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NCAA Board Chairman: No Super-Division Split Between Rich And Poor Leagues

rich-and-poorFor the past two years, the biggest conferences in the land have campaigned for the right to pay, er, I’m sorry, provide full-cost-of-tuition scholarships to their student-athletes.  While some media members have spoken of a complete split from the NCAA if the big boys don’t get their way, we don’t view that as a realistic option.  It would be nigh impossible to create an entirely new sports “government” with new rules, new enforcement options, and a new leadership structure that all of the large-budget schools could agree upon.  For that reason, we’ve envisioned a super-division at the tippy-top of Division I.

We still believe that will be the eventual result.  The top 65-80 FBS schools will someday have their own “players get a little sump’m sump’m” division.

In September, however, word leaked that for now –  for nowthere would be an attempt to keep Division I intact with some power given to the biggest conferences to pass rules and regulations that impact only themselves.  Instead of “separate but equal,” the scuttlebutt suggested the NCAA’s Division I would become “together but unequal.”

So much for the backstory.  This week, Wake Forest president and Division I board of directors chairman Nathan Hatch has told USA Today that he doesn’t believe we’ll be seeing a super-division any time soon:

 

“From what I’ve heard in the association, I think people would like to have one Division I, but in some ways, a structure that will make certain differentiations between small conferences and big conferences.  I think people like having one division…

I do think the big conferences have to be granted certain degrees of freedom; their issues are so much different than much smaller institutions that somehow if we’re going to have the big tent, one division, we’re going to have to take into account that they’re very different.  There’s great unity on certain things like student-athlete welfare, academic standards, those sorts of things, and it’s one of the reasons we want to stay together.”

 

Hatch will head a subcommittee of seven Division I board of directors who will work with president Mark Emmert to cook up a this new legislative structure.

Should such a system come to pass, there will apparently be some mechanism that allows schools and conferences decide for themselves if they want to provide full-cost-of-tuition scholarships, if they want to provide more meals for their students, if they want to increase bowl per diems, etc.  How such a system will work is anyone’s guess.  And if Mike Slive, Jim Delany, Larry Scott and John Swofford aren’t happy with the end result, you can be sure super-division rumblings will begin anew.

Our guess?  Super-division rumblings will indeed begin anew because the hybrid solution sounds like a Band-Aid rather than the full-scale procedure the biggest leagues desire.  We shall see.

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Will He Or Won’t He? SEC Commissioner Mike Slive Has A Decision To Make

gfx - they said itSEC Commissioner Mike Slive has one year left on his contract.  By  the end of the 2013-2014 school year, Slive will have to decide if he wants to stay in the commissioner role.  Slive, who turns 73 next month, tells AL.com’s Jon Solomon, he hasn’t made his decision just yet.

 

“There were certainly big things in my A pile (to complete before retiring): the expansion, the (SEC) network and the BCS and modeling that out to how we hoped it would come out. I have another year to go in my current agreement, and at some point this year we’ll sit down and have a conversation and see where we go from there.”

 

Slive is the fourth-highest paid conference commissioner. The Pac-12′s Larry Scott, Big Ten’s Jim Delany and ACC’s John Swofford all make more money than Slive, who earned approximately $1.6 million in 2011.   When his current term expires next summer, he will have served for 12 years, making him the longest-tenured commissioner since  Boyd McWhorter served from 1972 to 1986.

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WOW Headlines – 5/20/13

Top 2014 Georgia RB commitment Sony Michel says he will focus on football before trying to enter the music business as a rap artist…
This after a Michigan State commitment had his scholarship offer yanked after he posted a controversial rap video online
Auburn coaches say they were pleased with the emergence of WR Jaylon Denson this spring
Georgia coaches won’t say that sophomore OT John Theus has locked down a starting spot, suggesting they want to see more from him in fall practice
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva says an expansion project at Tiger Stadium will not change the character of the stadium but “restore it”
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott made more salary in 2011 than SEC commissioner Mike Slive or Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany
Plans for an ACC television network appear to have hit a snag over media rights which could re-open conference expansion and realignment issues
Follow the SEC all year long on MrSEC.com

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SEC Headlines – 5/20/13

headlines-monSEC Football

1.  Auburn’s Jaylon Denson emerged this spring as a versatile threat in the X receiver spot.

2.  LSU is going on a building spree including an expansion of Tiger Stadium.  “We don’t want to change the character of the stadium, just restore it.”

