Talk of a new super-division in college football is at a fever pitch today following a string of hints/threats from conference commissioners over the past few days.
Here’s a sampling of what others are saying:
Big 12′s Bowlsby beginning NCAA dialogue that could spark real change
Is it time for football powers to split?
Big 12 boss calls for NCAA reforms
Bob Bowlsby, John Swofford call for major NCAA reform
Look for Division 4 to revolutionize college athletics
We are closer to a “super division” than we thought
Welcome to the party, everyone. Not to go all Clay Travis on everybody, but we’ve been banging this drum for a bit longer than just one week. For months we’ve been saying that a super-division is coming, that a full-scale breakaway from the NCAA would be impossible to pull off (good luck creating a whole new rule book, organization, etc), and that the only question remaining is how many schools will be welcomed into the new grouping.
Heck, Mike Slive rattled his own super-division saber back in April. For some reason that didn’t generate the national coverage we’re seeing now, but it happened. At the time, the SEC’s commish had this to say about his belief that the NCAA needed to change its ways and allow those schools that can afford to pay players to do so:
“When there are certain things that many of us would like to come into play, it’s our hope that those things can all occur in the current system. Obviously, if things like that don’t get accomplished, then it may be appropriate to talk about some alternative or division or something like that. But that’s not our desire. That’s not our goal and that’s not something we’re trying to get to.”
That was April. Going back a bit further, here’s what Slive had to say last December:
“There are some matters of concern to some of us, like full-cost-of-tuition scholarships. And there is a level of frustration over the difficulty we’ve had in getting it through the system. And so there are some differences between some conferences. It’s just our hope that we can work through that in this system.”
By mid-April it had become clear that there is simply too much opposition to stipends or full-cost-of-tuition scholarships within the NCAA. And for good reason. The NCAA is made up of more than 1,000 colleges and universities. Somewhere between 65 and 80 have the financial wherewithal to offer more cash to their student-athletes. Sixty-five or 80… out of a thousand. All those have-nots don’t want to be left behind. And some refuse to budge on the issue simply as a matter of principle.
According to The Chronical of Higher Education in April:
“The issue has driven a wedge through an already divided Division I. Some institutions, including those that don’t compete in football at the highest levels, say they simply don’t have the revenue to offset the added costs. Others worry that making additional payments to players — no matter how small, and for whatever reason — threatens the amateur model.”
So trace it back and you can see that there’s nothing new in this week’s super-division talk, other than the fact that commissioners are beginning to speak more openly about the possibility of a shift. But that, too, was predictable. Just think about it.
The big conferences say they want to give more cash to athletes. Everyone else says, “You can’t do it.” The big conferences have start talking more seriously about a new division, even hinting at a full exodus from the NCAA in order to let the smaller schools and conferences know that they mean business. Eventually, a new super-division will be created in order to prevent a complete secession. It will be hailed as a great compromise that benefits everyone.
Now, in case you’re interested in seeing just we’ve written on this topic and when, here’s a list:
December 12th, 2012: With Massive Playoff Revenue Going To The Big Conferences, We’re One Step Closer To A New NCAA Super-Division
April 11th, 2013: As Opposition To Stipends Increases, So Too Do The Chances Of A New Subdivision In College Sports
April 22nd, 2013: A Super-Division Is Coming, But Athletic Directors Need To Be Part Of The Process
May 8th, 2013: UGA Prez Adams: Big-Money Schools Will Eventually Separate From Small-Money Schools
May 13th, 2013: Further Proof That A New Division — Not A Breakaway — Is Coming
So what will a new super-division look like? Will it exist as a football-only division? If schools intend to pay athletes other than football players then we’re looking at a new division overall. It’s doubtful, for example, that basketball schools like Marquette and Georgetown would want to compete in the same division with schools offering larger scholarships or stipends that they themselves do not provide.
Flipping that around, if schools intend to pay only football players, you can expect moans, groans and possibly lawsuits from female athletes and athletes who play non-revenue sports. Best guess? Creating a new super-division will be messy.
That’s why we’re willing to step in and try to help out. In May of 2012, we posted an article called “10 Steps To Better College Football Livin’” and in it the #1 item on the list was: “Set Up New NCAA Divisions Based Upon Budgets and Winning.” Basically, if we were the NCAA, we would re-work today’s college football landscape and create a five-tiered system. We would attempt to give full-cost-of-tuition scholarships to football players only, arguing — in court, if necessary — that football creates the greatest revenue stream in collegiate athletics by far. For our purposes, let’s assume the argument would hold up.
Currently, college football is broken into four groups:
Football Bowl Subdivision (about 120 schools, 85 full scholarships allowed per school)
Football Championship Subdivision (about 125 schools, 63 scholarships can be divided among no more than 85 players per school)
Division II (about 150 schools, 36 scholarships can be divided up as a school sees fit)
Division III (about 240 schools, no scholarships provided, non-athletic financial aid packages are used instead)
Now wouldn’t it makes sense to simply create five divisions and rename them (minus the Roman numerals)? For example:
Division 1 (65 to 80 schools, full-cost-of-tuition scholarships can be provided for 85 athletes)
Division 2 (60 to 75 schools, full scholarships — no partials — would be provided for 85 athletes)
Division 3 (80 to 90 schools, 63 scholarships available and they can could be provided to a maximum of 85 players per school)
Division 4 (about 150 schools, this would be the current D-II model — 36 scholarships could divvied out as a school sees fit)
Division 5 (about 230 schools, this would be the current D-III model — no scholarships but non-athletic financial aid packages could be provided)
For the most part, the bottom two divisions would simply change names (from Division II to Division 4 and from Division III to Division 5).
Division 1 would be those 65 to 80 schools with the biggest budgets who are currently looking to form a super-division.
Division 2 would be the 40 to 55 FBS schools not incorporated into the new Division I. Assuming they would not want to drop down into a division like the FCS (63 scholarship versus 85), those schools would likely keep working as they do now. Full scholarships — no partials — just not full-cost-of-tuition scholarships.
Division 3, made up mostly of former FCS schools is where things become a bit more complicated. Would 20 or so current FCS schools be willing to make the jump to Division 2 (basically from the current FCS to the FBS)? If so, then the number of schools in each division would work. If not, then the new Division 2 would be awfully small.
Confused? Think of it like this. We know — for the most part — who the biggest schools are. We also know that the current Division II and Division III schools won’t climbing the NCAA ladder.
The big question is: What happens with those current FBS schools that aren’t big enough to follow the Alabamas and Ohio States of the world… but are too big to drop back down an entire division.
Again, we believe those schools — the Louisiana-Lafayettes, Marshalls, Troys, Nevadas, Hawaiis — would rather keep on keeping on with 85 scholarships to hand out. But there will likely only be 40 to 55 of them. That’s hardly enough schools to form a division of competition.
So either a few 63-scholarship teams would jump up to join them in a new Division 2 (providing 85 scholarships), or those 40-55 big-but-not-big-enough schools would go ahead and drop down into a world with the Montanas, Chattanoogas, Appalachian States, Sacramento States and South Dakotas.
There’s the heart of it. Would a few of those little guy move up or would those schools “relegated” from a new super-division move down? If some current FCSers saw more money on the table — and a new super-division wouldn’t make all the cash — then we think they’d climb.
Which means a five-tiered system like the one we’ve detailed above is a likely outcome from all this churning.