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Will college football power brokers start making actual decisions?
One year removed from the NCAA vs. Alston Supreme Court decision, college sports feels no closer to a new structure.
364 days ago, the Supreme Court ended amateurism as we know it.
And over the last year, the various institutions in the sport other than the NCAA itself have generally taken a wait-and-see approach. It’s an understandable reaction when 100+ years of structure suddenly disappear in a flurry of changes forced from the outside. Nobody wants to spend time trying to reinforce a dead system, and few dare risk building a new system when there’s so much uncertainty about what might be allowed and who will be willing to participate.
So instead what we’ve gotten are lots of comments about what should happen, lots of vague proposals that are maybe being discussed, half-baked ideas that may or may not even be possible.
Later this week, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff will be participating in commissioner’s meetings with every other FBS conference. Chief among the topics, per an interview with The Athletic? The very governance structure of the entire sport:
“I’ve had conversations with several of the FBS commissioners, and I’ve been surprised by the unanimous support for the idea among the folks that I’ve spoken to about taking football rule-making and football rule enforcement out of the NCAA and investing it in an organization that is run by the 10 (FBS) conferences.”
That the needs and desires of the 131 FBS schools might differ from the 350+ D1 schools and the hundreds of other lower division NCAA schools is far from a new idea, but the collapse of the NCAA model means that there’s a huge opening for the institutions that are left standing (read: conferences) to make a power play and leave behind all of the other schools who really don’t have anything in common with revenue generating college athletics.
Of course, this kind of change naturally leads to a big question: who is included in any new governance structure, and how is power shared? A list of obvious questions that popped into my head in about 30 seconds:
Do G5 conferences get as much power and influence as P5 schools, or to P5 schools strong arm in rules that solidify their prestige?
Do FCS schools even factor into the conversation?
What is done with Notre Dame? Is everybody OK with them being an ACC school but not really?
Does this group even pretend to care about basketball as a revenue sport, or for that matter all of the other Olympic sports?
It’s kinda important to get this figured out, because it’s hard to address more basic, mundane questions (say, some sort of tweak to transfer rules) when nobody even knows what the decision making process will look like in the immediate future.
Maybe the NCAA keeps on limping along to continue functioning as the decision making body for all of these schools, but it’s hard to imagine that an entity with the kind of power that the SEC wields will be interested in listening to the problems of DIII schools.
But it’s also true that the P5 conferences can’t even reach consensus on a college football playoff structure, let alone an over-arching governance structure. The Big-10 and the SEC are natural rivals because they’re the two richest conferences. The Pac-12 and the ACC don’t want to hand any more power to the B1G and the SEC. The Big-12 is suspicious of everybody else because they keep getting their schools poached. When everybody is trying to maximize their own revenue, finding compromise is hard.
I’m not expecting any earth shattering news to break this week. But at some point, critical decisions about the future of football specifically and college athletics generally are going to get made. If you’re worried about the direction of either, it’s a good idea to pay attention this week as the conferences continue to grapple.