Go ahead, make their day.

I’ve been a fan of John Infante’s blogging for some time now.  He’s a sharp guy who knows his stuff.  Which is why I’m puzzled about this post of his that I’ve now read three or four times, trying to figure out what I’m missing.

Basically, in response to the news about the Big Ten considering an increase in the amount of scholarship support its schools would direct to its student-athletes (consideration for which, not surprisingly, is being welcomed in other quarters), Infante believes that the NCAA needs to deliver an ultimatum to D-1 football along the lines of a Ja’Juan Story-ish take a doodoo or get off the pot:

… There will never be total competitive equity unless the NCAA passed a rule limiting the total spending of athletic departments. But there are ways to stop it from getting worse or at least stem the tide. And one way is to get football off the fence, one way or another.

One option is for FBS football to agree to a playoff, but not just any playoff. An actual NCAA Championship, run by the NCAA, with revenue distributed by the NCAA according to traditional standards of NCAA revenue distribution. Lots of black, the same field at every site, with blue circles as far as the eye can see. Assuming a college football playoff earned revenue equal to the Division I men’s basketball tournament, it would pay for the jump to full cost of attendance scholarships for all sports, a substantially increased enforcement staff, all while allowing for significantly higher revenue distributed based on success in the championship.

The other option is for FBS football to be kicked out. That is, to remove FBS football from the list of NCAA sports, stop regulating the sport, and stop using football to determine how revenue is distributed. In effect, if football does not want to have actual skin in the game of its own regulation, the NCAA shouldn’t either.

Now, while I’m in complete agreement with Infante about the seriousness of the threat that the Big Ten proposal poses for schools which lack the resources of Big Six institutions, the above passage makes me blink rapidly, shake my head and wonder who he thinks he’s kidding there.

If in fact the proposal is a power play on Delany’s part – which I think it is, at least in large part – then the suggestion that the Big Ten and its peers should pull a sudden 180 and surrender the postseason to the NCAA to level the playing field, financially speaking, makes absolutely no sense.  The power schools had no interest in sharing the wealth any further before Delany’s scholarship pitch.  Why should that change anything?

And as for part two, that’s some threat.  Evidently, Infante thinks that if push came to shove…

Could it happen? That largely depends on who would vote on a proposal to remove FBS football. But remember that if you pit the BCS AQ conferences vs. the rest of Division I, the “have nots” control a sizeable 33-18 majority on the Legislative Council. So if the rest of Division I, including some FBS conferences, decide that removing football (at least temporarily) from the NCAA is in their best interests, they have more than enough votes to do it.

I detect a whiff of briar patch there.  Separating the power conferences from the mid-majors certainly ends the tension over sharing the wealth.  I don’t see how Big Ten and SEC schools see that as a bad development.  Beyond that, who’s to say that the separation stops with football?  Whatever arrangement the banished schools come to in structuring their new organization, it’ll still require rules and enforcement of those rules.  And once that’s in place, how much sense would it make for those institutions to have one sport overseen by one outfit and all other sports regulated by the NCAA?

In other words, why shouldn’t we expect men’s basketball to go along for the ride?  And if that happens, the NCAA is going to have a lot more to worry about than the fact that D-1 football doesn’t pony up enough money to cover the expense of putting on the 1-AA football playoff.

That’s why I don’t get the idea that the football powers somehow have more to lose in this fight over revenue than any other group.

Similarly, while I think that a football playoff for non-AQ schools is an intriguing idea (h/t Michael Felder), the idea that such a thing would pose an existential threat to the BCS is just bizarre.

… The creation of a rival championship series would divide the national championship the way rival polls once did. Think of the problems it would create for the BCS. Sure, the BCS could argue that they are the real owners of the championship, but there would still be doubts out there and a matter of unfinished business. That argument didn’t last long for the NBA and ABA.

Has this guy forgotten that Utah is no longer a mid-major and that TCU steps up in class in another year?  The rival championship series would be little more than a glorified version of what we’ve seen in the WAC for the last decade, an exercise in seeing whether Boise State could run the gauntlet without being tripped up.

But that’s not what matters in this discussion.  The power conferences would be thrilled with a proposal like this, because, again, it ends the need for them to share the BCS money with the mid-majors.  The financial threat a mid-majors playoff poses isn’t to the Rose Bowl; it’s to the Little Caesars Bowl.

So, yeah, I’m puzzled by the notion that there’s some real leverage the non-AQ schools hold, either on their own or through the NCAA.  If that were truly the case, why wait ’til now to exercise it?

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22 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, The NCAA

22 responses to “Go ahead, make their day.

