Big 12 commissioner eyeing big changes in NCAA football


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DALLAS -- Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Monday one of the reasons he took the job a year ago was to have a more influential voice in college football's national agenda.

Point heard.

Bowlsby poured himself a diet Dr Pepper, then delivered a blunt address at the opening of Big 12 media days that criticized the NCAA and called for significant structural reform.

He said the gap among schools makes it nearly impossible to get changes through the current system, suggested the creation of federations based on size and sport as an option that could help, and that secession by the five power conferences would only be a last resort.

"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, yet through rule variation they're trying to compete with us," said Bowlsby, the former Stanford athletic director hired a year ago to lead the Big 12.

"It's probably unrealistic to think that we can manage football and field hockey by the same set of rules."

Bowlsby said the commissioners from the five major conferences -- the Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Pac-12 -- met six weeks ago and all agreed.

His message was met with strong support from West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck.

"Pretty strong tobacco," Luck said in a phone interview. "I'm certainly 100 percent behind him. I do think that as the next decade unrolls you'll see a bigger financial gap between the big five and the others."

In a meeting earlier this spring between the Big 12 and NCAA leaders, Luck said NCAA president Mark Emmert and general counsel Donald Remy agreed the ideas should be heard.

"I was somewhat surprised but both said that's something that should be on the table for discussion," said Luck. "Should football be governed differently? They're realistic things to consider."

Bowlsby said leadership would be more effective if athletic directors, conference commissioners and "people that work in athletics every day" were involved in leadership and had a seat at the voting table.

"I think we all have a sense that transformative change is going to happen," he said. "This is not a time when trimming around the edges is going to make very much difference."

Asked if a so-called Division IV was the answer, Bowlsby said it would depend on how it was structured.

"There are a lot of people who will support a given proposal if they're included rather than excluded. And I think therein lies the difficulty in all of this. If you begin trying to put together homogenous groups somebody gets included, and somebody gets left out. ... Whether Division IV is the right one? The devil's in the details."

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said he did not hear Bowlsby's address, but news trickled to him when he met with media. "It's certainly worth dialogue," he said."

Bowlsby said the threat of secession is not a viable way to get heard right now but that it could be down the road.

"I don't see secession as a legitimate point of leverage except as a last resort," he said. "I really think that leadership and the rank and file believe that there's a solution within the NCAA, and it's been along those lines that we've had the conversations. Could that change to something that's a little more harsh down the road? Possibly could, sure."

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Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez. First Published July 23, 2013 4:00 AM


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