3.  In case you couldn’t tell that it’s May, here’s some insight into Ole Miss’ long-snapping situation.

4.  Will Texas A&M match last season’s win total — 11 — in 2013?

5.  Georgia coaches apparently want to see more from offensive tackle John Theus before naming him as a starter.

6.  Missouri is ready to turn things around after a disappointing 2012 campaing.  “We’re used to winning around here.”

Extras

7.  Tony Barnhart on Nick Saban/Devil kerfuffle: “Coaches speaking to booster clubs are like politicians giving their weekly stump speech to their base.”

8.  Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott made $3.1 million in 2011, more than both Jim Delany and Mike Slive.

9.  The ACC basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden?  “We’ll be playing there.  It’s just a matter of getting all the legal ramifications worked out.”

10.  All the talk of college athletics being ready for an openly gay player?  It apparently doesn’t apply at Baylor.

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And The Beat Goes On… Drive Toward A Playoff Gets Stuck In The Mud

Yesterday’s meeting of FBS conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director was not the kickstart to a playoff for which most everyone had hoped.  In fact, some viewed it as a reversal of field from the last commissioners+ND get-together.  Depending on who you read and how you read the comments coming out of Chicago, you might even say a playoff was thrown for a loss.

It’s becoming clear that the guys charged with covering this mess are, well, getting tired of covering this mess.  No wonder.  If the world wants a four-team playoff and most every coach, AD, president and commissioner seems to realize this… then how hard can it be to dream up a plan that will work?

Unfortunately, nearly 150 years of football without any type of FBS/Division I playoff should’ve told everyone that this might be harder to pull off than imagined.  Money hasn’t mattered in the past.  Egos have ruled the day.  To assume that everyone would just compromise and play nice this time around was pretty darned presumptuous.

That’s one reason, of course, that we continued to beat home the following line — “… a playoff (if there’s a playoff)” — until many got sick of reading it.  The other reason we’ve been writing it ain’t over til it’s over?  We never underestimate the stupidity of human beings (don’t take offense, we’re human, too).

But let’s take a look at the divergence of opinion coming out of yesterday’s meeting in order to form our own fresh opinion, shall we?

 

* First, the commissioners released a statement after the meetings that read:

 

“We made progress in our meeting today to discuss the future of college football’s post-season.  We are approaching consensus on many issues and we recognize there are also several issues that require additional conversations at both the commissioner and university president levels.

We are determined to build upon our successes and create a structure that further grows the sport while protecting the regular season.  We also value the bowl tradition and recognize the many benefits it brings to student-athletes.

We have more work to do and more discussions to have with our presidents, who are the parties that will make the final decisions about the future structure of college football’s post-season.”

 

The takeaway?  Notice how it’s made clear that the presidents will have the final call?  That’s not a promising sign because it’s been the presidents for more than a century who’ve said “no, thanks” to any type of top-level college football playoff.

 

* You can count Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com among those writers in the frustrated camp.  He states that yesterday’s meeting was a “regression, not progress.”  A source told him that “a bit of an impasse” has developed between the Hatfields (Big Ten/Pac-12) and the McCoys (SEC/Big 12).

“If the Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents had embraced the four-team playoff, then I think there would have been a place where everyone was on the same page, and then ready to fill in all the gaps,” Dodd’s source said.  One commissioner told him, “The Pac-12 is still dug in on some things that other people aren’t.”

Meaning?  Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman — supposedly speaking for all the Big Ten presidents — have made it clear they’d still be okey-dokey with a true Plus-One tacked on after the bowl games or even the status quo.  But the status quo has been ruled dead by most involved, so that means the hang-up is the Plus-One.

SEC/Big 12 = pro-playoff.  Pac-12/Big Ten presidents = pro-Plus-One, at least to some extent.

Dodd also points out the top dog of the BCS, Bill Hancock, said after April’s commissioners’ meeting that “seismic change” was on the way.  Yesterday he said “it could be a while before the future of the game is known.”  Buzzkill.

