Bowlsby expects Big 12 Conference to add wrestling programs, but doubts by next season

MOORHEAD-Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby expects his conference will add affiliate members in wrestling, but doesn't expect that to happen immediately.

MOORHEAD-Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby expects his conference will add affiliate members in wrestling, but doesn't expect that to happen immediately.

"I doubt that it will be in place for next year, but I think the year after that," said Bowlsby, at a Minnesota State Moorhead athletic fundraiser over the past weekend. "We think it is a way to keep wrestling strong."

Some media reports have the Big 12 adding six wrestling programs to its conference, including North Dakota State, for the 2015-16 season.

Bowlsby is a former Dragons wrestler and graduated from Moorhead State (now MSUM) in 1975. He's part of the Alumni Foundation Board at MSUM and has helped with some of the long-term planning in the university's athletic department.

Bowlsby was part of MSUM's athletic summit meetings in 2010.


"It's fun to see some of the things that were germinated in that meeting come to fruition," Bowlsby said.

One of the decisions from that athletic summit was to fully scholarship men's and women's basketball. That decision has paid off with the Dragons men's team advancing to the Division II Elite Eight this past season. The Dragons women's team also had a successful season, finishing second in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North Division.

"I like what they're doing and I'm proud of my alma mater and want to do what I can to help," Bowlsby said.

NDSU is being considered as an affiliate member to the Big 12, along with the five other programs in the six-team Western Wrestling Conference. The Big 12 has four schools with wrestling programs: Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Iowa State.

"One of the things our coaches have said is a four-team conference tournament gets over in like three hours," Bowlsby said. "That isn't the kind of qualifying tournament that they really want so bringing in some other good wrestling programs will help to fortify that."

Bowlsby said the new monthly cost-of-attendance stipend is the "right thing" to do for student-athletes. The stipend covers costs beyond room, board, tuition and fees.

Bowlsby thinks one of the potential downsides of the cost-of-attendance stipend is it could cause some men's Olympic-type sports to be dropped from athletic departments.

"It's wrestling at one place, track and field at another, swimming at another," Bowlsby said. "When the men's sports go away, the counterpart women's sports are weakened as well.


"If this money is going to student-athletes primarily in football and men's basketball ... are there going to be decisions made on campuses that reduce the overall number of sports?"

Even in a "Power Five" conference like the Big 12 athletic department budgets are wide-ranging, Bowlsby said.

"People think budgets are unlimited at our level and they're not," Bowlsby said. "We have an $80 million dollar range from the bottom of our league to the top of our league in terms of annual budgets. We're not as much alike as it might sometimes appear."

Related Topics: MOORHEAD
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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