Bowlsby Speech Serves as Reality Check

By Kyle Rowland on July 23, 2014 at 8:15a

When Dwight Eisenhower left the White House some 54 years ago, he warned of a looming military-industrial complex. The speech was laced with caution, alerts and alluding to a vastly changed world. Consider Bob Bowlsby’s fire and brimstone speech Monday to be college football’s version of Eisenhower’s message to the nation.

It’s not often that a conference commissioner from the Power Five tees off on the NCAA. But that’s exactly what Bowlsby, the commissioner of the Big 12, did Monday, admitting that taking shortcuts has proven to be valuable. And who can disagree?

Breaking down the “good” and “bad” cheaters isn’t easy because it’s so prevalent in today’s world, but it isn’t hard to see that SEC programs and, yes, even Ohio State have enjoyed mountains of victories when allegations and confirmed cases of impropriety arose.

Major League Baseball, cycling, college football and street criminals all have similarities when it comes to breaking rules. If you’re good at it, you’re going to be one step ahead of authorities. With criticism constantly reigning down on the NCAA, much of the association’s bite is gone. Programs now understand that enforcement can be minimal.

“I think the vast majority of people in intercollegiate athletics are of high integrity, they’re doing it for the right reasons,” Bowlsby said at Big 12 media days. “But right now, if you want to cheat, you can do it and you can get away with it. There are benefits for doing that.

“And that needs to change.”

Bowlsby, a former longtime athletic director at Northern Iowa, Iowa and Stanford, is well versed on the complexities of present-day intercollegiate athletics and what athletic departments face. He believes non-revenue sports are in jeopardy as the NCAA nears defeat in a series of lawsuits.  

The slashing of sports is nothing new to college sports. Many mid-level conferences, such as the MAC, have eliminated a variety of Olympic sports over the past 20 years to comply with Title IX. But bigger schools – Maryland being the best example – have also joined in the cost cutting. A major factor in the Terrapins’ move to the Big Ten related to their massive financial debts.

Many observers, whether it’s the powers that be, media or fans, believe autonomy for the Power Five is just a short time from coming to fruition. Once it’s in place, cost-of-attendance scholarships are predicted to be the norm. The costs will be high, as is the perceived minor move in allowing athletic departments to provide snacks. In reality, it’s a major expense for a vast majority of universities.   

“There’s only so much money out there,” Bowlsby said. “I don’t think that coaches and athletic directors are likely going to take pay cuts. I think that train’s left the station.”

Yeah, with VHS tapes and CD walkmans.

Bowlsby retold a scenario from nearly 30 years ago when, in 1987, as a member of the Financial Aid and Amateurism committee, he and others proposed a revolutionary idea: room, board, tuition and books for $2,000 a year.

It was voted down – for more than 20 years.

“The world would be different had we been able to get some of those things through,” Bowlsby said.

Instead, men’s Olympic sports are in a perilous position.

“If you like intercollegiate athletics the way it is now, you’re going to hate it going forward,” Bowlsby said. “There’s a lot of change coming. I fear whether we will get past the change. There are all kinds of Armageddon scenarios you can come up with. Change is coming.”

But the cheating remarks are what turned heads and had attendees – coaches, players, media – nodding. It’s no secret that powerhouses, dating to the turn of the 20th century, were involved in scandals. As college football forges into a new era, the helmets, uniforms and forward pass may have changed, but the means to success have not.  

“Enforcement is broken,” Bowlsby said. “The infractions committee hasn’t had a hearing in almost a year, and I think it's not an understatement to say that 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. So we need to get [NCAA vice president of enforcement] Jon Duncan some help and support.”

Clarification came in the way of Bowlsby saying he doesn’t believe cheating is rampant, only that it’s easy to do, achieve desired results and face minimal punishment. The backpedaling included raising Big 12 coaches up on a pedestal.  But he didn’t need to sing Hosannas, Charlie Weis was more than willing to stick his neck out.

“What cheating was he referring to?” Weis said. “First of all, the commissioner knows a lot more than I do. I’ve been in multiple places, and the places I’ve been, I just haven’t seen it. So maybe I’m oblivious. I hear about it all the time. There are things that annoy me sometimes at other places. But really, I just try to speak for Kansas.”

