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Big 12 commissioner calls for 'transformative change' in NCAA

| Monday, July 22, 2013, 7:27 p.m.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby addresses the media at the beginning of the Big 12 Media Days on Monday, July 22, 2013 in Dallas.

DALLAS — The battle for control of major college football began Monday in Dallas, where the first warning shots were fired by a conservative commissioner from, of all places, Waterloo.

During his state of the Big 12 address, Bob Bowlsby dropped one bombshell after another in attacking the NCAA and declaring that “transformative change is going to have to happen.”

Bowlsby went so far as to say college sports need to “reconfigure the leadership of the organization,” noting that 75 schools win 90 percent of the championships. He stopped short only when talk shifted to secession by the five BCS-affiliated power conferences (Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern).

“If you really do segregate them, what you're going to create is a whole new class of losing programs,” Bowlsby said, “because those that have been traditional winners, some of them are going to become traditional losers.

“So we sort of rely on the food chain to always find somebody that we can be superior to.”

Bowlsby's comments come just six weeks after the five BCS commissioners met, where he said there was “unanimity” that major change was necessary.

The native Iowan, a former athletic director at Northern Iowa and Stanford, also discussed the possibility that the BCS conferences could create a fourth division, whereby they would not only keep a greater share of playoff revenue but also outline their own set of rules that the smaller conferences routinely vote down.

“I'm pretty dyed in the wool of the NCAA, and I believe with all my heart that a solution inside the organization is the right one,” Bowlsby said. “Whether Division IV is the right one, the devil's in the details.”

Interestingly enough, Bowlsby said this only a year after playing a pivotal role in stabilizing the Big 12 by completing a groundbreaking television deal with ESPN and Fox. Bowlsby said the wide-ranging conference realignment “hasn't been one of the real sources of pride for us” and charged that it “commoditized institutions” with “social climbing.”

Bowlsby's comments received mixed reviews from one of those social climbers, TCU coach Gary Patterson. His Horned Frogs earned BCS bowl bids by going undefeated in back-to-back seasons as members of the Mountain West before accepting an offer to join the Big East, only to switch to the Big 12 when realignment forced a conference shakeup.

“College football needs all the schools that play it, the essence of the way it's always been,” Patterson said. “The sad part about it is, financially, where all of it's heading, the TV money and everything, it's going to become more and more difficult because you're going to have the haves and the ones that don't have everything they need to run their program and do the things they do. I don't know what the good answer is. ...”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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