Big 12's Bob Bowlsby Says Competitive Equality in CFB Is 'Largely a Mirage'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2020

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 12:  Big Twelve Commissioner Bob Bowlsby speaks to the media to announce the cancellation of the tournnament prior to the Big 12 quarterfinal game at the Sprint Center on March 12, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby stated the obvious when he asserted the college football landscape isn't exactly an example of competitive fairness.

In an interview on CBS Sports HQ, Bowlsby discussed how universities are at the mercy of local governments to some extent when it comes to resuming sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The absence of uniform standards across Division I could then put some schools at an advantage.

Bowlsby commented that that wouldn't represent much of a departure from the status quo (via CBSSports.com's Ben Kercheval):

"We're used to having what we have euphemistically called a level playing field or competitive fairness. I think we all know some campuses have advantages, some university towns have advantages. Some regions have better recruiting than others. So [competitive equality] is largely a mirage. We all like to do the same things so we have a fair chance to compete. And this is a situation where we're just not always going to be able to do that. To the extent that we have an institution or a couple of institutions that can't start on time or perhaps have a disruption during the course of the season, we'll just have to deal with those things."

With states slowly relaxing their stay-at-home guidelines, the NCAA Division I Council voted to allow for student-athletes competing in football or basketball to return to on-campus workings starting next Monday.

However, state governments are handling the pandemic differently, impacting how much schools are able to take advantage of the Division I Council's decision.

ESPN's Andrea Adelson reported the various conferences are separately approaching the situation as well:

"SEC athletic directors are expected to meet with health experts Thursday and then offer a recommendation to university presidents and chancellors about whether to begin a phased reopening or extend the moratorium on in-person, on-campus workouts. The presidents and chancellors are expected to make a decision when they meet Friday, multiple sources told ESPN. Other conferences, including the Big Ten and Big 12, are lining up similar calls."

And ultimately, individual universities will have a level of discretion as to how they open up practice facilities and stage games. Michigan president Mark Schlissel, for example, expressed reservations about playing a college football season this fall if the entire student body is cleared to return to campus.

The regional nature of college sports is one thing that helps set it apart from professional leagues. The connection a fan feels for their alma mater is probably different from how they feel toward a pro team.

However, that localized structure makes it difficult when the NCAA has to handle a nationwide concern such as a pandemic.