DALLAS — Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby did not endorse secession from the NCAA on Monday.
That major move would come later, if things don’t change.
The second-year leader of the Big 12 was firm Monday morning as he opened the league’s media days with a stern and decisive stance on the job the NCAA is doing governing college athletics. He was so dialed in on his cries for change in the NCAA that his announcement of a new conference logo fronting the Big 12 this time next year, seemed to almost take a backseat.
Bowlsby, who came to the Big 12 after serving as Stanford’s athletic director for six years, called for the fundamental reform of the NCAA, including its enforcement process, structure and the legislative practices.
“I really do think we need to reconfigure the leadership of the organization,” he said. “I don’t think we can, at this point in time, move forward, and we certainly haven’t been able to configure an agenda that made the changes we need to make.”
Bowlsby said the idea of secession from the NCAA is not a viable option at the moment, but that a threat of a new organization, or governing body, could be used as leverage if changes aren’t made.
“We haven’t wanted to put the threat of secession on the table and I don’t think, in all honesty, there aren’t many that think it’s a legitimate threat,” he said. “If you say it’s a good idea to take the top-100 schools and give them their balls and give them their contracts and they go away and play by themselves, what you’ve done, in effect, is segregate them, creating a new class of losing programs, because those that have been traditional winners, some of them are going to became traditional losers.
“I don’t see secession as a legitimate point of leverage, except as a last resort. I really think that leadership and the rank-and-file believe there’s a solution within the NCAA.”
Bowlsby acknowledged the NCAA is clearly under fire right now, from a lot of different angles, and that it’s going to remain that way until real change is made.
“It’s virtually impossible to configure any legislative proposals that have any chance of getting through the system intact that would accomplish anything in the way of meaningful change,” he said. “That’s particularly felt by seven or eight conferences and the five major conferences in particular. 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.
“The five major conference commissioners met about six weeks ago to talk about these issues… I don’t know that we can keep doing what we’re doing. It’s bad grammar, but a good concept — if we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got.”
Bowlsby said SEC commissioner Mike Slive, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and ACC commissioner John Swofford are in agreement with his views.
“I would say unanimity,” Bowlsby said when asked if other conferences shared his opinions expressed Monday. “I have some hesitation in saying that because I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but I believe my comments line up with their feelings.”
One solution to the problem, Bowlsby said, is to perhaps look at federations by sport, or maybe add a fourth division of the NCAA. He said its become too easy to gain Division-I status and too easy to keep it.
“It’s probably unrealistic to think that we can manage football and field hockey by the same set of rules,” he said. “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. But yet, through rule variation, they’re trying to compete with us.”
Like he was holding court Monday, Bowlsby continued to outline his thoughts on the NCAA and what he wants to see take place, including some additional financial support for student-athletes.
“It wouldn’t be just support for football student-athletes or basketball,” Bowlsby said. “I think, if you apply any form of the labor theory of value, you can make the case that football players don’t work any harder than the wrestlers or any harder than the swimmers or the track athletes.”
Seeing both sides of the debate, Bowlsby knows he doesn’t have all the answers, but wants to see progress made in some key areas.
“The chances — we could make it worse,” he said. “It’s theoretically possible to make it worse, but it’s pretty gridlocked right now.”
Big 12 notes
The conference provided a sneak peek at its new Big 12 logo that it plans to begin using this time next year. It doesn’t vary greatly from the current logo, as it still uses Roman numerals, but perhaps with a little more flash and a more modern look to it.
“Included in this will be a style guide that will describe how institutions will mandatorily use this on their campuses,” Bowlsby said. “We will have consistent venue placement, which we’ve never had before. We will also have it on all of our uniforms, which we haven’t had before.”
The Big 12 is also embedding RF chips into players’ shoulder pads this season, allowing the league to track players, their velocity, and their path around the football stadium on a real-time basis.
“This is a partnership with an organization called Sportvision,” Bowlsby said. “To be quite frank about it, we’re not sure what we will do with the technology or what Sportvision will do with the technology, but we think it’s a very interesting innovation that developments in other areas outside of sports have accommodated.”
The SEC and the Pac-12 are also using the computer chip technology in their shoulder pads.
One noticeable change for only the Big 12 this football season will be the use of an eighth official. The official will be on the offensive side of the ball in the backfield. This official will be the one that places the ball in play, something the umpire used to do.
“This is really in response to pace of play as much as anything,” Bowlsby said. “We’ve experimented with it in the spring. We’ve even experimented using an eighth official with a helmet cam to see what the vantage point is and how it might be helpful.”
Weis gets it
The Jayhawks were 1-11 last year and picked to finish last in the Big 12 this year, again. Kansas coach Charlie Weis completely understands why.
“That’s justifiable,” he said Monday. “If I were you, I’d pick us in the same spot. We’ve given you no evidence or no reason to be picked anywhere other than that.
“I told our players and coaching staff that, until they start winning some games in the conference, that’s just the way it’s going to be.”
Weis said obviously, he has higher expectations for this team this year, though, bolstered perhaps by influx of juco talent brought in during the offseason.
“Our expectations are much higher than everyone else,” he said. “But the proof’s in the pudding. Until we start beating some teams in the Big 12, which is quite a challenge with the ability and talent throughout the league, we’re going to be put in the same spot every year.”
Weis also offered insight into his recruiting strategy at Kansas.
“I take a very honest approach and a very practical approach, but lets just say it’s your kid. Lets say he’s a junior in high school and I’m recruiting him, and we’re talking, and you’re sitting in my office,” he said. “I say, ‘look, I’ve got a great school here, great education, great academic support, great strength coach and my trainer is topnotch. All the facilities are on par with everyone else…
“So, all the background things I’ve got in place. Now, what are you looking for in college? If one of the things you’re looking for is all those things, then I already have a good head start.
“Then everyone wants to play. There’s no one that wants to not play. I said have you looked at that pile of crap out there? Have you taken a look at that? So, if you don’t think you can play here, where do you think you can play? It’s a simple approach. That’s practical. You’ve seen it, right? Unfortunately, so have I.”