Big 12 boss calls for NCAA reforms

Updated: July 23, 2013, 11:44 AM ET
By Max Olson | ESPN.com

DALLAS -- Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby joked that he's glad to avoid the topic of conference realignment, but he had plenty to say on another topic Monday: NCAA reform.

During his 45-minute state of the conference remarks to open Big 12 media days in Dallas, Bowlsby stressed the importance of achieving "transformative change" to the NCAA, its leadership system and its future.

"I really do think we need to reconfigure the leadership of the organization," Bowlsby said. "I don't think we can at this point in time move forward, and we certainly haven't been able to configure an agenda that made the changes we need to make."

Bowlsby expressed his concerns about the effectiveness of NCAA enforcement and the difficulty of advancing real changes to the system.

And he certainly has major changes in mind. Bowlsby believes it's time to look at establishing new federations to separate sports and how they're supervised.

"It's probably unrealistic to think that we can manage football and field hockey by the same set of rules," Bowlsby said. "I think some kind of reconfiguration of how we govern is in order."

He's confident the commissioners of the five major BCS conferences are unanimous in their belief that transformative change is not only necessary but also imminent.

"This is not a time when trimming around the hedges is going to make very much difference," he said.

On enforcement, Bowlsby believes it's time to re-evaluate the core purpose of NCAA oversight and restructure the entire process.

While he believes a small minority of programs are bending the rules, Bowlsby said enforcement decisions are being made that are inconsistent with the values and aspirations of the organization.

Bowlsby It's probably unrealistic to think that we can manage football and field hockey by the same set of rules. I think some kind of reconfiguration of how we govern is in order.

-- Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby

"Without the power of subpoena or the weight of perjury, we are not getting to the bottom of anything in the way of the enforcement process," he said.

Bowlsby said he doesn't consider conferences seceding from the NCAA as a realistic possibility or a practical form of leverage for change other than as a last-resort outcome. He believes a solution can still be found within the NCAA.

"I think right now our national organization is under fire. There isn't any question about it," he said. "And yet, I'm not hearing anyone say we ought to find another organization.

"I have not heard from a single commissioner or even athletic directors on an individual basis that believe another organization other than the NCAA is the right approach for us."

The second-year commissioner's comments come one week after SEC commissioner Mike Slive raised concerns about the NCAA board of directors at his own conference media days.

Like Slive, Bowlsby said he still supports the NCAA and the role it plays in overseeing college athletics. But he insisted a lot of work is ahead, and the commissioners intend to begin the steps toward progress.

"One of the reasons why I took the commissioner's job was because I'd like to have more to say about that national agenda," Bowlsby said, "and I would like to see the best parts of the business enhanced and other parts of what we do improved rather dramatically."

Max Olson | email

Big 12 reporter

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