ARLINGTON, Texas — Bob Bowlsby shared tidbit during his opening statement at Big 12 Media Days on Monday.
Per a recent report Bowlsby received from West Virginia athletics director Shane Lyons, there hasn’t been a noticeable uptick in the number of players transferring in the past year compared to previous years. With hundreds of players in the NCAA transfer portal — it went into effect Oct. 15 — Bowlsby said he knows outsider might have thought differently.
“Interestingly enough, there are kids going to the portal and leaving with a scholarship and finding difficulty in getting another scholarship at another institution,” said Bowlsby, the Big 12’s commissioner. “(But) there also are many walk-ons in the portal who are going from a non-scholarship environment trying to find a scholarship. You certainly can’t blame them for that.”
The topic of transfers — and the portal specifically — is one Bowlsby said will continue to be “front and center” in college athletics for the foreseeable future. He then shared what he called “The Gospel According to Bowlsby” on the issue.
“I think we’re sending a bad message to kids that they can have a bad practice or a bad week of practice and just decide one day they’re going to walk out and put their name in the portal without talking to their coaches,” he said. “I don’t think that was every envisioned and it shouldn’t work that way. It’s not that way in your private life or your business life and I just think we’re sending a bad message.”
On the flip side, Bowlsby said coaches must shoulder part of the blame as well. It is their actions — placing restrictions on which schools a student-athlete can transfer to, and some not allowing a release at all — that created this predicament.
“If we hadn’t had coaches who were saying, ‘Well, you can transfer to Institution A, but you can’t go to B or C, and you can’t go to D.’ Or they embargo it all together. So I think it probably was avoidable, but we are where we are now. The transfer numbers are not larger than they have been in the past. It’s a combination of kids looking for scholarships that previously had them and one of the things that’s happening is kids are putting their names in the portal and finding that they don’t have a scholarship home or they don’t have a home at a place they thought they could go to. So it’s not ideal for a lot of reasons.”
If given the opportunity to act as a “benevolent dictator” in the matter, Bowlsby said he would force a student-athlete to sit for one season. The data, he said, is clear that focusing solely on academics for one year instead of playing helps a student-athlete’s grades.
“I sit on the National Letter of Intent Appeal Board, and we almost always have a sick relative or some family situation that needs to be taken care of,” Bowlsby said. “This year in residence would give you the opportunity to take care of that. What I would advocate that’s different from the current situation is I would advocate that you can get that year back. So if you stay there and go through the process, you would be able to not forfeit that year, but sit a year, get acclimated, move through your career, and if you want that year back, either as a graduate transfer or as a fifth-year player, you can stay on scholarship and participate. I think that’s the model that works.”