Any remaining faith in the NCAA power structure and rules enforcement system may be shaken to the core in light of Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby's bold remarks from a Monday press conference at Big 12 media days.
ESPN.com's Jake Trotter reported what Bowlsby had to say regarding the NCAA, including the notion that "cheating pays" in his state-of-the-league address:
Enforcement is broken. The infractions committee hasn't had [an FBS] hearing in almost a year, and I think it's not an understatement to say cheating pays presently. If you seek to conspire to certainly bend the rules, you can do it successfully and probably not get caught in most occasions.
As for student-athletes seeking unionization and financial compensation for their services to their schools, Bowlsby outlined how problematic and sports-specific discriminatory that could become:
It is hard to justify paying student-athletes in football and men's basketball and not recognizing the significant effort that swimmers and wrestlers and lacrosse players and track athletes all put in. Football and basketball players don't work any harder than anybody else; they just happen to have the blessing of an adoring public who is willing to pay for the tickets and willing to buy the products on television that come with the high visibility.
We have both a legal obligation and a moral obligation to do for female student-athletes and male Olympic sports athletes just exactly what we do for football and basketball student-athletes. I don't think it's even debatable.
Anwar Richardson of Rivals.com documented another key part of Bowlsby's presser:
#Big12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby just said the O'Bannon case will probably result in elimination of Olympic sports on campuses— Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) July 21, 2014
Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples weighed in on what Bowlsby had to say:
While I often disagree with Bob Bowlsby, I do like how he just lays everything out there. Quite refreshing.— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) July 21, 2014
Joe Schad of ESPN expressed concern about Bowlsby's ominous words:
Bob Bowlsby is intelligent, experienced and introspective. His seeming sadness about the state of and future of college sports is alarming.— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 21, 2014
ESPN's Robert Flores hinted at some of the hypocrisy that comes with power-conference representatives speaking out for student-athletes while benefiting greatly from media revenue:
Id take #BIg12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby's alarmist pov seriously if his league hadn't signed a 2 BILLION dollar deal w ESPN/Fox— Robert Flores (@RoFloESPN) July 21, 2014
Should NCAA student-athletes be paid to play?
Bowlsby's comments are sure to spark conversation and debate in the context of major college programs thriving without cutting corners or violating NCAA regulations. The consequences of those actions often come at the ultimate expense of the student-athletes.
When someone as high up as a power-conference commissioner acknowledges such a topic the way Bowlsby has, it is going to garner attention.
The issues that plague the NCAA and its competition in the top sports are complex. There could be some resolution in the coming years before the violations get too out of hand to the point where fans—and prospective student-athletes—may begin to lose interest.