David Climer wrote something in yesterday’s USA Today…
This week at its annual spring meeting, SEC higher-ups will discuss the evolving NCAA structure where a handful of conferences — the SEC prominent among them — will move to their own strata and establish a large degree of autonomy.
The SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12 will continue to be members of the NCAA, but they’ll operate under a separate umbrella with their own set of rules and regulations. In short, they’ll develop their own way of doing sports business.
… that gave me some pause for thought: namely, how far does this five amigos approach go? We’re all assuming this is an attempt by the haves to free themselves from the overriding control of the have-nots, but why should we assume there’s a all-for-one, one-for-all spirit among the Big Five? Certainly there are plenty of areas where mutual support and cooperation make sense – the antitrust lawsuits and the threat of unionization have made bedfellows out of them all – but there are plenty of areas where you’d think competition or regional preference would dictate otherwise.
And, yeah, some of those matters, like conference expansion, have been around for a while. But not in an era of weakened central authority (and, yes, I also know that conference expansion isn’t under the NCAA’s jurisdiction, but bear with me here). The last time the NCAA relinquished control over a major area was when it lost the antitrust case over broadcast rights. I don’t think it’s an understatement to note that the consequences to that have been as significant as anything that’s ever occurred in college athletics. Who’s to say how dramatic the consequences will be this time? And who’s to say that if an issue’s important enough, that the template hasn’t been set for one conference to assert that autonomy isn’t just reserved for pushing back against mid-major conferences? Or do you really think Slive and Delany will join hands and sing Kumbaya for the rest of their careers?