During a recent spike in major violations in college football and basketball, athletic departments took a step in protecting itself from a financial standpoint. For instance, Weis must pay Kansas up to $1 million for costs and expenses, including attorneys’ fees, if the Jayhawks face major NCAA sanctions.

“That’s a reflection of the amount of time and money that schools are spending on these investigations,” Jim Marchiony, Kansas associate athletics director for public affairs, told USA Today “We don’t expect this ever to come in play with Charlie.”

So far, so good. At least related to NCAA violations. Weis’s record on the field – 4-20 – is another story. Maybe some rule breaking would do him well. After all, wins could pour in with nary a hint of any repercussions.

“The NCAA is in a battle with a BB gun in their hands,” Bowlsby said, “and they’re fighting howitzers.”


Comments Show All Comments

YTOWNBUCKI's picture

I honestly have no idea what to think of this whole thing.  Bringing up cheating in collegiate sports is going to rattle some cages especially with the recent scandals of the past 10 years with USC, Ohio State, The U and UNC.  It's a tough pill to swallow when you think about the inevitable change that's about to take place.  

CJDPHoS Board of Directors

Go get your shine box, Gumar!

+1 HS
M Man's picture

I don't read Bowlsby as being so awfully "anti-NCAA."

It sounds to me like Bowlsby is saying, "the NCAA hasn't been doing enough of what we want it to do, what it needs to do, to maintain collegiate sports as we know it."

I've said it before, on these pages; all of the weird little incomprehensible NCAA rules about plane fares, dinner checks and bagel spreads are there for one reason only -- member institutions and their over-eager competitive administrators, coaches and boosters keep doing crazy shit to avoid the rules.  The NCAA keeps having to come up with new rules to maintain what we have all enjoyed.

I read Bowlsby's main message as precisely what he says; big changes are coming and if you like college football the way it is and the way it has been, you are probably not going to like the future.

I wish those words had come out of Dave Brandon's mouth (and Gene Smith's, preferably together in the same press conference) before Bowlsby had to say them.

Bid kudos to Kyle Rowland as the author of this blog post, irrespective of any differences of interpretation.

Boxley's picture

NC was caught red handed, but since htey denied it, the case was closed, only after a former player asked "How is it they were not found doing wrong, I never attended those classes". NCAA opened it back up and because a professor was being criminally charged by the state for fraud for taking money for classes he never taught, flipped on a plea deal. Now the NCAA is back in on it.

The signs are all there deny, deny, deny, and the NCAA will go away becuse they do not want to hurt their own cash cow.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

+4 HS
Catch 5's picture

It's not really that.  They have proven willing to dish out penalties to major programs:  Alabama in the 90's and early 00's, USC, Ohio State, Penn State.  All these teams had pretty severe penalties levied against them and were major players/revenue generators.  The problem is that the NCAA doesn't have subpoena power and thus is unable to unearth evidence that isn't voluntarily offered.  Recent cases from Auburn, Miami, and NC show that refusing to cooperate certainly does pay:  they can't punish teams for violations they can't prove - and if everyone involved refuses to talk to them, they can't collect any real evidence.

Add to that how severely they hammered teams that did cooperate (at least once the investigations began), and the incentive to do so drops to zero.

Make their asses quit! - Nick Saban

+8 HS
apack614's picture

I think there needs to be a sit down once a year with all players and all coaches involved in the NCAA (almost like a annual training) explaining the rules and regulations of the NCAA and also the disciplinary action that results from crossing one of those rules/regulations. Once the classes have been completed they should inform every single coach/player that it is now THEIR OWN responsibility to uphold and maintain these rules. What I'm getting at is single these people out stop with the mass punishment to these great schools/programs and single these people out.

I can't wait to poop in the PL bathroom.

+1 HS
CarolinaBuck's picture

I think they already do that. I know most schools (including Ohio State) bring in everyone from compliance people to the FBI to talk to players and coaches about the rules and guidelines so there is a clear understanding of what you can and can't do. It doesn't matter. If a player or coach who is inclined to cheat thinks the reward is greater than the risk of getting caught, then they will break the rules.

