Bowlsby Speaks Against Player Union Movement

Kansas State University students had an interesting opportunity to peer into the big business of major college athletics as Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, former Kansas State track coach and athletic director and Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, Kansas State President Kirk Schulz, and ESPN President John Skipper were part of a joint public lecture.

That is some powerful voices in college athletics. Of course, one of the main topics was the movement led by Northwestern quarterback Kain Coulter, who will graduate this May and is hoping to get a job as a wide receiver in the NFL, to get college athletes the ability to form a union. The Chicago region of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the athletes had the right to apply for a union.

"If college sports enters an employer-employee relationship, we will have forever lost our way," Bowlsby said. "I disagree with the characterization. I don't think student-athletes are employees. I don't think they should be characterized that way. I don't think that is what higher education is about.

"I think it would forever change what Americans have come to love. Having said that, there are a number of other stages in the process. Northwestern and the union folks will go through that process. I expect that it will end up in court at some point."

That topic was one of many that was probed during the two-hour session on the Kansas State campus in the McCain Auditorium.

Schulz, as Kansas State president, has become important in NCAA politics as of late. He and Bowlsby each spoke of the advantages that student-athletes may not fully be appreciating, primarily the ability to get a college degree and leave relatively debt free, a feeling many students don't enjoy as they leave with a large stack of college bills and loans to repay.

That said, both he and Bowlsby are also looking at reform in some areas of college athletics because it is needed. Recruiting and enforcement and academics, and the APR are also too rigid.

"We never want to lose track of the fact that we are involved in higher education," Schulz said. "The way we did it for the last 30 years isn't the way we should do it for the next 30 years."

Schulz said he is very much involved and in favor of the major conferences taking control of their destiny and the rules they live by in the future.

"We want to make sure we can make some of our own rules and put things in place that we think are important for our student-athletes," Schulz said. "That's the fundamental thing we are aiming for."

It is a shame that a similar group discussion or forum could not be staged on each Big 12 campus, including Oklahoma State.

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