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Big 12 football: Bob Bowlsby gets serious with 'cheating pays' pronouncement

It’s easy to write off Bowlsby’s bomb as a shot across the bow at the SEC. Finger-pointing at a league long cast as breaking the rules it didn’t have time to bend. But Bowlsby cut a wide swath. He was talking about the need for a cultural change, in both attitude and resources.
by Berry Tramel Published: July 21, 2014

DALLAS — Cheating pays.

You want a cold slap across the face? You want to be jerked back from the halcyon belief that college athletics have discovered purity? You want some evidence that campus sports are in a spiral toward anarchy?

The Omni Hotel was the place for you Monday.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby stood at the podium to kick off Big 12 Media Days and told hundreds of note-takers and digital-recording artists that across the NCAA today, cheating pays.

Enforcement is broken. Lawlessness rules. It’s Dodge City on a Saturday night, and there’s no Bat Masterson in sight.

“Enforcement is broken,” said Bowlsby, one of the most respected men in collegiate sports. “The infractions committee hasn't had a hearing in almost a year, and I think it's not an understatement to say that cheating pays presently. If you seek to conspire to certainly bend the rules, you can do it successfully and probably not get caught in most occasions.”

It’s easy to write off Bowlsby’s bomb as a shot across the bow at the SEC. Finger-pointing at a league long cast as breaking the rules it didn’t have time to bend. But Bowlsby cut a wide swath. He was talking about the need for a cultural change, in both attitude and resources.

“Everybody says ‘my guys aren’t cheating but the guys down the road are,’” Bowlsby said. “And yet people often times don’t turn one another in, they don’t want to undergo the scrutiny that comes on the back side of that. The system is just not very good.”

The NCAA’s enforcement division is “in a battle with a BB gun in their hand, and they’re fighting howitzers,” Bowlsby said. “We have to find a way to make progress on it, because it undermines the confidence in the system.”

Of course, it doesn’t help that NCAA personnel botched the University of Miami investigation with a breach of conduct that crippled the leadership of president Mark Emmert. And it doesn’t help that the NCAA historically has underfunded enforcement and hired young law graduates as investigators. Retired FBI would seem to carry a little more clout.

“The guys making better radar are a long ways behind the guys making better radar detectors,” Bowlsby said. “The organization moves very slow. There are people who are innovatively engaged on getting around the rules. A lot of it operates outside the institution … acting on behalf of institutions to influence kids to a particular school, to influence the outcome of games, in some situations.”

The commissioner of the Big 12 Conference just said that some people are out to fix games for betting purposes. That’s how serious Bowlsby was Monday. You go talking game-fixing, and it rises above politics.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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