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As expected, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved a new governance model today that will give the Power 5 autonomy (only altered from the last publicized model by allowing proposals to be introduced by just one conference in the Power 5 instead of three). What does it really mean for college football? Although I was in favor of this model due to the increased benefits it will allow some schools to offer student athletes, I’m not sure everything that flows from it will be positive. Here’s a little dose of reality:
The gap between the haves and have-nots will grow.
Let’s face it: Troy will never compete with Alabama. Georgia Southern will never compete with University of Georgia. Not in the long-term. Maybe the College Football Playoff will give you a better shot at the national title than the BCS did, but the gap between the haves and the have-nots isn’t going anywhere. The Power 5 will still take home the bulk of the money from the new College Football Playoff, and now they’ll be able to spend that money to woo recruits with additional benefits such as cost-of-attendance stipends and better medical insurance on top of their training facilities with barber shops and waterfalls and multimillionaire dollar head coaches.
And this discussion isn’t just about football. The six conferences with automatic bids in BCS bowl games – the Power 5 plus the American Athletic Conference -€“ banked 62.5 percent ($117.7 million) of NCAA distributions from March Madness for the 2012-2013 school year. That left just $70.7 million to be split between the other 25 Division I conferences.
All that money matters, too. You have to go back to UNLV in 1990 to find a team from outside the six BCS automatic-qualifying conferences who won the national championship in basketball. Just four times since UNLV’s win have teams from outside those six conferences even made the national title game: Butler in 2010 and 2011, Memphis in 2008 and Utah in 1998.
Olympic sports could suffer in the long run.
Did you know schools playing football at the FBS level are only required by the NCAA to carry 16 total sports? Most carry far more than that- for example, both Stanford and Ohio State sponsor over 35 sports.
Where’s all the money coming from to pay for these additional benefits sure to be implemented by the Power 5? Let’s be honest: it’s not coming from head coaching salaries. No one is taking money away from a Nick Saban or an Urban Meyer; if schools can’t raise it from boosters, they’ll look at taking it from sports like men’s gymnastics or wrestling. Those sports aren’t making money, but a winning football program under Saban or Meyer is. Schools have no obligation to field more than those 16 sports, so don’t be surprised when they start cutting them.
Student athletes will receive increased benefits.
At the end of the day, however, the new governance model is worth it if what we’re most concerned with is student athlete welfare. It’s a foregone conclusion cost-of-attendance stipends will be at the top of the list for the Power 5. There’s also been discussion of guaranteed four-year scholarships and better medical insurance.
You can be cynical all you want and say the Power 5 are only responding to recent lawsuits, but in actuality commissioners of the Power 5 have been talking about some of these issues for years. In fact, a $2,000 stipend was approved and then overridden in late 2011 and early 2012. Those types of measures simply could not survive the override process, which allowed every school in Division I a vote on the matter.
Of course, there’s also the possibility the new governance structure will be overridden. It is subject to a 60-day window during which individual schools can request an override. If at least 75 schools request an override, the Board of Directors will be forced to reconsider. However, if more than 125 schools request an override, the new governance structure will be suspended until the full Board can meet in January. In the meantime, the Power 5 have until October 1st to get in initial proposals for issues where they’d like to exercise their new autonomy.
Kristi A. Dosh is a sports business reporter, attorney and author of a book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires.