This week, Scottsdale, Arizona, is home to conversations that may help chart the course for the near future of college athletics.
Commissioners, athletic directors and coaches from four conferences — the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and Mountain West — are holding discussions regarding changes including name, image and likeness and the rise of the transfer portal as the college sports landscape continues to shift.
“One thing that was brought up to me yesterday is, ‘What’s it like to be a first-year head coach?’ ” Oregon head football coach Dan Lanning told The Arizona Republic. “I think one thing that’s unique is that everyone’s a first-year head coach in this environment.”
NIL and the transfer portal were two of the matters addressed during the Big 12’s meeting, Baylor head football coach Dave Aranda said. Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, added that some of the main topics in each conference’s meeting include scholarship limits, the transfer portal window and the recruiting calendar.
ESPN reported Tuesday that the AFCA is advocating for two time frames in which players can enter the transfer portal.
Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who previously served as the AFCA’s president, told The Republic he supports initiatives that are best for student-athletes and also protect the game.
“When you look at what the rules were set up to be, it wasn’t to be an inducement for recruiting out of high school or an inducement for transfer,” Fitzgerald said of NIL. “It seems like we landed in that spot pretty quickly, at least anecdotally… I think we got to get to the bottom of those things.”
Several commissioners attended the meetings in Scottsdale, including Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12’s commissioner who is stepping down later this year. Aranda called his appearance at the Big 12 meetings “really heartfelt” and said he gave the conference’s representatives an overview of how college sports have evolved and where they are now.
The Big 12 will soon be affected by one of college athletics’ largest changes, as Texas and Oklahoma announced their departure for the SEC by 2025. Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self said coaches and administrators were “disappointed” when the two schools made their decision, but he complemented the talent of new conference members BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF.
Regarding NIL, Self believes that it may take time for universities to fully adapt to it because of constant changes.
“We’re for our players doing as well as they possibly can with NIL,” said Self, fresh off winning Kansas’ first national title since 2008. “But it’s still uncharted waters for everybody. It’s real. It’s not going away.”