SBD/July 22, 2014/Colleges

Bowlsby Speaks Of Bleak College Landscape, Says Enforcement System Is Broken

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Bowlsby predicted many schools will cut men's Olympic sports in the near future
In his annual state-of-the-conference address yesterday at Big 12 media days, Commissioner Bob Bowlsby "painted a bleak picture of the college landscape, a world where 'cheating pays,' 'enforcement is broken' and attention has shifted from stadiums to courtrooms," according to Stephen Nesbitt of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. Bowlsby said that changes are coming "as the NCAA faces numerous class-action lawsuits, including the landmark O'Bannon v. NCAA case." Bowlsby "predicted men’s non-revenue sports could be on the chopping block as athletic departments scramble to compensate players or, at the very least, award full-cost-of-attendance scholarships." But he also "defended the current collegiate model, which has come under much scrutiny." Bowlsby: “Student-athletes are not employees. They should never be employees. It’s not an employee-employer relationship. It’s a total square peg in a round hole.” Nesbitt notes Bowlsby "stood in support of full-cost-of-attendance scholarships, which he said would have passed long ago if the five power conferences had autonomy to vote on new legislation." Bowlsby later "clarified that he doesn’t believe cheating is necessarily rampant." He said, "Those that conspire to do things that are intended to get around the rules have less resistance to it now that they have gotten very sophisticated" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/22). Bowlsby said, "We certainly are operating in a strange environment in that we have lawsuits, plus we have the (O'Bannon v. NCAA) lawsuit. I think all of that in the end will cause programs to be eliminated. I think you'll see men's Olympic sports go away as a result of the new funding challenges that are coming down the pipe. I think there may be tension among and between sports on campus and institutions that have different resources. It's really unknown what the outcomes will be" (ESPN.com, 7/22).

NOT AN EVEN MATCHUP? In San Antonio, Tim Griffin notes the "lack of any teeth in the NCAA's punishment process and other problems" Bowlsby cited "make him expect a bleak future for the organization." Others in college sports have "similarly ripped the NCAA's recent enforcement efforts, most notably after the botched investigation" of the Univ. of Miami in '13. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany last month said the NCAA's enforcement was "overmatched." Bowlsby said, "They're (NCAA enforcement) in the battle with a BB gun in their hands. They're fighting howitzers. We have to find a way to make progress on it. It undermines the confidence of the system" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 7/22). CBSSPORTS.com's Dennis Dodd noted Bowlsby "went as far to suggest the federal government may have to take over enforcement." He said that that would "allow investigators to issue subpoenas." The "lack of such is a key criticism of the NCAA process." Bowlsby: “I am really not very far of being of the mind that some form of federal statute is not a good idea. You could say it's against the law to influence where a student athlete would go to school, influence the outcome of a contest, to provide a benefit that is outside of the rules" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/21).

CHANGE IS GONNA COME: Bowlsby said that the intent of his comments was to "sound an alarm on the consequences, intended and unintended, of those potential forced changes" to begin paying athletes. Bowlsby: "In the end, it's a somewhat zero-sum game. There's only so much money out there. I don't think that coaches and athletic directors are likely going to take pay cuts. I think that train's left the station. … I think over a period of time what we'll find is that instead of keeping a tennis program, they're going to do the things that it takes to keep the football and men's and women's basketball programs strong" (USA TODAY, 7/22).

DOOM & GLOOM: In West Virginia, Dave Hickman writes to "listen to Bowlsby, it might be as bad as it has been in quite a while, not because there are so many schools or coaches or athletes prone to cheat, but because without oversight the temptation looms so large." It is "hard to quantify what it is Bowlsby is talking about when he speaks of cheating because there are so few glaring examples at which to point." But that "probably has far more to do with the NCAA’s inability to catch cheaters than any lack of cheating" (CHARLESTON GAZETTE, 7/22). In Texas, Brice Cherry wrote some of this "doomsaying likely has a purpose," as Bowlsby was "intentional with his bell-clanging." He "knew he had a captive audience, with laptops at the ready," and "much of his purpose can be tied to the push for autonomy by the so-called Power 5 conferences." But that "doesn’t mean he isn’t right," as cheating "does pay" (WACOTRIB.com, 7/21). 
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