The writer sums things up with a pair of uh-oh quotes from a commissioner (“The presidents aren’t ‘rubber stamping’ anything.  The challenge is the commissioners have had eight or nine meetings.  We’ve been talking about it for 100 hours and then you can’t give it to the presidents and expect them to digest it in four hours.”) and from a source (“They’ll look at the four-team playoff and look at the Plus-One.”).

 

* Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com doesn’t paint a pretty picture either.  He points out that the Pac-12′s Scott said “options, plural” would be presented to the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee on June 26.  Yep, that’d be versions of a four-team playoff and of a Plus-One.

According to McMurphy: “Numerous commissioners, however, told CBSSports.com that there is a real concern that the group will not have settled on which playoff formats to go forward with on June 20th.”  June 20th is the next commissioner’s meeting.  This tells us that very little was actually accomplished yesterday other than everyone staking out their own positions… something that had already been done publicly on numerous occasions.

A BCS source also told McMurphy: “I’m dead serious that we have a long way to go.  There are significant issues that must be resolved.”

Hancock even said that “everything is still on the table.”  (Everything, but the status quo, apparently.)

 

* Meanwhile, ACC commissioner John Swofford put happy face on the day’s work.  “We’ve made excellent progress.  There’s still a focus on a four-team playoff, and getting a consensus on how that will work.”  Well, Swofford’s speaking for the commissioners.  The presidents will examine the four-team playoff and a Plus-One, from almost all accounts.  Where their focus will be remains a question.

 

* Whaddya think SEC commissioner Mike Slive had to say?  Go on, guess.  “The First Amendment will be alive and well when the presidents meet, as it always is.  There will be discussions with different models, and obviously my focuse has been on a four-team playoff.  That will continue to be the Southeastern Conference’s full concern.”

If the most powerful commissioner in college sports talks in his sleep, I’ll bet he mumbles something to the effect of “The First Amendmenenntnenen….”

 

* So what about the recent bloggers who’ve flat-out stated that television will drive this playoff home?  Some have gone so far as to say that television executives would demand a four-team playoff with the four highest-ranked teams by offering more money for such a plan.  (Those assertions were quickly shot down by multiple college football reporters with multiple sources, by the way.)

Well, is television really in control here?  Not according to Hancock.  ESPN’s Joe Schad tweeted yesterday that Mr. BCS himself “Warns TV may not want package that is decided on.”

In other words, just because there’s more money in a four-team playoff… there’s no guarantee of a four-team playoff.  Yep, you’ve read that right here a hundred times.  Television execs have long drooled over the thought of a college football playoff.  And college football’s power brokers have long ignored their drool.  And their money.

Just because logic suggests people will jump at the cash doesn’t mean they will.  In issues involving power and egos, you can often forget logic.

 

* Which brings us to Andy Staples of SI.com.  One of our favorite football writers, Staples is a helluva lot more chipper about the state of things than other writers today.  Why?  Because he feels logic suggests that we’re too close to a playoff to turn back now.

Uh-oh.  Logic.

According to Staples, the powers-that-be will “figure it out.”  In his view, “They haven’t left themselves much choice.”  Take it away, Mr. Staples:

 

“Yes, there are differences of opinion between the Big Ten/Pac-12 faction and the Big 12/SEC faction.  Yes, those issues must get resolved.  They will.  The commissioners talked money on Wednesday, as in how they’ll split the revenue from the new postseason system.  They wouldn’t even broach the thorny topic of revenue sharing if they didn’t believe they could reach a consensus on the other details (where the semifinals will be played, which four teams will make the playoff and how those teams will be selected).

‘There will be something for everybody,” BCS executive director Bill Hancock said Wednesday, ‘but there won’t be everything for anybody.’

Hancock, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, ACC commissioner John Swofford, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and Big 12 commissioner-elect Bob Bowlsby — he starts Monday — all made it a point to mention the presidents have final say in the new postseason format.  Scott said the commissioners will present ‘multiple options’ to the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee.  This presumably will happen before that group’s June 26 meeting in Washington, but it isn’t guaranteed.  So why feel confident these guys can avoid screwing this up?  Common sense.”

 

Ouch.  Common sense, huh?

