For years there’s been talk that some of the richest schools in the country might break away from the NCAA. Readers of this site know that we’ve tackled that topic — here, here, here, here and here since December alone — and suggested that instead of a full split, it’s much more likely that the richest schools will simply form their own “super-division” within the NCAA.
With the bounty of a new college football playoff on the horizon and new league-owned networks soon to launch, there’s about to be even more distance put between the haves and have-nots. And that’s got long-time NCAA leaders like outgoing Georgia president Michael Adams saying exactly what we’ve been writing lo these many years:
“It’s gonna accentuate the division between the haves and the have-nots. I don’t think there’s any question about it. And you might as well just admit it. But the divisions already exist that are pretty pronounced. So I think the 65 schools in the big conferences are going to separate themselves even further from those schools that are not…
I don’t know what you’d call it. And I think some of those other conferences, like the MAC, like the West Coast Conference, what’s now gonna be Conference USA, those schools bring a lot to the NCAA. And I think the reality is that the 65 schools are not gonna want to be bound by some of the rules that those other conferences are gonna want to impose on us, like the $2,000 payment to athletes, for instance. I do think, again, whether you call it all Division I, of sub-divisions, I think that’s something for somebody after me to decide.
But I don’t think now with these big-time programs, particularly when you look at the strength of the Big Ten, the Pac-12, the SEC, I don’t think you’re gonna put those genies back in the bottle. And you add in the Big 12 and the ACC, those places, they’re going to compete and play and fund at a totally different level.”
As Seth Emerson of The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer points out (click the link above), even SEC commissioner Mike Slive has brought up the potential of a new division being formed if NCAA schools don’t start providing full-cost-of-tuition scholarships to student-athletes. Of course, he also said that he doesn’t want that to happen, but most people couldn’t hear that over the rattling of his saber:
“I’m not looking for change in the organization. I’m not looking for new divisions. But I do feel strongly on this particular issues — and there are a few others — but this one that those of us who want to do that ought to have the ability to do that. And if we believe that’s in the best interests of the student-athletes, then we ought to be able to do that. If other leagues don’t do it, then just don’t do it.”
Ah, but not all leagues can afford to pay more cash to players even if they do want to. Slive knows that. All of the large conference commissioners, presidents and athletic directors know that. NCAA president Mark Emmert knows it, too.
This morning, USA Today posted a new study showing that most college athletic departments receive subsidies of one form or another. Of the 228 public Division I schools in the US, just 23 turned a profit in 2012. And of those 23, 16 schools received some type of subsidy.
It must be noted that schools cook their books differently. Apples-to-apples comparisons do not exist, unfortunately. But it is clear that even if some creative accounting is taking place — Minnesota just happened to bring in and spend exactly $83,619,526, for example — there are still far more athletic departments losing money than there are making money.
There will be no grand exodus from the NCAA. There is no way that 70-80 schools — we believe some schools outside the biggest conferences will try to keep up with the Joneses — could possibly agree on a brand new organization, new rule book, new enforcement policies, new officers and administrators, etc.
But a world with a super-division of super-rich schools is coming. With so few schools turning a profit in athletics, there’s no way everyone can provide stipends or full-cost-of-tuition scholarships as leagues like the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 desire. The die has been cast. The only questions remaining are: When does it happen and who will make the jump?