Big 12 commish discusses possibility of player boycott

Associated Press

With college athletics undergoing a period of change, from ongoing litigation regarding the use of athletes’ names, images and likenesses to the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC being granted autonomy, it’s a good time to address the current climate and how schools are preparing for the future.

Monday afternoon Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby spoke at a National Press Club event (“The Current Environment of College Athletics”), and he made some noteworthy statements. One of those statements according to USA Today focused on the possibility of athletes one day deciding to boycott a game in protest of the system.

“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.”

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.”

While this hasn’t happened in college sports when it comes to the relationship between student-athletes, their schools and the value of scholarships, Bowlsby did note that in the 1970s that there were instances of athletes sitting out games for reasons unrelated to this topic. And there’s also the question of the 1991 Final Four, with their being multiple stories floating around that a team considered sitting out the championship game in protest of the NCAA.

In a Wall Street Journal story written in 2013, the question of whether or not a UNLV team that entered the tournament undefeated had plans of boycotting the national title game (or delaying the start of it) had they managed to beat Duke was addressed. No answer to this question has even been provided, and Duke beating the Runnin’ Rebels in the semifinals eliminated any possibility of this occurring, but it is a situation worth discussing in regards to the future of college sports.

As television contracts skyrocketed and schools moved from one league to another in search of increased revenue, there were more discussions about the net worth of student-athletes and whether or not their scholarships hit that mark. Thanks in large part to ongoing lawsuits this is something the NCAA and its membership has to address with an eye towards the future.