Hey, reader, how many times in a day do you trust your fellow Americans or fellow citizens of Earth to use “common sense?”  Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Staples goes on to make some very logical points:

 

1.  No conference wants to be viewed as the league that killed a potential playoff.  (Though the Big Ten and old Pac-10 avoided joining the BCS for six seasons while everyone else took part in a Bowl Alliance and a Bowl Coalition.)

2.  The commissioners have spent too much time talking about a four-team playoff to turn back now.  (Didn’t the NCAA pass and then effectively un-pass the whole stipend-for-athletes thing that was discussed ad nauseum last year?)

3.  At least seven of the nine members of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee supported a four-team playoff in March.  (People’s opinions in a closed-door vote can differ from those they provide to the press months earlier.)

 

Finally, Staples finished up as follows: “If you have any doubts, simply repeat after me.  They aren’t that stupid.”  Only they have been just that stupid for generations.

 

Look, we’re not trying to play Debbie Downer and say that a playoff is definitely not on the horizon.  It may well be for all the reasons that Staples puts forth.  Again, if logic and common sense are to be trusted in this case, then a four-team playoff will come to pass.

We just think there’s still plenty of chances for egos, arrogance, power-madness and sheer stubbornness to derail the playoff train.  If anything, the news coming out of Chicago justified our — let’s not call them fears — our qualms about everyone suddenly getting smarter and more willing to compromise.

The next meeting comes next Wednesday.  Don’t be surprised if we don’t hear more of the same coming out of that meeting.  And eventually, all this will still have to pass through those presidents, too.

A playoff is still the favorite.  But it ain’t a sure-thing just yet.

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Iowa State Now Thinking About Suing, Too

Baylor is no longer alone.  Fellow Big 12 school Iowa State — according to The Des Moines Register — isn’t going to waive its rights to sue the SEC or Texas A&M if the Aggies leave their current home.

“There has been no waiver of any legal rights,” a spokesman for ISU said today.  He also said that no other school — meaning Baylor — had asked the school to join in a lawsuit against the SEC and/or A&M.

Texas fans have to be loving all of this, of course.  As the lone rulers of the Big 12, it now appears that their subjects would rather eat the scraps from the King’s table than fend for themselves as true peasants in smaller leagues.

As for A&M and the SEC, well, what’s to say?

The Big Ten came and raided the Big 12 last summer and no national voices complained.  Nebraska left the league and broke away from traditional rivals Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma, etc, and no one spoke ill of the Cornhuskers.

Not to be outdone the Pac-12 attempted to raid the Big 12 for six teams.  Larry Scott was hailed as a genius.  He wound up grabbing Colorado and not a soul said a bad thing about the Pac-12 or the Buffaloes.

But when Texas A&M begged out of the Big 12 and called the SEC, the Aggies were accused of destroying the very fabric of American sport and Mike Slive has been hailed as the Destroyer of Leagues.

Fair?  Nope.

But this is why when it comes to expansion… you never count your chickens before they hatch.  (For fear that Baylor and Iowa State might take your eggs to court.)


UPDATE — A source tells CBSSports.com that “at least half, if not the majority (of Big 12 schools) are going to reserve their rights for litigation.”

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Pac-12 Kicks Off Media Days With Video Hypefest

“This is more than a beginning.  It is more than an end.  It is the quintessential profile of what a modern conference can be.”

That’s part of the script from a video the Pac-12 conference used as a kickoff to its 2011 Media Days event.  You can see the clip right here:




When all sports are taken into account, the “Conference of Champions” moniker the league bestows upon itself is fitting.  But at the end of a football video? 

I think it’s a safe bet that many media members watching that video thought, “SEC,” quietly to themselves.

Still, there’s no denying that commissioner Larry Scott’s marketing push aids his league’s reputation and clout.  If the folks in the SEC offices in Birmingham are keeping their eyes peeled for up-and-coming threats, they’ve likely trained a few sets of binoculars on the West Coast.

