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July 22, 2013

Bob Bowlsby


THE MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome everybody.
We're going to have a number of different coaches up here.  We'll start with the commissioner in a moment.
I'll address Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, and we'll take questions at the end.
BOB BOWLSBY:  Thank you all for being here.  We appreciate it.  Thanks to Bob Burda and his staff for putting together this great space for the media day today and tomorrow.
Interestingly enough, last year at this time, I was the brand‑new commissioner, and we were just coming off two or three years of fairly tumultuous times.  We were working very hard to sell the message of strength and stability and success.  I think probably there were some question marks after those three items.
This year I think we can look back and say we've got exclamation marks after those three items.  I think it's been a very productive year for us, and it has been a year that has yielded, I think, a growing measure of trust among all of our member institutions.  It really feels like we're beginning to settle down a little bit.
I've been here in the building about 30 minutes, and I haven't had a realignment question yet, which is the first time that's happened in the entire time I've been here.  I really am looking forward to 2013/2014, and then especially to '14 and '15 as we get into some of the new ventures that we're going to be working on.
In the case of the Big 12, we take a huge jump between '13/'14 and '14/'15 in our distributable revenue as some of our big contracts kick in.  At the end of '14/'15, we get to full and equal sharing with our new members and current members, and it really will complete the transition that has been in place over the last 18 months or so.
As we said before, we're intentionally at ten members.  We think there are advantages at ten.  Among those advantages are the strength of playing three nonconference games instead of four and having a full conference round‑robin.  I think it keeps rivalries strong.  I think it keeps our multimedia packages strong to have good competition every day, every Saturday.
From a revenue sharing standpoint, I think over a long period of time we will have a smaller pie to divide but the slices will be larger.  We certainly like that on behalf of our members.
I think the other thing is we don't have any divisional play, and divisional, by its very title, is‑‑ has some divisive elements to it, and there's fractionalization that comes with that.
I think the debate about larger being better is still raging, but the realignment battles have really settled down, and I think in the near term to midterm, perhaps even a little longer, I think you'll see a period of relative calm.  I think that's a good thing.
Last year we were in the throes of trying to get our Fox and ESPN contract completed.  It was a groundbreaking undertaking.  They had never fully partnered on a property previously, and thanks to Fox for being here and carrying this event live today and tomorrow from 9:00 until noon.  We appreciate them being here.
I came in in the middle of the Champions Bowl discussion last year, and it was a new model for a postseason bowl game that bore fruit for us and the SEC, but it had a lot of moving parts.  We had to negotiate a TV contract and an articulation agreement between the two conferences, we had to go through the RFP process that eventually put the game in the Sugar Bowl.
So we were excited about the opportunity because it's very different than what has been done previously in either of our conferences.
We went through the grant of rights process that yielded a 13‑year grant of rights.  We went through the BCS college football playoff transition and moved from the visionary to the logistical, which is where we are now.
And then we had to go through the strategic aspects of putting together a new bowl alignment, which obviously the strategy took place last year, and the nuts and bolts of blocking and tackling of it are going to take place this year.
We've got a number of those initiatives that are going to bleed into this year, and it will cause us to stay pretty busy.  We have some longstanding relationships with bowls, and we have some brand‑new ones.  Some of the ones that we previously had in place in the new day will be structured differently.  Two of our bowls will have us as partners in the relationships, which is something that hasn't ever been done before and certainly not been done by us.
So we've had a lot going on over the last 18 months, and it's been a really positive process.
I think one of the things that will be a hallmark of this coming year is an attempt by our conference to really be innovative.  We have a number of different things that we're working on, some of them in response to elements of our business, and some of them just things that we think are interesting and that might eventually bear fruit down the road.
First of all, some of you are aware, but I'm sure not all of you, we will be bringing in‑game highlights on a taped and live basis into our stadiums this year.  This is largely a response to declining attendance on a national basis.  Our schools are 85 percent full.  We've got many that are experiencing hard sell‑outs every game.  We feel like our attendance has remained relatively strong.
