The Big 12 Commissioner wants to make sure you hear it from him first.
But his most eye-opening comments came in relation to ongoing legal battles about what athletes can receive while playing college sports and the recent effort to allow Northwestern University scholarship football players to unionize — an effort that ended last month when the National Labor Relations Board decided not to accept jurisdiction over petition to let those players organize.
“I’m glad the unionization process has cooled for right now,” Bowlsby said. “But the fact is — and it probably will be in the sport of men’s basketball — there will be a day in the future when the popcorn is popped, the TV cameras are there, the fans are in the stands and the team decides they’re not going to play. Mark my words. We will see that in the years ahead. We saw some of it for other reasons in the ’70s, but I really believe that we aren’t finished with the compensation issue or with the employee-vs.-student issue.”
Wow. That sounds pretty imminent. Should we be very worried?
Bowlsby later said he doesn’t think such an action is close to happening, “but the tension in the system isn’t going to go away anytime soon.”
Oh. Well, it’s a concern, anyway, right?
That point was re-emphasized later in Bowlsby’s presentation when he spoke about a recent visit he made to a college class that happened to include a men’s basketball player. Bowlsby said he ended up asking the player whether he felt like an employee, and the player responded that he did.
Bowlsby said he asked the player why he felt that way, and Bowlsby said the player replied, in part: “My time is not my own. … I don’t have any control over where I go, what I do, how I work out, how long I work out, what I eat, where I eat. … That sounds like an employee to me. … I’m grateful for what I’m getting, but you asked me if I feel like an employee — and I do.”
Bowlsby then added: “I’ve thought about a lot since then and I’m going to ask that question of others as I go around. … In the end, I guess it doesn’t really matter what the courts say about employee status if the student-athletes feel like they’re involved in a situation where they lack control over what it is they can do or can’t do — and Lord knows we’ve got lots of rules that govern them from a grade-point standpoint and from a name, image and likeness standpoint. I probably would have felt differently if I still was on campus, but in listening to student-athletes, in some ways we’re putting them in untenable situations.”
Asked after his presentation whether he was surprised by the athlete’s comments, Bowlsby told USA TODAY Sports: “Yeah, I was surprised. Because of how frank he was. I don’t know that it alters the bottom line for me, but it certainly gives me more to think about.”
So, yeah, sucks for you, but I’m not gonna lose any sleep over it – that’s all you got here, Bob? Man, that’s a real crisis.
There’s a part of me that thinks he’d be happy if there were a player strike in hopes the public would blame the kids and by extension make folks like Bowlsby look better. Major league baseball showed that crapping on the product is always a winning marketing strategy. I’m not surprised that what passes for keen intellect among the people running college sports would think similarly.