By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
DALLAS — The salvo that started last week in Hoover, Ala., was repeated Monday at Big 12 Football Media Days.
The commissioners of the BCS conferences want changes made to the NCAA. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby echoed the comments made by SEC Commissioner Mike Slive last week when he met with reporters.
“I don’t know that we can keep doing what we’re doing,” Bowlsby said. “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.”
Bowlsby believes the leadership of the NCAA must be “reconfigured” to best serve the schools. His belief is the NCAA’s attempt to have all schools compete under the same set of rules has not worked and is unlikely to ever work.
Universities that do not have the financial means to compete at the FBS level have been allowed into a division where they simply cannot compete.
“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,” he said. “I think we’ve permitted or even sometimes encouraged institutional social climbing by virtue of their athletics programs, and I think the fact is we’ve made it too easy to get into Division I and too easy to stay there.”
There are currently 120 schools in football’s FBS division. To Bowlsby and the rest of the BCS commissioners, that has created too many diverging agendas to make it governable in its current form.
His proposal is for the NCAA to be broken into federations of similar schools in terms of size and financial resources.
“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, but yet through rule variation they’re trying to compete with us,” Bowlsby said. “It’s probably unrealistic to think that we can manage football and field hockey by the same set of rules.”
The Big 12 commissioner met with Slive, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, ACC Commissioner John Swofford and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany last month. The concerns with the NCAA were heavily discussed.
NCAA President Mark Emmert has been under fire for more than a year because of issues ranging from inconsistent enforcement of rules, attempts to change rules without consulting those who have to follow them and lack of communication with member schools.
Bowlsby said his comments shouldn’t be taken as shots at Emmert and that the NCAA has instituted some positive changes over the last two decades that have been beneficial.
“We’ve made tremendous progress as an example in the area of academics. Graduation rates in football and men’s basketball are higher than they’ve ever been. We’ve made real progress over the last 10 or 15 years,” he said. “It’s now impossible to major in eligibility like you once could by taking the easy classes in every department, and all of a sudden, by the end of your junior year, you find that you don’t have enough credits to graduate in anything.
“Satisfactory progress has been put in place that doesn’t any longer allow somebody to take 24 hours in the summer and get themselves eligible. We now have contemporaneous penalties that are based upon institutional APRs, and thousands of kids have been brought to a college education as a result of the initiatives that have been undertaken.”
But governing the sport people care about most — football — has created so much friction that changes have to be made.
Bowlsby said there’s been no talk of the BCS schools breaking away from the NCAA. It doesn’t seem to be something the BCS schools want to do.
He believes most of the problems can be fixed within the NCAA. However, he said without changes, leaving the NCAA could become a possibility.
“I think we’ve got lots to do. The commissioners are intent upon doing it,” Bowlsby said. “We’ve spent a lot of time talking with NCAA leadership about these issues, and I think we will make progress. But I don’t think we can continue to do what we’ve done and expect that we’re going to get a different result.”