Big 12, Bowlsby to stage forum on athletics

According to Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, intercollegiate athletics are on the verge of a tipping point.

That’s why Bowlsby and the Big 12 will be holding a forum on Wednesday afternoon in New York City to discuss the state of college athletics.

‘In its earliest form, we were conversing about the fact that there really wasn’t a format for a thorough debate and vetting of the issues in place in college athletics right now,” Bowlsby told ESPN.com. “It’s hard to do it in 30-second sound bites and video clips. Between the class-action lawsuits and the O’Bannon case, the NCAA restructuring and all the things going on in intercollegiate athletics, it just felt like a good thing, to have a full and robust discussion about all of the issues.”

NBC broadcaster Jimmy Roberts will moderate the forum (3 p.m. CT) at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel, which will be streamed live over Big12sports.com.

The rest of the panel, along with Bowlsby, is: Kansas State athletic director John Currie, Texas athletic director Steve Patterson, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, Baylor president Kenneth Star, Maryland journalism professor and former Dallas Morning News columnist Kevin Blackistone, 60 Minutes Sports correspondent Armen Keteyian, New York Times sports columnist Juliet Macur, former Texas running rack Selvin Young and Donna Lopiano, president of a consulting firm that focuses on solving issues in intercollegiate athletics.

“I think it will be a tremendous event. I’m really looking forward to it,” said Bowlsby, who indicated a desire to hold other like forums in the future. “We were careful to make sure to get as many sides of the issues represented as we could get.”

Bowlsby said the panelists will dictate where the discussion goes, but he has an idea of the subjects that might get broached.

“It will be interesting to see where it evolves,” Bowlsby said. “I certainly expect discussion of what the scholarship is constituted of. Whether or not we have transitional healthcare. Whether we have multi-year scholarships. How we get control of coaches’ compensation, perhaps. What kinds of academic and admissions challenges we have. I suppose we’ll talk about unionization and whether or not student-athletes are student-athletes or employees. I think all those things will be among the topics.”

Bowlsby has been at the forefront of challenging the NCAA status quo. At Big 12 media days last month, Bowlsby drew plenty of headlines for suggesting that “cheating pays” at the moment in college athletics and that NCAA “enforcement is broken.”

Both Alabama coach Nick Saban and NCAA enforcement chief Jonathan Duncan took issue with those comments.

"I don't see players getting bought. I don't see players getting extra benefits any place," Saban recently told ESPN. "I think recruiting is so transparent now, I think most people are scared to death that they would get caught publicly — not by the NCAA, not by the conference office.”

Duncan defended his office, too.

"We don't pretend to be able to catch every violation in any given year," Duncan told the Associated Press in late July. "So the next question is: Do we have a handle on it? And the answer is yes, I think we do. The people who violate the rules will be found out, and we will report them back to the committee on infractions."

Bowlsby reiterated that he didn’t think cheating is rampant in college sports. But he stands by his words from media days.

“I think there are people gaining an advantage outside the rules, and I think they’re profiting from it,” Bowlsby said. “It’s not widespread, but it’s real. My comments were not critical of the NCAA or Mark Emmert or anyone else. I was just making comments about the difficulty of the task. There are just certain things we can’t get to the bottom of. As I said then, I don’t think cheating is rampant. But I do think there are people out there that are getting away with things. I think Jonathan Duncan is doing a great job, I’m very supportive of what they’re doing. But they don’t have the tools to fully completely the job. … So that’ll likely be a topic at the forum, as well.”