When football players at Northwestern University failed in their effort to form a union in August, some thought the issue of labor in college sports would go away entirely.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is not one of those people.
“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 are not going to play,” Bowlsby said on Monday. “Mark my words. We will see that in the years to come.”
Tension regarding the treatment of prominent college athletes has caused rumors of potential walkouts, possibly during a major bowl game or Final Four event. Players have made symbolic gestures before, including in 2013 when players from several college football programs across the country wore wristbands with the slogan “All Players United.”
Speaking at a National Press Club event billed as “The Current Environment of College Athletics,” Bowlsby addressed other possible reforms, including limits on time spent on sports, curbing athletic transfer rates, restricting sports to a single semester and possibly ending the current conference-based model.
Bowlsby touted his support of athletics scholarships that cover the entire cost of attendance, which the NCAA approved in January. However he said that paying players beyond that could be problematic.
“There is a good and appropriate reason to pay every nickel of what it costs to go to college,” he said. “There is not a compelling case, in my estimation, to pay above that. I think once we get above that, we’re on a very slippery slope. And then it just becomes a matter of how much.”
Bowlsby acknowledged that compensation will continue to be a source of conflict among college athletes.
“The tensions in the system aren’t going away anytime soon,” he said.