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Big 12 Commissioner Hints At Drastic Change In College Athletics

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DALLAS, Texas -

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby pulled no punches Monday morning at Big 12 Media Days, calling for "transformative reform" within the NCAA.

Just one week after SEC commissioner Mike Slive spoke up about his concerns with the NCAA Board of Directors at the SEC Media Days, Bowlsby insisted the time had come for some drastic changes to the NCAA system as a whole.

"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."

It appears what has been rumored and—in the minds of some—fantasized about in the past several months may after all be more a reality than first thought: a fourth division of college football where the haves separate themselves even further from the have nots of the world.

"I think we've permitted or even sometimes encouraged institutional social climbing by virtue of their athletics programs, and I think the fact is we've made it too easy to get into Division I and too easy to stay there," Bowlsby said.

Bowlsby assured everyone in attendance on Monday that he and his fellow BCS commissioners weren't thinking of secession from the NCAA—although he did say that would be a possible last resort should changes not occur.

"I think right now our national organization is under fire," Bowlsby said. "There isn't any question about it. 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 they believe another organization other than the NCAA is the right approach for us."

However, the united front these five powerful men present should be terrifying to the members of conferences not named ACC, Big 12, Big 10, SEC or Pac-12. After all, who would want to become like one of the schools at the FCS level, which rely on play-for-pay games to keep their athletic department afloat?

There are plenty of schools in the non-BCS conferences that depend on those paychecks now, but if the big money schools leave, there's the possibility there would be no more games between the two divisions. Bowlsby hinted as much Monday in Dallas.

This separation between the BCS conferences and the rest of Division I has been growing for years and with the results of realignment raking in record-breaking television contracts and revenue distribution for these five conferences, that gap has widened tremendously in the past three years.

The NCAA is basically the only common denominator between a money-making machine like Ohio State or Texas and Kent State and because those schools are a part of the same organization, a certain set of rules must be adhered to. At a certain point, however, those rules and ties become a burden on the larger schools.

So the major conferences are going to flex their muscles and do what they want because they can. After all, what's an organization that's in as bad of shape as the NCAA going to do about it?

(By the way, Bowlsby also called for reform in the enforcement department, saying, "I don't know that meaningful enforcement can take place under the structure that we currently have.")

If Oklahoma has the means to provide a stipend to all of its student-athletes and Miami of Ohio is unable to, why should Miami be able to stop OU from doing so?

"I think it's 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," Bowlsby said. "I think all of us are feeling that."

So instead of continuing to have ideas shot down by schools that aren't able to do them, the BCS conference schools can simply break away and make their own rules, do what they want and enjoy the spoils of it.

Bowlsby's comments Monday made it pretty clear he and his fellow BCS conference commissioners would battle for big-time changes until they came to fruition. There's not a question of if college athletics will take on a new look. It's when.

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

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