+1 HS
apack614's picture

I understand rules would still get broken but if they single people out that will save these Universities millions of dollars

I can't wait to poop in the PL bathroom.

ibuck's picture

There need to be disincentives for cheating.  Financial penalties need to affect the assistant coaches too, not just the head coaches. Show-cause penalties for egregious offenders would probably curb a lot, as would disassociation penalties for "bag-men" and their ilk. A five-year ban from the NC playoff, as well as the current penalties: post-season ineligibility, scholarship losses, invalidating wins and titles, would likely limit "lack of institutional control." As would ineligibility for conference post-season revenue. Penalizing athletes for accepting cash, even while in high school, by prohibition form post-season play (for at least 3 years), added to repayment penalties, would probably deter much of that.

Subpoena power is needed. Otherwise, schools subject to public records requests get treated differently than private schools or schools in states without such laws. Being subject to subpoenas should be a requirement to play in the NCAA, both for institutions and for people (athletes, coaches, administrators, possibly even media folks). 

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

Catch 5's picture

That won't work either.  While you could mandate it for schools, coaches/admin, and current players, there is no way you will ever get subpoena power over media, (rogue) boosters, agents or former players.  None of them depend on the NCAA for anything so they have no leverage.  As much as people like to accuse some teams of cheating, most of the problems originate from those boosters and agents - and by the time someone gets a whiff of the goings-on, the player has moved on as well.

Make their asses quit! - Nick Saban

ibuck's picture

Are we then faced with Congress passing a law requiring subpoena authority? Or could the NCAA file civil lawsuits against people and institutions and derive subpoena power that way? Of course, people could assert their 5th amendment rights and clam up. That's why I think agreeing to be subject to subpoenas as a requirement to participate is needed.

Our honor defend, so we'll fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

Oyster's picture

“What cheating was he referring to?” Weis said

Don't worry Charlie, your record proves you don't cheat.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

+4 HS
BucksFan2000's picture

I suspect he cheats on his diet.

+6 HS
Fogt13's picture

I would up vote this 1 million times if I could

Go Buckeyes! Go Bengals! Go Reds!
My true love will always be Rosie

+1 HS
Young_Turk's picture

NCAA and big 2 amateur sports= Frog and Pot of Water brought to boil.  

Only remedy is to have two classifications.

1)  Unlimited/Ungoverned.  Only affiliated with schools by name.  Athletes do not have to attend a single class.  

2)  Student-Athletes.  Athletic dept budget is capped.  AD salary is capped, can't exceed average of professor salaries.  Coaches salary is capped.  Students can only participate if they pass a standardized test that week and if they are matriculating in a satisfactory manner.  


Buckeye Knight's picture

The thing that pisses me off the most is how haphazard the NCAA is with their punishments.

1. USC gets hammered

2. OSU gets hammered

3. PSU gets hammered for a criminal case, the NCAA doesn't punish for criminal cases, except PSU.  As horrible as what happened there was, it was something above the NCAA's head, yet they stuck their nose in anyway.

4. UNC gets off

5. Miami gets off after a booster gives up to $500 million in benefits to players and admits it.  Let that number sink in after Pryor getting a discount on a tat, up to 1/2 a billion dollars.

6. South Carolina has coaches, players, and recruits get caught red handed for around $50k, they lose a couple scholarships for a couple years.

7. Auburn bought and paid for Scam Newton, he missed out on a practice.

8. I know a guy that coached at Bama, Saban is a SLY fox.  That's all I have to say about that.  His relationship with Mark Emmert doesn't hurt.

+7 HS
Buckeyeneer's picture

Don't forget the video of he LSU player cold-cocking some guy outside a bar and they let Les Miles take a team vote to determine the kids punishment.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

+3 HS
NuttyBuckeye's picture

I see a trend here.  The schools that got off are based in the southeastern US, and are pretty good at certain sports that make the NCAA money.

What I cannot understand is why Ohio State and USC got hit pretty hard, when they basically fall into making money.

