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College athletics are changing — and not in a good way

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby didn’t deliver the message with folksiness. He was stern and foreboding. He painted a bleak picture. He was dark and disturbed.
by Berry Tramel Published: August 8, 2014

Potential loss of programs, starting with minor men’s sports. Wrestling, gymnastics, golf, tennis. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Potential loss of competition. The question no longer is whether the mid-majors can compete with the major conferences. The question becomes, can the try-hard schools of the power conferences keep up with the marquee programs.

A huge divide already existed between Mississippi State and Alabama, between Wake Forest and Florida State, between Iowa State and Texas, between Washington State and Oregon, between Northwestern and Ohio State. That divide will grow.

Sure, the less prosperous schools in the power conferences have been financially blessed by being in one of the leagues that produces major money. But the expenses of such an association are going up, too.

Can TCU and Baylor, after investing hundreds of millions dollars in the kind of facilities that make them Big 12 worthy, keep spending more and more and more to keep up?

Maybe more revenue streams can be found. But the money will be spent before it’s found.

Bowlsby told us three weeks ago that if you like college athletics the way it is, you won’t like where it’s going.

College sports will look different.

“I think all of that in the end will cause programs to be eliminated,” Bowlsby said. “I think you'll see men's Olympic sports go away as a result of the new funding challenges that are coming down the pike. I think there may be tension among and between sports on campus and institutions that have different resources.

“I think it's really unknown at this point what the outcomes will be. But generally speaking, I think those are things you should watch for. I really do believe that it will be very difficult to run the kind of breadth of program that hundreds of thousands of student‑athletes currently enjoy if we begin diverting significant amounts of money to other purposes.”

And significant amounts of money are headed to other purposes. The change is coming.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

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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