But I think nationwide we're seeing student numbers declining.  We're seeing season ticket numbers declining.  College football has experienced declines in overall attendance over the last four or five years, and I think bringing highlights in will take into account and help one of the things that really is getting to be a challenge for us.  We put together all of these multimedia deals, but with that comes the interminable 2:30 and 2:45 television time‑out, and during those time‑outs in Big 12 stadiums this year, we will have highlights from other games.  They will be mixed in with other things that are being done on campus.
But I really think it's going to be a terrific thing for our fans, and I think it will be one item that will keep people from staying home in front of their televisions or watching on a PDA or in one way or another saving time and money and staying home.  That is the trend.
We see people that have a 60‑inch television and they can have their mobile device with full wi‑fi on their lap, no lines at the restroom, no charge for concessions, they can have a cold beer when they want to, and they don't have to spend six to eight hours traveling to and from the stadium.  So it's something that we're very excited about, and we think that it will greatly enhance the in‑stadium environment.
Another thing that we're doing in the way of innovation this year is all of our teams will have an RF chip embedded in their shoulder pads.  And this will allow‑‑ this is a partnership with an organization called Sportvision.  It will allow us to track players, their velocity, their path around the football stadium on a realtime basis.
To be quite frank about it, we're not sure what we will do with the technology or what Sportvision will do with the technology, but we think it's a very interesting innovation that developments in other areas outside of sports have accommodated.  So our guys will all have RF chips in, and it ought to be interesting to see how it evolves.
Ourselves and the SEC and the Pac‑12 are the three conferences that are undertaking that.
The other thing that we're doing that is going to be an interesting experiment is that of the eighth official.  We have experimented with it in the‑‑ during the spring.  We've even experimented using an eighth official with a helmet cam to see what the vantage point is and how it might be helpful.  This official will be on the offensive side of the ball in the backfield, roughly the equivalent location but opposite the referee.
This will be the person who places the ball in play.  So you recall formerly the umpire was doing that from within the area behind the defensive line.  This year that will be undertaken by the eighth official.
This is really in response to pace of play as much as anything.  We're excited we'll be the only league experimenting with the eighth official.
We also have undertaken a very significant concussion research and prevention program that we think is altogether appropriate.  We have developed a conference position statement that was developed by Ed Stewart and Murphy Grant, who is a sports medicine professional at the University of Kansas.  It has been unanimously adopted by our administrators and by our football coaches.  It is in conjunction with the position statement and the development of our conference protocols.
We are working on a partnership with USA Football, which is an NFL undertaking that is intended to teach young people to play the game properly and to play it safely.  The initiative is called Heads Up Football, and there is a link to it on our website if you want to get to the Heads Up Football link.
But player safety is a very important element of what we're doing.  The commissioners collectively actually took the initiative and sent directive to the rules committee that we wanted progress made on both concussive head injuries and the cumulative effect of repetitive blows to the head.
We've developed a public service announcement that, I think, we can run for you now that will run in stadium and also within our telecast.
(Video playing.)
BOB BOWLSBY:  You'll see that a lot during the season.  Head injuries are obviously a real challenge.  We need to have prevention reflected in the rules.  This is certainly not an attempt to, as some hosts said, sissify college football.  Just as it's important to us and it's important to parents and important to players and it's important to our coaches, we need to have the rules reflect the right way to play the game, and we need to make sure that it's a game you can play safely and not compromise the rest of your life in the process of excellence.  So that's an important piece for us.
We're also undertaking a branding initiative that has occupied a fair amount of our time over the last year.  Quite frankly, there wasn't much we could do in the way of branding during the time we were in upheaval, and this is a process that has gone through the coaches, the administrators, the CEOs, and it's got a number of different parts.  We thought it might be fun to show you the logo that we're going to be working on.  We've finalized the design, but we will not roll it out until about this time next year, July of '14.
