Last week, I said this about Jim Delany’s Brave New Scholarship Proposal:
… Adopt that and you create a world in which one set of schools is paying more scholarship money for its student athletes than another set. In doing so, either you wind up cementing a permanent underclass within D-1, or you force a massive realignment of the have-nots into a lower division. No matter which way you go, it’s a win for the power schools.
And best of all, you’re doing it in the name of the kids. Who’s gonna argue with that?
To answer my question, not ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski:
… My favorite anxiety-filled response from those who instantly opposed the idea: Providing scholarship athletes with a “cost of education” increase would give such conferences as the Big Ten a recruiting advantage.
Delany’s response: They’re right, it would. After all, it only makes sense that a recruit might be more tempted to sign with a conference whose institutions can afford to put that $8.22 in his or her pocket each day.
But it’s not like all conferences are created equal, or ever will be. The Big Ten, the Southeastern Conference, the Big 12, the Pac-10, the ACC and the Big East already enjoy recruiting advantages over other conferences. Their stadiums, arenas and practice facilities are larger and more luxurious. Their geographic footprints are wider. Their TV contracts are more lucrative. Their coaches’ salaries are higher. Their tradition, Q ratings and alumni bases are more pronounced.
Even before Delany’s proposal was made public, the country’s best high school recruits were choosing the major conferences. That isn’t going to change. The only difference is that this time something extra is being done to help the scholarship athlete. [Emphasis added.]
(By the way, is it just me, or does anyone else get a “separated from birth” vibe with Jim Delaney…
… and Sam the Eagle?
Meanwhile, Mr. Conventional Wisdom takes a look at the real impact of Delany’s proposal. Appalachian State’s athletic director provides an interesting perspective on the situation:
… In case you are wondering, in 2010 a total of 32 of the 120 Division I-A teams averaged less in home attendance than Appalachian State. In fact, 23 Division I-A schools averaged less than 20,000 in attendance last season.
“When we look at the WAC, the MAC, the Sun Belt and the others we compare very favorably to what they are doing,” Cobb said. “So we decided that if things change dramatically we need to be prepared.”
Last September the school announced the formation of a committee that would conduct a feasibility study to determine if they should go Division I-A. Originally that committee was going to give a recommendation in May. That announcement has been postponed. Appalachian State wants to wait for several reasons, and one of those is to see what is going to happen in the upper level of Division I-A football.
“What the Big Ten said last week got everybody’s attention,” said Cobb, a former football player at N.C. State. “What it really showed is that the gap in college football is not between Division I-A and I-AA. It’s between the BCS schools and everybody else Division I-A.”
Cobb said there are a number of schools like Appalachian State who have had very good success at the I-AA level and who wonder where they need to be if there is a major upheaval in the college football landscape. For example: What if the BCS schools split from the rest of Division I-A? What happens to rest of the division?
“I like to look at the math. And when you look at the math, we are a lot closer to East Carolina [a member of Division I-A Conference USA] than East Carolina is to the ACC,” said Cobb.
Something’s going on. As Barnhart concludes,
But ask yourself: Why are all these conferences getting these incredible, long-term TV deals? Why are Delany and Slive floating the trial balloon of expanding scholarships? What’s the end game?
Had you asked me a couple of years ago about the prospect of a college football super division, I would have said something like that would be a long way off. Now, I’m thinking it’s a whole lot closer than expected. Interesting times, indeed.
UPDATE: Spencer Hall chides me for being a little behind on the whole Sam the Eagle bit.