DALLAS — Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said schools and conferences around the country are not talking about leaving the NCAA.
But, Bowlsby said Monday in his state of the conference address at Big 12 Media Days, things needed to change in the enforcement of rules and the structure of the organization.
“I don’t know that meaningful enforcement can take place given the structure that we currently have,” Bowlsby said. “It’s probably unrealistic to manage football and field hockey by the same set of rules.”
Bowlsby all but endorsed the idea of a “fourth division” of college football, with the major conference schools — the Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12 and ACC — breaking away from the rest.
While Bowlsby went a step further than SEC commissioner Mike Slive did at last week’s gathering of SEC media, Bowlsby said he was not alone in his feelings that the league had to make “transformative” changes going forward.
He said Slive, the ACC’s John Swofford, Pac-12’s Larry Scott and Big 10’s Jim Delaney were on board with his comments.
“I would say unanimity,” Bowlsby said when asked if other commissioners of the major conferences shared his view.
The lack of movement to give college football players a stipend to cover the difference between the scholarship amount and the actual cost of attendance, the lack of teeth to the enforcement process and the inability to make substantive changes through the current process are major issues.
“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. “I think all of us are feeling that.
“I think we’re probably making some progress but 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. That’s kind of where we are right now.”
While Bowlsby said secession from the NCAA was not a point of discussion right now, he said the threat of a new organization could be used as leverage if things don’t change.
“We haven’t wanted to put the threat of secession on the table and I think in all honesty, there aren’t many that think it’s a legitimate threat. “I don’t see secession as a legitimate point of leverage except as a last resort.”
But change has to happen, he said. With largely the same schools winning championships and schools with budgets that are 50 times bigger than others in the same division, the inequality has become too great.
“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,” he said. “But yet through rule variation they’re trying to compete with us.”
Bowlsby said the NCAA has made it too easy to gain Division I status and too easy to maintain that status.
“Why are we where we are? It’s hard to say. I guess it’s the cumulative effect of a long period of time,” Bowlsby said. “But I think what we’ve done essentially is we have tried to accomplish competitive equity through rules and legislative changes, and it’s probably not possible to do that.”