  1. TennesseeDawg

    The basic question is why the hell any profitable D-1 programs would want to take part in this nonsense. They would be much better served breaking away and creating their own association with their own playoffs and rules and allow the Utahs of the world to rot in the NCAA.

  2. I like the briar patch analogy. Let’s threaten to give the power players exactly what they want so they will give in to our request for a playoff. Then, when they refuse to give up the postseason, we will give them exactly what they want.

    When I hear the arguments and the plots to pigeonhole the BCS conference commissioners into a playoff, I wonder how such dumb, simple-minded people are able to rise to positions of any authority whatsoever. Delaney has made it pretty clear what the endgame is. It’s the nuclear option for the NCAA… or, at least half of what is currently the FBS. His proposal for additional scholarship money is step one in initiating that split. If the mid-majors keep pushing, it will happen. If they back off and accept their fate, I have a feeling the discussion of the fully-full ride will go away for a while longer.

  3. Biggus Rickus

    I love all of this theorizing about ways to force the major conferences’ hands. With or without the BCS they have all of the power. The only entity that could foce them to do something they don’t want to do is the federal government, and I don’t think they’re willing to get that involved in this. Thankfully.

  4. Normaltown Mike

    I half expected a third option that involved unicorns leading the NCAA to the Gold of El Dorado.

    Dream on grasshopper.

  5. paul

    It’s obvious that the NCAA has been losing control over D1 football the past couple of years. The message has been pretty clear: cheaters prosper. If they fail to assert themselves and regain some control in the OSU, Auburn and Cam Newton recruitment cases then it becomes a wild, wild, west free for all. At that point, the major conferences will have absolutely no incentive NOT to break away, form their own enforcement apparatus and keep all the money for themselves.

    • Connor

      The big 6 conferences and Notre Dame breaking away from the NCAA would be a public relations nightmare and a huge administrative burden. The only way I could even see it getting started is if they were somehow kicked out, as Infante suggests, but which I think is highly unlikely. For a long time I thought that the NCAA would have to break apart, but the more I think about it, the more I feel that the big players like Delaney and Slive like operating under the umbrella of the NCAA. As the letter from the DOJ illustrated, it’s an effective screen for the major conferences to hide behind. It’s easier for everyone to maintain the facade that this is all for the sake of education when Alabama and Ohio State are in the same Athletic Association as Harvard and Yale.

      • The ATH

        +1000

        All this “break away from the NCAA” business is NEVER going to happen – I can’t believe how many otherwise intelligent people seem to think this is some kind of inevitability. I can only attribute it to some kind of fanciful delusion.

        • paul

          I don’t believe it to be inevitable and even if it does happen it would be a number of years before current obligations were played out. However, I am saying there will be very little reason not to. As such, with the money involved, I believe the big boys will think very seriously about it. The point Conner makes about the NCAA providing cover is excellent. But they aren’t exactly doing a good job of that lately are they? If the NCAA doesn’t start actually enforcing the rules in the face of flagrant and intentional violations then what do they actually bring to the table? Not much.

          • Connor

            I guess the cynical answer question is how many of the big schools actually want the rules enforced? What the NCAA brings is the legitimacy of unanimous participation and relatively light oversight. A separate association with different rules and standards would invariably bring a lot of unwelcome scrutiny to the entire process.

            • paul

              Perhaps this is one area where the smaller schools can actually exert some influence should they choose to push the issue. They’re the ones that benefit the most from enforcement. And there are a lot of smaller schools. Nobody, not even the powerful schools, wants to defend lax enforcement in the public realm. Ostensibly, we’re still at least giving lip service to idea of the student athlete. If the smaller schools refuse to play along unless real enforcement actually happens then the larger schools lose the legitimacy of unanimous participation.

              • Connor

                No one will ever publically advocate less enforcement, but that doesn’t really mean anything. I agree with all that you say, except I don’t see the small schools really pushing all that hard. Even though I think it’s highly unlikely, the big schools’ leaving is an outcome the small schools can’t afford. As much noise as some people make, what most of the participants want is the status quo to remain. When push comes to shove the uncertainty of any drastic departure from the current system is going to be too much for the big players to stomach.

  6. Dog in Fla

    That portion of Infante’s “Time for Football to Pick a Side” in which “the Big Ten may be leading the charge for bigger cakes, regardless of whether anyone elses bakery can keep up [Gene yada yada Smith]. Arms races aren’t all the same”, as rehearsed by a Jim Delany look-a-like

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2011/05/must_watch_1.php?ref=fpblg

    will be followed by a quiz

    http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2011/05/newt-gingrichs-imaginative-spokesman-rick.html

  7. ACM

    “The creation of a rival championship series would divide the national championship the way rival polls once did. Think of the problems it would create for the BCS. Sure, the BCS could argue that they are the real owners of the championship, but there would still be doubts out there and a matter of unfinished business.”