We're going to have a little bit of fun with it.  We'll use a style guide.  We'll work with our members.  Let's flip it out there.
We have done some market testing.  The folks that designed this logo for us is GSD&M in Austin.  We had previously worked with them, and the project had been suspended.  Interestingly enough, we got back together with them, and they had some stuff they hadn't shown us including a variation of this mark.
Included in this will be a style guide that will describe how institutions will mandatorily use this on their campuses.  We will have consistent venue placement, which we've never had before.  We will also have it on all of our uniforms, which we haven't had before.  As I mentioned, the official transition will be next July.
The reason we chose to roll it out now is it's going to be around on all the campuses all year because this is a very large project moving from the current logo to the new one.
I want to spend a little time talking just briefly about football because we're all here for football.  Before I do, I want to draw upon a little bit of the comments of Commissioner Slive last year and just talk a little bit about the national landscape.
There is a lot that's right about intercollegiate athletics.  There isn't any two ways about that.  I think all of us acknowledge it, but it gets lost in the processes sometimes.  We've made tremendous progress as an example in the area of academics.  Graduation rates in football and men's basketball are higher than they've ever been.  We've made real progress over the last 10 or 15 years.  It's now impossible to major in eligibility like you once could by taking the easy classes in every department, and all of a sudden, by the end of your junior year, you find that you don't have enough credits to graduate in anything.
Satisfactory progress has been put in place that doesn't any longer allow somebody to take 24 hours in the summer and get themselves eligible.  We now have contemporaneous penalties that are based upon institutional APRs, and thousands of kids have been brought to a college education as a result of the initiatives that have been undertaken.
I think all of us would acknowledge the extraordinary outreach that especially college football affords colleges and universities.  So there's a lot that's right about it.  You go to game day on many of our campuses, and it's truly a celebration.  There's a lot to love about it.
In this era of realignment, in my opinion, realignment hasn't been one of the real sources of pride for those of us in the business.  I think in large measure we've commoditized institutions of higher education.  As I said earlier, I think in the near and mid term that's going to slow down.  It will never be viewed as one of our proudest periods of time, in my estimation.
But I think right now our national organization is under fire.  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.
Why are we where we are?  It's hard to say.  I guess it's the cumulative effect of a long period of time, but I think what we've done essentially is we have tried to accomplish competitive equity through rules and legislative changes, and it's probably not possible to do that.
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.
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.  I think all of us are feeling that.
The five major conference commissioners met about six weeks ago to talk about these issues.  I think we're probably making some progress, but I don't know that we can keep doing what we're doing.  It's bad grammar but a good concept:  If we always do what we've always done, we'll always get what we've always got.  That's kind of where we are right now.
I think we need to do some things to change it, and I don't say this to be critical of President Emmert or leadership.  I think, relative to the academic things, Myles Brand got a lot of those academic initiatives started, and they certainly continued under Mark Emmert's watch.  But I really do think we need to reconfigure the leadership of the organization.
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.  I think we need to reengage practitioners, ADs, commissioners, people that work in athletics every day.  I think it's unrealistic to think that people that spend hours a month on athletics can come up with the right agenda and have the time to move it through the system.
I really think the time has come to think about federation by size and scope and equity brought to the system.  There are about 75 schools that win 90 percent of the championships in the NCAA, and we have a whole bunch of others that don't look much like the people in our league, but yet through rule variation they're trying to compete with us.
I think it may even be time to look at federation by sport.  It's probably unrealistic to think that we can manage football and field hockey by the same set of rules.  I think some kind of reconfiguration of how we govern is in order.
I think we need to think a little bit about reevaluating our core purpose.  NCAA has gotten to be an organization that has very broad‑ranging responsibilities and oversight.  I'm not sure we're doing as good a job with some of the core competencies as we need to.  And perhaps a narrower focus would help.  I think CEOs and ADs and commissioners and others have to really thoroughly engage and effectively restructure the enforcement process.  Without the power of subpoena or the weight of perjury, we are not getting to the bottom of anything in the way of the enforcement process.
