NEW YORK – The five power conferences are trying to redefine what it takes to operate a Division I college athletic program, with their commissioners calling out the NCAA at media days around the country.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and fellow commissioners Mike Slive of the Southeastern Conference and John Swofford of the Atlantic Coast Conference have taken turns critiquing the NCAA over the last week, and it’s likely Jim Delany of the Big Ten and Larry Scott of the Pac-12 will follow suit in the coming days.
The schools in the most powerful and wealthy leagues want more freedom to be able to run their programs the way they want, without the less powerful schools standing in the way.
Does this mean the end of the NCAA as we know it is near? Or will there be a new division of college football – Division 4 as Bowlsby calls it? Not necessarily.
Former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe says he thinks Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference can get the power to govern themselves without cutting off all ties to schools from the less powerful and wealthy FBS conferences.
And NCAA expert John Infante, who writes the ByLaw Blog at Athletic Scholarship.com, says the best solution for the schools in those conferences is not leaving Division I, but reshaping it in a way where some smaller schools choose to leave.
The lightning rod issue at the heart of this debate has been the proposed stipend to college athletes that would add about $2,000 to an athletic scholarship to cover the full cost of attendance. All the commissioners from the major conferences have pushed for it, but it could not be passed because smaller schools said they couldn’t afford it.
So, a possible solution for the powerful, wealthy schools is to set up a level of football at which all the participating schools gave players stipends – and let the smaller schools play each other.
The programs that would be most affected by the big five isolating itself from the rest of college sports would be from the lesser leagues in college football’s top tier. Those include the Mountain West, the American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East), Conference USA, the Sun Belt and the Mid-American Conference – aka the group of five.
Those schools still want to compete against the big five on the field, cash in on the monster paydays that usually come with playing those games and capitalize on the attention that comes when they occasionally win one.