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Big 12 football: Bowlsby says no to pay for play

by Berry Tramel Published: March 4, 2013

Do not count Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby among the proponents of paying athletes. “If we establish an employer/employee relationship, we will have lost our way,” Bowlsby said.

Bowlsby has several arguments against the idea. Starting with the notion that football and basketball players should be paid, since they part of the major-revenue sports.


Bowlsby refers to it as “labor value.” “I don’t think anyone will suggest that wrestlers don’t work as hard as football players, or track and field athletes don’t work as hard as basketball players.

“It has to be for all athletes. Many of our kids labor in obscurity and work just as hard as many that play in front of the big crowds.

“If we ever get to resemble professionals, we will have made a major mistake.”

Bowlsby said college athletics remain not a training ground for professional sports but an avenue to life success.

“What I’ve seen is that kids that come to campus without time/management skills,” Bowlsby said. “The athletics commitment is not for the faint of heart. It’s a significant number of hours. There’s a legislative element (20 hours per week maximum), but there’s a lot of stuff that’s expected outside of that contact.”

But Bowlsby said athletes who overcome some challenges are some of the most rewarding facets of college athletics.

“Lots of kids are brought to the trough of education kicking and screaming,” Bowlsby said. “By the end of their sophomore year, it’s a little tougher than they thought to get to the NBA or the NFL. They find out maybe I ought to think about getting a college degree, because it will change my life.

“Among my proudest moments is when somebody who was an inbetweener ended up getting their degree.”

by Berry Tramel
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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