There are great people involved in it, including my colleague, Britton Banowsky, who's here in Dallas.  We've talked a lot about it, and he does a wonderful job with it.  In large measure, I don't know that meaningful enforcement can take place under the structure that we currently have.
So you hear coaches say all the time and administrators say that others are cheating, but when you ask who are they, what are they doing, when did they do it, what are the details of it, more often than not you don't end up with much.
I think the fact is there are a small minority out there that are bending the rules and doing things that are inappropriate, and it's not the majority.  I think there are great people in this business, and I think they really care about the well‑being and health of the student‑athlete.  I think that really has got to be our foundational value as, unfortunately, we frequently and perhaps consistently make decisions that are inconsistent with the values that we espouse.  Our actions and our aspirations are not fully in sync.
So there's plenty of work to do, and I have to say one of the reasons why I took the commissioner's job was because I'd like to have more to say about that national agenda and would like to see the best parts of the business enhanced and the other parts of what we do improved rather dramatically.
Anyway, I think we've got lots to do.  The commissioners are intent upon doing it.  We've spent a lot of time talking with NCAA leadership about these issues, and I think we will make progress.  But I don't think we can continue to do what we've done and expect that we're going to get a different result.
Enough about the macro.
Big 12 football, I think we will have a very interesting year.  You look at the media poll relative to who's going to win the league, and Oklahoma State, our preseason pick, garnered 35 percent of the vote.  We've kind of got Iowa caucus numbers in terms of people being all over everyplace.  I think the second‑place team got 19 percent of the first‑place votes or something like that, as compared to Alabama getting something over 75 percent of the votes in the SEC.
I think it will be a very interesting year.  Our champion‑‑ and many of you probably know this, but our champion the last two years was picked in the second division of our conference.  I think they were both picked sixth, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.  So we have great competition.  I think the round‑robin makes for great games every week.
I think that it's an interesting year.  We've been first nationally in offense for a while, and yet I think we have several excellent defenses, and in the end I think it's defense that wins you championships.  I think that we have a chance to really have some people emerge.
It's an unusual year in that we don't have a really dominant quarterback, somebody that everybody looks at and says that team can ride on that player's back and have a great year.  There are lots of‑‑ there are some schools that have got a very large number of returning starters, which is typically a good indicator.  They tend to be‑‑ the best depth tends to be on the defensive side of the ball, and yet I know we've got great athletes on the offensive side of the ball as well.
I think one of the real hallmarks of the league has been high‑quality specialty teams' play.  We ask no quarter and give none.  We think we can play with anybody in the country, but it's impossible to call yourself the best league in college football unless you can win the National Championship.  Aspirationally, that's what we want to do.  We want to do it this year, and we want to do it every year.
Our schools are investing in the kinds of tools that it takes from high‑quality coaches, and not just head coaches, but coaching staffs as well.  As you've seen, we have a lot of people going from our league as coordinators or assistant coaches to head coaching positions.  So there's wide acknowledgement that we have terrific coaches.  We've got great young people, and I think we're going to have a year that's really going to be special.
So let me stop there and address your questions.

Q.  You mentioned about the NCAA and the commissioners.  How much consensus is there among especially the top five BCS commissioners about what you just said?
BOB BOWLSBY:  I would say unanimity.  I have some hesitation in saying that because I don't want to put words in anybody else's mouths.  I believe my comments are consistent with those that Mike Slive made last week, and when I think about John Swofford and Larry Scott and beyond that as well, I think we all have a sense that transformative change is going to have to happen.  This is not a time when trimming around the edges is going to make very much difference.

