Incoming Big 12 Commish Against Paying Athletes
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Bob Bowlsby will have his hands full the next couple of months.
The incoming Big 12 commissioner is finishing up his tenure as athletic director at Stanford, hopping on a plane after wrapping up a series of meetings with his new league in Kansas City on Friday so that he could attend the Pac-12’s annual spring meetings.
He will officially take over at the Big 12 on June 15, and get in about a month of work before flying to London, where he’ll have responsibilities as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
“Let it suffice to say that a trip to London is not going to be most convenient,” he said.
Especially with so many pressing issues facing the conference.
There are questions about the future of college football’s playoff structure, and whether the bowl system will be dismantled. Television negotiations will be front and center, and Bowlsby has yet to meet much of the Big 12 staff or visit the conference’s 10 current schools.
“I expect I’ll get to every campus within 30 to 60 days,” he said.
Sounds like an ambitious schedule.
There was little news out of the final day of the Big 12 meetings, though Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis announced that approximately $19 million will be distributed to each member for the 2011-12 year from media rights deals, the aggregate representing an all-time high.
That figure includes the withdrawal fees for Texas A&M and Missouri, which join the Southeastern Conference on July 1. Part of the exit fee money was also used to finance a $10 million loan to West Virginia, which is leaving the Big East to join TCU as new members of the Big 12.
Otherwise, Bowlsby mostly reiterated the stance of presidents and athletic directors.
He said that the Big 12 supports a four-team playoff consisting of the highest-ranked teams to determine college football’s national champion, rather than a plus-one model that has new legs after the Big 12 and SEC announced the formation of the so-called Champions Bowl.
There is also a four-team model in which conference champions play an integral part, which has been supported by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and others.
“I suppose that I have been back and forth a bit, relative to conference champions versus highest-ranked four,” Bowlsby said. “For the Big 12, the highest-ranked four is a good thing. It’s a good example of where I think there needs to be compromise moving forward.”
Another area where compromise will be needed is the selection criteria.
While the current BCS standings, which combine computer ratings with human polls, are almost universally panned, there are some leagues such as the Big 12 that favor a selection committee to determine the four best teams. Others favor a combination of different formulas.
“I don’t think the idea of a four-team playoff is hard to comprehend. The details come into site selection, team selection and how you develop the ranking system,” acting Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas said. “There has to be transparency so the public feels they’re somehow involved, and that helps to create interest.
“The one thing we want to underscore again is the importance of the regular season. That’s been foremost in our minds,” he added. “There has not been a eureka idea that we’ve found the perfect ranking system. That is a work in progress, and there are a number of ideas.”
Bowlsby also agreed with Big 12 presidents and ADs who voiced their support this week for a 10-team league in which football and basketball teams play a true round-robin schedule, though he acknowledged that there is always the chance for future expansion.
“When it’s right, we’ll know it’s right,” Bowlsby said, “and in the meantime, there’s not a thing wrong with the 10 we have.”
The other significant issue Bowlsby addressed was stipends. He was steadfastly against proposals that have been floated for paying up to $4,000 per year to student-athletes, pointing out that there are other avenues in which aspiring athletes can play for pay.
“We should never do anything to establish an employee-employer relationship,” Bowlsby said. “There are places you can go and play for money, but colleges and universities are not among them. This is an educational undertaking.”
Hargis, the chairman of the league’s board of directors, was even more forceful in his opposition to stipends, even for athletes in revenue-producing sports such as football.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Hargis said. “These student-athletes are provided scholarships in many cases, and they’re eligible for other assistance. You get into all this kind of stipend stuff and it affects the amateurism, I think it affects recruiting. I just think it’s introducing an idea that’s not necessary.”