After the SEC held its annual Football Media Days last week, the ACC and Big 12 are following suit this week with their respective versions of basically the same event. And after SEC Commissioner Mike Slive took subtle shots at the NCAA last week, the commissioners of the other two leagues took that criticism to the next degree.
The result is the feeling we may be a lot closer to a fourth or so-called “super division” in college athletics than we previously thought.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said that we are on the brink of “transformative change” and said that while he did not see the schools from the five power conferences breaking away from the NCAA, he could see a time approaching when a new division could be in the cards. ACC Commissioner John Swofford even put a time frame on that view, saying something could happen in the next six months.
Basketball is the main reason that despite their objections to the current system, schools from the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12 would not cut ties completely with the NCAA. Though its growth has slowed considerably in recent years, the men’s tournament is still a cash cow that provides plenty of revenue. And it would be difficult for the BCS schools to produce a popular tournament without the likes of Cinderella schools that help give the event its charm and appeal.
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And yet there are plenty of reasons why the most powerful football programs want a different playing field. Too often their views and needs are canceled out by smaller schools who own an equal vote in the NCAA system. An example came last year when Slive pushed for the “cost of attendance scholarship” would effectively give student-athletes some sort of stipend. The measure was voted down by smaller schools which argued they could not afford such a measure.
NCAA missteps have also opened the door to the looming power play. President Mark Emmert’s leadership has been weak at best, non-existent at worst. And the botching of the Miami investigation, in which the NCAA was caught basically paying for information, has put the organization in a vulnerable position.
Swofford also pointed to the damage the NCAA did to Miami’s program by dragging out the investigation. It was public knowledge that the Hurricanes were under investigation, which damaged the program as much as the final outcome.
Bowlsby told the media covering the Big 12 event that the five commissioners have “unanimity” about what should happen, meaning we are probably close to the day in which like-minded powers join together to make their own rules and share their own revenue.
Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports wrote that the BCS schools are doing it “because they can.” If it has an unseemly, greedy look about it to some, the power-conference schools don’t seem to care.
That reminds me of the story I heard in which a college basketball coach, who was dating a much younger woman, was confronted by the wife of one of his coaching friends. The wife scolded the coach and asked him why he would do such a thing.
“Because I can,” answered the coach.
It doesn’t just look like a super division could happen, it looks like it will.
Read more on John Clay's Sidelines blog