Q.  How does the NCAA feel about what you're saying?  Where do they stand on these potential changes?
BOB BOWLSBY:  Well, I think it depends on who you ask.  I think President Emmert recognizes that change needs to take place, and he's hearing from‑‑ he's hearing from different people.  The Faculty Athletics Representatives Organization thinks they need to be more involved.  The I‑A athletic directors think they need to be more involved.
I think there are presidents and CEOs that believe presidents and CEOs need to continue to be in charge.  I agree with that, but I think they also need the advice and counsel of practitioners at the high level.
Personally, I'd like to see some practitioners on the board of directors in voting positions.  I think that that's going to continue very significantly to the quality of the deliberations on these issues.
The agenda that has been advanced in the past, I happen to think that there's a good case to be made for some form of additional support for student‑athletes.  Personally, I favor some sort of need basis above basic education expenses, but others who agree that there ought to be some distribution disagree on how it ought to be established.
I think we all acknowledge, particularly relative to the legislative process, we are very much at a point now where we can't get anything that's transformative through the system.  I think that's particularly felt by seven or eight conferences and the five major conferences in particular.  It is just very difficult to do anything that would benefit our student‑athletes or our institutions that doesn't get voted down by the larger majority.
It's just a very difficult process, and we've had one institution, one vote.  We've had a more representative form of governance, and both of them have been incapable, unwilling, or unsuccessful in making the changes that are required.
So I think we all acknowledge that change is necessary.  There's a broad debate on what change and who gets affected by it.

Q.  Bob, you said it's very difficult to get anything substantial passed now.  I would assume that goes double for the kind of change you're just calling for.  Is the threat of secession the only thing that really can get this put through?
BOB BOWLSBY:  That's a great question.  We haven't wanted to put the threat of secession on the table, and I think, in all honesty, there aren't many that think it's a legitimate threat.
I'm very sincere when I say I haven't spoken with anyone in the business that seriously proposes we should go find another organization.
One of the interesting aspects of even the federated approach to this is, if you say it's a good idea to take the top 100 schools and give them their balls and give them their contracts and they go away and play by themselves, what you've done, in effect, if you really do segregate them, is you've gotten‑‑ what you're going to create is a whole new class of losing programs, 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.
So I don't see secession as a legitimate point of leverage except as a last resort.  I really think that leadership and the rank and file believe that there's a solution within the NCAA, and it's been along those lines that we've had the conversations.
Could that change to something that's a little more harsh down the road?  Possibly could, sure.

Q.  Bob, can you talk about the fourth division and if you think that's the approach that should occur within the NCAA?
BOB BOWLSBY:  Well, depends on whose fourth division you're looking at.  There are a lot of different models out there.  It's always about the people at the margin too.  There are a lot of people that will support a given proposal if they're included rather than excluded.
And I think therein lies the difficulty in all of this.  If you begin trying to put together homogeneous groups, somebody gets included, and somebody gets left out.  Usually, it happens along expenditure lines or competitive lines or revenue distribution lines.  Wherever you draw those lines, if they're bright lines, you have controversy.
I think it goes back to Barry's question earlier, that that may be the basis on which you think about some group that's set off by themselves either under the structure or outside the structure, but I just don't‑‑ 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.  Whether Division IV is the right one, the devil's in the details.

Q.  Bob, when you talk about federation, are they two or three of the biggest priorities that the five major conferences want other than maybe subsidies for the athletes?  Are we talking bigger scholarship numbers?  Different recruiting?  Bigger staffs?
BOB BOWLSBY:  You know, the scholarship numbers are always an interesting question because they have a lot to do with competitive equity.  Personally, one of the reasons I believe college football is the game it is today is we have 85 scholarships.  We were unlimited.  We were at 120.  We were at 105.  We were at 95.  Now, I don't know if 85 is the perfect number or not, but I can tell you it broadly distributes the talent pool.
So when you start talking about scholarship allocations, you're really talking about whether or not you're going to have a lot of people competitive or you're going to have a few people competitive with a lot of good players sitting on the bench.  So that part of it, I haven't heard that anybody is advocating larger numbers.
