Big 12 commish Bob Bowlsby took the NCAA to the woodshed Monday and has enjoyed almost universal praise as a result. This is mostly because the NCAA has become a four-letter word in every sense publicly; viewed as an inept and corrupt entity whose sole purpose is to profit off the work of 18-to-22-year-olds and whose only contribution is to conduct witch hunts of said athletes unless contributing their letters to the name of the basketball tournament counts.
So any takedown of this organization is guaranteed to be widely praised, and this is especially so with one as thoughtful and forthright as Bowlsby’s.
The very dark days of former commissioner Dan Beebe, which were best known for an outstanding fake Twitter account, the Big 12 finally appears to be in good hands.
That said, let us slow this roll about how Bowlsby and his compadres from the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 finally have had enough, finally want to bring real and lasting change to the NCAA, finally decided to speak truth to the power of NCAA.
They are power. And the only truth they speak is the one that benefits them and their bottom lines.
Of course, in the media’s ongoing, completely idiotic and willfully naïve crusade to establish good guys and bad guys in college sports, we took Bowlsby’s comments as a screed against an organization that long ago lost its moral compass instead of what it actually was — the start of a cover-their-butts, excuse-to-get-what-they-want offensive by the real powers in college athletics.
Luckily I speak commissioner, and am here to translate.
Bowlsby: “I do want to draw upon a little bit the comments of commissioner Slive last (week).”
Translation: Uh, oh. Stuff is about to get real. The Big Five got together and talked what I am guessing was O’Bannon lawsuit, EA Sports, a potential Boise State football national championship and felt like they were about to vomit blood. They were mad and not about dirty enforcement by the NCAA.
Bowlsby: “I would say unanimity.”
Translation: Get ready for a version of this Bowlsby-Slive speech from Jim Delaney, Larry Scott and Jon Swofford, who will say anything to keep his schools on the inside.
Bowlsby: “I think we’ve permitted or even sometimes encouraged institutional social climbing by virtue of their athletics programs. And I think the face is we’ve made it too easy to get into Division I and too easy to stay there.”
Translation: Go away Boise. No seriously, go away. And everybody below Boise, do not even think about it.
Of course, Bob needs to be careful there. A school in his conference, TCU, used to be dismissed as one of those “social climber” schools he disparages. And TCU needs to apologize to nobody for leveraging its very good and profitable football team into a ticket to the big leagues.
Bowlsby: “There’s a good case to be made for some form of support for student athletes.”
Translation: Those kids are going to win this lawsuit, and we cannot risk not having their free labor. Of course, we’ll pay a little stipend to preserve that and those little schools are preventing this with their overdrawn budgets."
Slive had hinted at this in his remarks at SEC media days. Bowlsby talked bigger and bolder. Of all the things he said, this was the most applause worthy, whatever the motivations. Of course players deserve a stipend to buy jeans or a pizza or go to a movie.
Bowlsby: “I have heard nobody say another organization beside NCAA is the right thing.”
Translation: If we had a better idea, we’d have seceded long ago.
Bowlsby, when asked about secession specifically: "We haven’t wanted to put the threat of secession on the table, and I think, in all honesty, there aren’t that many that think it’s a legitimate threat.”
Translation: Actually, I do not need to translate. He cleared this up himself. The biggest reason you are not going to have the 100 best schools take their balls and form another governing body is because, frankly, “you are going to create a whole new class of losing programs.” And how can you deprive Vanderbilt of its motto: Yeah well, we are in the SEC and share revenue so eat it?
Bowlsby: “I think it is virtually impossible right now to configure legislative proposals that have any chance of getting through the system intact that would accomplish anything in the way of meaningful change.”
Translation: With us determining and having final say on what is meaningful and necessary.
Bowlsby: "I do think that the Big 12 and other conferences like us would advocate for some form of additional support to student athletes and it wouldn’t be just support for football student athletes or basketball. …
"There is the issue of full stadiums, but if you just base it upon doing the right thing for kids that are working their tails off, you do it for all student athletes and I think federal Title IX requirements wouldn’t allow you to do otherwise."
Translation: If you think we are taking on Title IX and that PC-political firestorm over scraps to volleyball players, you are crazy. We can pay for it with the new EA sports deal.
Bowlsby: “Please don’t go away with that message. I’m not critical of Mark Emmert. I’m critical of an organization that is just not very efficient.”
Translation: Get your resume ready, Mark. You just got the dreaded vote of confidence.
Bowlsby: "We’ve met the enemy, and he is us."
Translation: We always had the power to change this. We just had zero motivation to do so. Now we do. And those idiots from the NCAA provide the perfect fall guy. But the fact they are bad guys does not make us good guys. We, after all, helped bring about realignment, one of the uglier periods in college sports. We here in the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 do, however, appreciate your willingness to suspend common sense and portray us as the heroes.