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A Super Division Is Coming, But Athletic Directors Need To Be Part Of The Process

mark-emmert-ncaa-prezWith the NCAA facing numerous issues this offseason, there appears to be a growing rift between the academic side of college sports and the athletic side.  A group created by one (the academic side) in order to help run the other (the athletic side), the current NCAA is caught in what’s looking increasingly like a tug-of-war between the jocks and the pointy-heads.

According to Andy Staples of, “that might be the NCAA’s biggest problem” moving forward:


“Under president Mark Emmert, the NCAA has aggressively embraced a model that puts all the power in the hands of university presidents and chancellors.  That would be fine, some high-profile athletic directors said, if the presidents sought the advice of the people who work in athletics on a daily basis.  Instead, Emmert and his hand-picked group of CEOs have rammed through rules and policies with only minimal consultation of the people who must actually implement those rules and policies.  Why will much of the recently passed football recruiting deregulation probably get tabled?  Because no one bothered to ask the people working in athletics.  If they had, they might have realized a relaxation on the rules that govern how often coaches can contact recruits would be find with most ADs and coaches.  They also would have realized a relaxation on the rules that govern exactly who may contact recruits could result in a hiring spree by the wealthiest schools that would leave everyone else going further into debt while trying to keep up.  Why did the plan to offer athletes up to a $2,000 annual stipend to cover the full cost of attendance get scuttled after its passage at a 2011 presidential retreat?  Because no one bothered to check with less wealthy schools to see how they felt about it.  If they had, they’d have known it stood no chance of passing an override vote.”


Staples’ article is well worth your time, though it reveals just one new aspect of an issue we’ve discussed on this site on numerous occasions — What is the NCAA’s role in college athletics now that college athletics have become such large sources of revenue for schools?

Initially, the NCAA was charged with keeping the amateur model intact, with making sure everyone competed on a level playing field, and protecting the safety of student-athletes.  But today the amateur model is the center of its own controversy and numerous schools are pushing toward a system where all schools are not created equal when it comes to revenue, staff sizes, spending, and even extra stipends or larger scholarships for athletes.

Though talk of a breakaway from the NCAA by a number of big schools is back in the news, at we continue to feel that such a grand change is unlikely.  Think of all that would be involved in creating a new and improved “NCAA lite.”  Who would make the new rule book?  Who would enforce it?  How would money be distributed?  More importantly, who in the hell could get the largest of the big-money schools all on the same page long enough to even begin answering those questions?  You better believe that Big Ten schools and SEC schools would view things like partial-qualifiers, oversigning, and admissions standards differently.  Even within the SEC, Vanderbilt would likely view those topics through a different monocle than Auburn or Ole Miss or cross-state rival Tennessee, for example.

Aside from infrastructure concerns, just imagine all the potential lawsuits that could result from one group of schools totally breaking away from another.

No, it’s much more likely that a new “super division” of the biggest big-dollar schools will be created as a fifth tier of the NCAA pyramid (atop Division III, Division II, the FCS, and the FBS… though those last two might somehow be merged).  We’ve written on this topic repeatedly — here, here, here, and here.

The richest NCAA schools already appear to be on the path to a new super division model.  Staples’ article reveals that the decision about this new structure will not only require university presidents and chancellors to work together, but it will also require the input of athletic directors, a group that’s been moved to the kiddie table under Emmert’s regime.

And if ADs aren’t asked for their thoughts?  Well, you can expect any new super division to be just as controversial and unpopular as the current four-tiered NCAA set-up… meaning very.

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