I do think that the Big 12 and other conferences like us would advocate for some form of additional support to student‑athletes, and it wouldn't be just support for football student‑athletes or basketball.  I think, if you apply any form of the labor theory of value, you can make the case that football players don't work any harder than the wrestlers or any harder than the swimmers or the track athletes.  They have the blessing of an adoring public.
There is the issue of full stadiums, but if you just base it upon doing the right thing for kids that are working their tails off, you do it for all student‑athletes, and I think federal Title IX requirements wouldn't allow you to do otherwise.
I do think that's one of the places where that could happen, and I think‑‑ I think it's more having a system that, if you identified a proposal that would make some sense, that you could put forth the proposal.  You could have it amended and considered by people who are like minded or in like situations, and expect that it could be voted up or voted down, and it's almost impossible to do that today.
The chances‑‑ we could make it worse.  It's theoretically possible to make it worse, but it's pretty gridlocked right now.

Q.  Do you feel it's important for Big 12 teams to play SEC teams in bowl games and in regular season games for the Big 12 to take a step to becoming the best conference in college football?
BOB BOWLSBY:  I don't think you can be the best without playing the best.  We have the arrangement in the Sugar Bowl that will in most years have us having a Big 12 team playing an SEC team.  We will also likely play the SEC in at least one other and probably two other bowl games.
So we believe in the best playing the best, and I don't think you can lay claim to it unless you can beat them.

Q.  Probably surprised that my question is going to be about a penalty, but given the fact of losing your new penalty regarding the targeting and the automatic ejection for targeting penalty, it seems to me with the potential of the 2011 lawsuit possibly going to a class‑action suit paralleling what's going on in the NFL with the 4,000 players who are suing the NFL, it seems to me that this step of automatic ejection is a statement somewhat from the NCAA in terms of the importance of player safety.  I have always thought that the NCAA was more aggressive in player safety matters than the NFL.  But are you as commissioners at all concerned about the consistency of how this ejection will be enforced?  Because it's not just an issue potentially in the actual game where the player is ejected, but if it's a second‑half act, it will carry over to the next game in the first half, and there are going to be those that are called that lead to ejections and those that are not called that won't end up being ejections obviously.  So are you concerned with the consistency and the ramifications competitively‑wise over this penalty?
BOB BOWLSBY:  We are.  And to that end, there will be a full review of all of those calls and no calls on Monday‑‑ Sunday and Monday with Rogers Redding, and we want to try‑‑ we're very much mindful of the need to have a national fabric so that it's called the same in every league.
As you know better than I, the consistency is always a big challenge.  This one where we feel like we have to get it right.
This rule emanated out of a meeting that the commissioners were all in at the same time that the rules committee was meeting, and there was some feedback back and forth as to what the new rule was going to be, and the commissioners were unanimous that they wanted a very aggressive rule and a rule that was going to keep kids safe and a rule that erred on the side of penalization so that we change the way the game is played, so that we don't target and we‑‑ there are always going to be incidental helmet‑to‑helmet‑contact situations.
It's important to the‑‑ to all commissioners, in my estimation, but particularly to the five major college conferences, that we get this right.  I think that there's probably another phase to it, and that is how much helmet‑to‑helmet contact are we having in practice?  Right now college kids are getting a lot more helmet‑to‑helmet contact than the NFL teams are getting.  They're having one day a week of helmet‑to‑helmet contact.  We typically are having more than that.
Now, a lot of times it's helmets and shells, and you're not going full contact even one day a week, but it's‑‑ yes, consistency is very much a concern, at the time and also in follow‑up.
But we believe that aggressive management of this situation is warranted and that we need to make sure that we do what is necessary to take the targeting and helmet‑to‑helmet contact out of the game.
THE MODERATOR:  Commissioner, thank you very much for your comments and your answer for the questions.

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