    More likely it would be viewed as college football’s NIT.

    • Go Dawgs!

      Exactly. The “title” won by the Division 1 NCAA champion would be viewed pretty much just like the 1-AA champion is viewed now: Minor League. Do you think anyone’s going to care if New Mexico wins the NCAA Championship if Alabama and Southern California are playing in the BCS Title Game? Or any match-up of big time programs, for that matter?

  8. Go Dawgs!

    It reminds me a bit of the negotiating strategy the MLB umpires had a few years ago when they just walked out, and MLB more or less said, “thank goodness!” Then all of a sudden the umpires were trying to get back in, and baseball said, “no thanks, guys, it’s actually better without most of you.”

    The non-BCS schools have no leverage here. If the big boys simply take their ball and go play somewhere else, the NCAA would be screwed, and if the little guys think ESPN is going to shell out big bucks for a football playoff that doesn’t include schools from the power conferences, or that CBS/et al will shell out big bucks for March Madness without the power conferences, I want to be there to see the looks on their faces when reality suddenly dawns.

    And, as the Senator points out every time, it’s not about crowning a champion. These people could give three craps less. It’s about money.

  9. Ausdawg85

    And yet, I can see GT and the ACC leading the charge to participate in the little guys playoff…Hope springs eternal!

  10. Dubyadee

    Let me ask a question. If the AQ conferences took their ball went away to a new division even created there own collegiate athletic association, would the non-AQ conferences split more or less money from sports than they currently receive?

    I’m fairly certain the answer is less, much less. So, regardless of voting numbers, the AQ’s have all the power in this discussion. Delany is, indirectly, threatening the non-AQ’s. I’m sure they are getting the message loud and clear. They may not like it, but their sports simply cannot generate enough revenue to support themselves in the absence of the legion of paying and watching fans that the AQ conferences bring to the game.

  11. Mayor of Dawgtown

    Major College football finds itself in this situation simply because it has let too many teams into D-IA. All these mid-major conferences should be in a classification between D-IA and D-IAA. I don’t care what the classifications are called. The BCS conferences and independents ought to be in 4 superconferences of 16-18 each. each superconference has a championship game, the winners of which (4 teams) have a playoff. That preserves the integrity of the regular season yet gives the fans a true national champion decided on the field. If a Boise State or TCU comes along that is good enough to play with the big boys then join one of the superconferences. Is this doable? Probably not. So the best alternative now that is doable is the Plus-One Game. And hey– the only teams that would split the money in this hypothetical should be the superconference teams. It may very well take an abandonement of the NCAA by the superconference teams and the formation of a new entity to make this happen.

  12. Cojones

    Last year it was Delany touting super conferences and everyone rousing to the clarion call with all the dumbass predictions about the Big10 and SEC puffing up to blow everyone else’s house (conference) down. That simply was Delany pulling the SEC’s chain and trying to influence everyone else to make it happen while pundits made their living by theorizing. Paying players can never be made equitable. It would be one contentious action after another. If they vote to pay players, then we ought to kick’em out of the NCAA. Don’t let “Delany speak” begin to wag our Dawg. Everyone, including pundits should be throwing rocks at his butt for not speaking forcibly and to the point about the OSU trash in his own house. He just starts some ridiculous ploy about paying players(already brought up and shot down in Nebraska over a year ago) to influence other members and take the focus off the Big10′s housetrash.

    Seriously consider paying players when you see the first plan that incorporates all college sports and sexes . Sometimes I can’t stand these off season subject attention grabbers and the idiotic firestorms speculation ignites. Everybody talks, but no one has a serious plan. The next subject should be “How many angels are on my cojones?”.
    Nahhh!!! That would only give more ink to the pundits and ESPN.

    • paul

      You are absolutely correct to point out Delany’s desire to deflect attention away from the OSU debacle. Among other things, it’s what he gets paid to do and the man is not stupid. It’s also true that during the off season the rest of us don’t have a whole lot to talk about so we will jump on just about anything. That doesn’t mean it isn’t mindless fun. At least it will keep us entertained until the summer movies start to come out. I do believe, however, that pending the outcome of several current investigations (OSU, Auburn pay for play, Cam Newton recruitment) the major players may well start to think seriously about their options. Will anything actually come of it? Who knows. The law of inertia says probably not. But crazier things have happened.