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ACC Commish Jumps On The Slive Train

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that ACC commissioner John Swofford’s opening speech from his league’s media days event mirrored that of SEC commissioner Mike Slive.  NCAA president Mark Emmert has a plan.  League commissioners across the country are aware of his goals they want to get onboard.  Also, other BCS commissioners don’t want to appear as though they’re only looking inward toward their own football season while Slive and the SEC are looking outward to the very future of college athletics.  (You can expect Dan Beebe, Larry Scott, Jim Delany, an others to discuss NCAA reform in the coming days.)

Tweaking the “major/secondary” violation system.  Cost-of-attendance scholarships.  Multi-year scholarships.  The biggies of Slive’s plan were right there in Swofford’s speech.  All leading into next month’s NCAA retreat to discuss potential changes to the system.

While all of these visionary ideas won’t come to pass, fans should expect that a few of them — maybe even many of them — will someday become reality.  The NCAA president and conference commissioners work for university presidents.  If the commissioners are speaking of bold change, it’s likely they’ve talked about such plans with their own leagues’ administrators.

In other words, a consensus for change is forming.



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Calipari Has A “Big Idea” Plan For Paying Players

This morning, UK’s John Calipari spoke with the folks at KentuckySportsRadio.com — one of this site’s favorite team-specific SEC sites, by the way — and laid out his plan for paying players a “living expense.”  But it wasn’t just a plan for paying players.  No, it was so much more:


1.  Coach Cal believes four new “super conferences” would need to be created.  He proposed Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western conferences, each featuring 16 to 18 schools that play both Division I football and basketball.  That’s a minimum of 64 schools — close to the current BCS total — and a max of 72.  These super conferences would not be part of the NCAA. 

2.  Calipari would open the national basketball tournament up to every member of the super conferences.  So come tourney time, you’d have to scratch non-football schools like Gonzaga, Georgetown, Butler, Xavier and Marquette from your brackets.  (And that’s Problem One.)

3.  For football, Calipari would create a four-team playoff featuring the champion from each 16-18 team super conference.  In theory that four-team playoff from among the nation’s 64-72 top football programs would generate a huge wave of new cash.  (Oh, and the bowl system would still exist for the non-champs in each super conference.)

4.  The new money would then allow athletes to be paid — according to Calipari — about three to four thousand dollars a year.  So the TV money, corporate sponsorships, etc would fund the players’ new salaries.  According to the coach, there would not only be room for all the players to make money, but there would also be enough surplus to dole out $10 million to each school to fund academics, intramural programs and to “get their Title IX in order.”


Personally, I like Calipari.  Sure his reputation ranks somewhere between a tsetse fly and diptheria, but he’s never been caught doing anything wrong and he’s a guy who knows how to market his sport.  I like his big picture ideas.  But this one wouldn’t work.  Here’s why:


1.  Who will be in charge of enforcing the rules for these new super conferences?  Dumping the NCAA elicits a “Yay!” from fans everywhere, but the NCAA will have to replaced by something new.  “Boo!”

2.  Who will be in charge of actually making the new rules?  Think Jim Delany, Mike Slive, John Swofford and Larry Scott all share the same view on oversigning limits, academic entrance requirements, and revenue shares?

3.  Which players get paid?  If Calipari is suggesting only basketball and football players get paid, then everyone should expect lawsuits to be filed from the East, West, North and South.  If there’s money to be had, everyone will want to grab some of it.  Including women’s basketball players, baseball players, softball players and right on down the line to the cross-country ballroom dancers.  And before you dismiss all those folks with a simple “Screw ‘em,” just know that their attorneys (and their reps in Congress) will likely demand a better rationale for cutting them out come payday.

4.  What happens if a scholarship player blows his knee out in August?  Does he still get paid to do rehab and take part in team meetings?  Or does a walk-on take his place, earn a scholarship and claim the injured players cash?  Or worse, does a walk-on just get jilted so the scholarship player can keep his money?


I could go on and on.  The point is this, paying players is a nice idea.  In theory, why would anyone be against it?  But in reality it can’t be done.  Every plan brings a hundred new hoops through which schools would need to jump.

And breaking off from the NCAA would require more lawyers and arbitration hearings than anyone would ever want to follow.  All just to get to the point where fans and coaches can start to complain about the body set up to replace the NCAA.

Kudos to Calipari for thinking big and thinking out loud.  The world needs more theorists.  But this paper airplane just won’t fly.

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