like that.”

Currie said he stands with Bowlsby in his desire to see fundamental changes in the way the NCAA does business.

“There are governance issues that have evolved and as time goes by and as the entity and higher education evolves, the governance structure has to evolve too,” he said. “I believe that we’re at a productive point where there is a universal feeling that we have to have some serious and direct dialogue…

“We should remember, though, that the student-athlete experience today is better than it’s ever been, even in the 22 years I’ve been doing this — the legitimacy of academic pursuits, sports medicine, concussion awareness and nutrition. Our challenge is to make sure the governance structure evolves so we can continue to make it even better.”

Bowlsby on championship game weekend

The commissioner said he is pleased with the exposure the Big 12 has had during championship game weekend, despite not having a league title game of its own any longer. The Wildcats and Texas Longhorns met in Manhattan last year, supplying plenty of drama on the final weekend of the season, as K-State needed a victory to clinch a share of the Big 12 championship and a spot in the Fiesta Bowl. This season the Wildcats will close out the regular season in Lawrence against the Jayhawks.

“As we look forward, one of the things we’ve talked about is the need to have high-quality matchups that weekend,” Bowlsby said. “Sometimes they’re intrastate rivalries, sometimes they’re just games that are significant, but we have to have a presence that weekend.

“That’s not a weekend that we want to have a couple bad games and some byes… From a profile and branding perspective, we need to be playing championship weekend. We certainly can’t go dark that weekend.”

The debate over having a league title game or not has raged for years. It has been a game that propels teams into the BCS and it’s been a game that can derail a championship season. K-State has experienced both — losing to Texas A&M in 1998 and then defeating Oklahoma in 2003.

Considering that, Bowlsby said he likes the Big 12’s path to the postseason and playoffs that begin next year, without a title game. Again, look no further than K-State for an example of how that scenario can work for the Big 12.

“K-State’s path last year was a good example — had they won at Baylor, they would have been in the national championship game,” he said. “I don’t think there’s much doubt about that. I like that we don’t take two of our best teams and play them against each other the last week of the season, because one of them is going to lose.”

Weeknight football

Under the new television contract with ESPN and Fox, the Big 12 has committed to playing four Thursday night games per season. Though, K-State doesn’t have any games on Thursday this season, the Wildcats did play a pair during the week in 2010 — hosted Nebraska and played at Kansas.

Bowlsby said those rare Thursday night games will be shared across the league and that every effort is being made to insure fairness for both teams.

“We try to make sure we have an open date the week before, or at least that both teams don’t have an open date, so we have a fair competition,” he said.

This season, however, K-State will open its season on Friday, Aug. 30 at home against FCS national champion North Dakota State. Normally, Bowlsby said he would not be in favor of playing on a Friday night, but since the Wildcats’ game won’t interfere with high school football, it’s not an issue.

“Friday night before the high schools have started or after the high schools have finished is a different matter than Friday nights during the season,” he said.

Currie agreed and is also excited for the Wildcats’ Friday night debut to a national audience on the new network, Fox Sports 1.

“That would have not happened if it was the next week or any succeeding week because of the high school football issues,” he said. “For us, and for our fans, this particular game is an advantage because of the way our team finished last year, the particular opponent we are playing, and the particular game and excitement about our program.”

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