Bowlsby said the NCAA might need to consider "federation by sport," and that schools could be separated by their size and scope and also the equity they bring into the system.
"It's probably unrealistic to think that we can manage football and field hockey by the same set of rules. I think some kind of reconfiguration of how we govern is in order," he said.
It would thin a crowd that needs thinning. The growth has made it increasingly harder for schools to propose and enact rules changes that, in theory, would benefit college athletics and student-athletes. There is a perception that what some might considered to be an elite class would benefit the most from new rules, which creates a resistance that ends up preventing progress.
Bowlsby was asked about paying players as one variable that might lead to establishing another division and he said "the Big 12 and other conference like us would advocate" for supporting student-athletes beyond their scholarships. That's not something every conference can afford to say, which makes it difficult to address in a rulebook that covers one enormous organization.
"I think it's virtually impossible right now to configure legislative proposals that have any chance of getting through the system intact that would accomplish anything in the way of meaningful change," he said. "I think all of us are feeling that."
Bowlsby said the BCS commissioners haven't spoken more seriously about seceding because it might not be perceived as a legitimate threat. They are also aware that breaking away with a list of schools - he suggested the top 100 for the purpose of his conversation - and letting them play by themselves will segregate and turn some winning programs that are left out into losing programs.
He believes the problems can be solved within the structure of the NCAA, and Bowlsby endorsed incorporating into the NCAA's leadership more athletic directors, conference commissioners and others who participate in college athletics on a daily basis. A more severe measure, like breaking away, would be considered a "last resort."
"There are a lot of different models out there," he said. "It's always about the people at the margin, too. There are a lot of people that will support a given proposal if they're included rather than excluded. And I think therein lies the difficulty in all of this. If you begin trying to put together homogeneous groups, somebody gets included, and somebody gets left out.
"Usually, it happens along expenditure lines or competitive lines or revenue distribution lines. Wherever you draw those lines, if they're bright lines, you have controversy."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.