Earlier today we told you that a) ACC commissioner John Swofford was talking about “need-based” financial aid for student-athletes yesterday and b) we still believe a new division of “haves” — apart from the “have-nots” — will eventually be formed at the high end of the current FBS subdivision.
Now we can tell you that Swofford has taken a stronger tone in his speech today and that Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby has also started talking about a new division.
We’ll start with Swofford — commissioner of the least wealthy of the five mega-wealthy leagues remaining — who explained why a new division might be preferable to a full break from the NCAA:
“(A new division is) a potential way of making a change that would basically retain the fundamental NCAA oversight and umbrella, if you will. If the five conferences were to break off, I mean, that’s a complicated move. You’d have to, in essence, duplicate the NCAA in some form or fashion, and then what does that mean for intercollegiate athletics?
So if you’ve got another division, if that’s the answer within the NCAA, you can maneuver and find an appropriate way, I think, to address (issues like player stipends).”
As we’ve noted many times before, a full-scale exodus from the NCAA would require the power conferences to adopt a new rule book, hire new leaders, hire new enforcement officials, etc, etc. That’s just not going to happen.
A new division will happen. The biggest conferences — and one wonders where the ACC is on this considering Swofford’s comments of a day ago — want to be given the power to decide for themselves who they pay, how much they pay, and how they go about doing it. But a proposed stipend for athletes was gunned down at the NCAA level because the presidents at the many “have-not” schools can’t afford to increase scholarships or pay stipends to athletes. And they also don’t want to be left behind on the recruiting trail by schools who can afford it.
For that reason, the biggest conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12, and SEC) will have to threaten to leave altogether — Mike Slive hinted at a break last week — before the NCAA presidents vote to allow them to just form their own division at the highest level of the NCAA food chain.
For now, it’s politics. Smaller school presidents can say, “Go ahead and leave” knowing that the bigger schools probably can’t or won’t. The bigger school presidents will have to bluff otherwise.
Moving from the ACC to the Big XII, Bowlsby said today that a new “Division 4″ is possible for the top football schools and that there is “unanimity” among the FBS commissioners on that point. (That’s interesting, considering that would include the commissioners of leagues like the Sun Belt and MAC.) He said that leaving the NCAA isn’t likely “except as a last resort.”
Slive last week. Bowlsby this week. The NCAA presidents nuked stipends last time around. Now the big boys — as noted above — are starting to talk about breaking away entirely. Again, it’s politics. Or high-stakes poker.
More from Bowlsby:
“I think we all have a sense that transformative change has to happen…
We’ve made it too easy to get into Division 1 and too easy to stay there… Northern Iowa and Texas aren’t much alike.”
The biggest commissioner appear ready to start taking a John Denver approach to things. “All their bags are packed, they’re ready to go.”