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

+1 HS
TMac511's picture

I'm sure my opinion on this is an unpopular one, but cheating is everywhere in college football. It is morally wrong, and it should never be practiced, but let's be honest here and realize that it happens all the time. Even in college, the players are a bunch of prima donnas.

Shabazz Napier did his whole thing about being hungry after the National Championship game this year, but I think that cheating is running rampant in college football. Before I say this, don't get me wrong, I LOVE Ohio State football, and I am a student at the greatest university on Earth. Has anyone seen the way that Braxton Miller dresses, and how he dresses his kid? Those baby Jordans aren't cheap, and the watches he wears aren't cheap either. Huber Heights is not a place where there is a lot of money, so I doubt his parents are loaded. The money is coming from somewhere, and I don't think he's working a job making that kind of money during the school year. While on campus, I've seen plenty of players driving around in very nice cars. I saw Philly Brown over Spring Break in Columbus driving around a brand new Lexus with vanity plates. I have no clue who it was, but I have seen players (I know by the letterman jackets and Nike football bags that every player gets), get out of a souped up Charger with tinted windows and a matte finish paint job. I don't think those players pulled their money to buy that car.

But look around, it's everywhere. Derrick Henry in his Challenger, Oklahoma State with drugs and hookers (allegedly), and the list goes on and on. I guess it's true, that if you're good, you can cheat and get away with it. Personally, it makes me sick. I'm sure there are a variety of reasons why it's going on, but I don't want to hear it.

As a college student, I know that college loans suck. Even if it's in-state tuition, I am getting bogged down with debt, and I'll spend a ton of time repaying that. These athletes should be happy that they don't have to face this situation, and they don't need to seek compensation. The school is paying $25,000+ per year for them to play football. Whether they choose to attend class or not, it's their "choice," but that education is free.

+2 HS
Catch 5's picture

What is not getting reported is that most of if not all these players are still eligible for school loans even thought they are on scholarship.  Since their school expenses are covered by the scholarship, the loans can be used for other "cost of attendance" expenses - of which clothing and transportation are a part of.  When you realize that some of these players are getting 3-5 grand a semester through these loans, most of these instances of cheating that get thrown around so easily make a little more sense - a lease on a new charger is not that difficult a thing to pull off (it is well below $300/mo)

Make their asses quit! - Nick Saban

Buckeye Knight's picture

Students from low income families also get Pell Grants, which never have to be paid back.  That's close to $6k a year.  Which is enough to use towards a loan to get a decent used car.  You also have to remember that all living expenses including rent, medical, books, most food, etc. that the student-athletes need is paid for.  Plus they usually have a little extra per month left over from their rent check when living off-campus.

Zimmy07's picture

I actually thought the more significant part of his commentary was his opinion that a lot of low revenue sports were likely to be dropped due to the video game lawsuit losses on player representation, etc.

That's bad for college athletics, but in a litigious environment I see the point.  Maybe they can have "club" teams that are only linked slightly with the universities for legal reasons (like LLC teams?)

Hoody Wayes's picture

Bowlsby: "(R)ight now, if you want to cheat, you can do it and you can get away with it. There are benefits for doing that."

Obviously, because the BXII doesn't play a conference championship it an unfair advantage when the college football playoff contenders will be selected. What a sage!

“If you like intercollegiate athletics the way it is now, you’re going to hate it going forward,” Bowlsby said. “There’s a lot of change coming. I fear whether we will get past the change. There are all kinds of Armageddon scenarios you can come up with. Change is coming.”

He's speaking for himself. He knows branding (There can be only ONE "B1G") and regional balance (4 conferences, NOT 5, thank you) will compel the Power 4 conferences to lower the boom on the BXII, with this ultimatum: Fold your tent and we'll subsume your teams. If you won't, go play the mid-majors. But, you won't play any of us.

Fogt13's picture

That is a great clause to put into a coaches contract. If you get caught cheating, you owe for expenses that come from it. I think a lot more programs would self monitor better if someone had a large finanical loss against them.

Go Buckeyes! Go Bengals! Go Reds!
My true love will always be Rosie

+1 HS