MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Big 12 will not join the Big Ten or ACC in making a statement about allowing all athletes to transfer without sitting out a year — at least not until the conference athletic directors have a chance to meet next month in Kansas City during the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.
“We haven’t met to talk about it yet. We’ll do that at the basketball tournament,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said on Monday. “Our ADs are talking to our coaches, and we’ll talk with our ADs at the March meeting.”
Bowlsby was in Morgantown on Monday for the unveiling of a new library at Mountainview Elementary, which was renovated with a $50,000 grant from the Big 12 and the College Football Playoff Foundation.
Within the past two weeks, the Big Ten and ACC have both come out in support of streamlining the currently convoluted process by which athletes must secure waivers in order to play immediately when transferring to a new school. Without a NCAA waiver, transfers must sit out a year of competition unless they are graduate students.
The Big Ten and ACC are advocating that all athletes have immediate eligibility for a one-time transfer, eliminating the need for a waiver. This is already the case in all sports but football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and men’s ice hockey.
“I have my thoughts, but as the commissioner I’m not really entitled to my own position,” Bowlsby said. “It’s going to be an amalgamation of what our athletic directors, chancellors and presidents want. I’m here to represent their positions.”
Last week, the NCAA announced it has formed a Transfer Waiver Working Group to formally consider making the change, lifting a moratorium that had been placed on the issue last fall.
If the proposal passes, athletes will still need to receive a release from their previous school, leave that school in good academic standing, maintain academic standing at their new school, and leave their old school under no disciplinary suspensions. A waiver process would remain in place for students who attempt more than one transfer during their college careers.
What’s next for Name, Image, Likeness
Bowlsby recently appeared at a Senate hearing over the issue of Name, Image and Likeness that’s facing the NCAA.
Many Congressional leaders and several state legislatures are pressuring the NCAA to allow student-athletes to be compensated from third-parties. Bowlsby is among the officials in college athletics arguing that any changes must be implemented carefully.
He gave the following answers to questions about the issue on Monday.
What’s the next step forward in the NIL process?
It’s been an ongoing challenge. We’re spending a lot of time on Capitol Hill trying to edify the elected officials on what the challenges are. I think one of the things we’ve made progress on is they now understand with the national recruiting environment, you can’t have 50 separate state laws. The manner in which they bring order to that is called preemption. I think there’s a well-shared belief that federal preemption that would give us a uniform law is required.
You also mentioned anti-trust exemption while you were on the Hill…
Preemption is very difficult to get at the federal level. One of the few things that’s even more difficult is anti-trust exemption. And yet we believe that institutions acting together to make rules is the way that it ought to be done.
I don’t know that anybody invites Congress into it with a lot of enthusiasm, but having said that there are roles for government to play and try to bring order to a circumstance that’s difficult to bring order to, especially if rules are put in place that are then challenged in court. I don’t think you want to go there for everything, but there are some circumstances where you have to have some protection to act as what you call cooperation and collaboration and the plantiff’s attorneys call it collusion. That’s the environment in which we find ourselves.
Does it seem inevitable that we’re moving in a direction that will include compensation?
We need to always be willing to modernize the rules. Clearly there’s a hue and cry for a liberalization of what student-athletes should be able to do, which is the same as other kids on campus. But it can’t be pay-for-play and it shouldn’t be a proxy for pay-for-play. That’s not what college is.
If you want to be paid for your participation, there are places you can do that. They have their own rules.
We’re very different from the NBA, the NFL or Major League Baseball. We don’t have a draft that says where you will play. Likewise, we’re not like the Olympics where you’re playing for the country that issues your passport. It’s a different animal altogether, and the fact there’s 1,200 schools involved in it makes it very different from the professional ranks. You can do things with an anti-trust exemption and 30 franchises that you can’t do with our environment.
On the message that’s been shared thus far
We’ve done a good job of articulating what we don’t want to happen. Now we need to turn around and put in place the architecture for what we do want to happen.
Bowlsby on Big 12 Now
The Big 12’s streaming partnership with ESPN-Plus remains a point of contention in West Virginia, as Bowlsby learned first-hand when grilled by West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito during his Senate testimony.
From the halls of Congress to the shelves of the Mountainview library, Bowlsby stayed on-message in defense of his league’s new creation.
“Disney has made a huge investment in digital distribution. There’s the bundle with Hulu and Disney Plus and ESPN Plus… As a standalone, there’s 8 million subscriptions with ESPN plus, and of that 8 million I guess over 1 million are Big 12-related.
“The technology is good. The delivery is good. There are places that have access to good enough broadband, but if you’re in a rural area and don’t want to invest in more expensive broadband, you’re probably going to have trouble with buffering issues.”
He says the issues with Big 12 Now pale in comparison to those faced when the Big Ten and Pac-12 Networks were rolled out.
“This has been much smoother,” he said. “In the case of the Big Ten Network, there was a five-game window where you couldn’t get Ohio State football in central Ohio. People were livid. This has been very different.
“I think we’re on the right side of technology. The digital platform is where it’s going. The cable universe is shrinking 1.5-2.5 percent a year. It will bottom out in the 50-60 million household range. A lot of that will be taken up by digital consumption.”