Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks at the opening of the Big 12 football media days in Dallas. (L.M. Otero / Associated Press)
Dallas — Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a dire warning Monday for anyone who likes intercollegiate athletics the way they are now.
“You’re going to hate it going forward,” he said. “There’s a lot of change coming.”
During his opening address at Big 12 football media days, Bowlsby talked about growing financial constraints athletic programs face going forward and the “strange environment” that exists with class-action lawsuits against the NCAA and its member schools.
Bowlsby said he doesn’t believe there is a real understanding of how much lawsuits — which he numbered as seven and “growing all the time” — could radically alter things.
“I think all of that in the end will cause programs to be eliminated,” he 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.”
While acknowledging the outcomes are unknown, the former Stanford athletic director expressed concern about fewer opportunities for some athletes to go college in the future.
“I fear that we will get past the change and then we’ll realize that all the gymnastics programs went away, or that we have agents on campus all the time negotiating playing time for student athletes,” he said. “There’s all kind of Armageddon scenarios you could come up with. … You wouldn’t have to be a very good fiction writer to come up with some scenarios that would be pretty scary.”
A year ago, Bowlsby’s opening address was part of a coordinated effort by the leaders of the power conferences — Big 12, Southeastern, Big Ten, Pac 12 and Atlantic Coast — in calling for transformative changes in the NCAA’s governance system.
The NCAA board of directors is set to vote Aug. 7 on a proposal to give schools in the highest-profile conferences more influence over college rules. The proposal also would give athletic directors and student-athletes bigger roles in the legislative process, and give the power conferences autonomy to make their own bylaws.
That vote will come a day after the Big 12 sponsors in New York the first in a scheduled series of forums on the state of college athletics.
When addressing potential unionization, Bowlsby said “student-athletes are not employees. They should never be employees. It’s not an employee/employer relationship.”
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