When they’re not patting themselves on the back about all the money rolling in or figuring out the new and improved postseason at this week’s meeting, college football’s movers and shakers may be privately discussing something even bigger.
One group, though, will surely dominate the cocktail party and golf course conversations, even while its influence in the future of college football further weakens: the NCAA.
As college athletics sifts through an avalanche of foundational issues, the credibility and viability of its governing body has never been more in question. Among realignment that has deepened separation of the haves and have-nots, the legal challenges to the NCAA’s amateurism model, an explosion in football and television money and embarrassing misconduct in the NCAA’s enforcement arm, the calls to start over are louder than ever.
Starting over could be accomplished by either restructuring D-1 to split into, for want of a better phrase, separate divisions of the haves and the have-nots. Or the haves could simply pick up their ball and go home, which would be an enormous disaster for the NCAA, considering what such a move would do to its basketball tourney.
One thing’s for sure – the natives are getting increasingly restless.
The topic has reached such a boil in recent years, it was even broached directly to NCAA president Mark Emmert at an athletics directors convention in September 2011, when realignment had gripped the entire industry following the ACC’s raid of the Big East for Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
According to a person in the room, whose version of events was confirmed by two others, one athletics director asked Emmert directly whether it was time for the top football conferences to split from the lower-tier conferences of the Football Bowl Subdivision, and perhaps even away from the NCAA altogether.
“I think he responded in a way that, it was a little political,” said the person, who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because the meeting was supposed to be private. “It was more along the lines of, we’re going through a lot of changes now and he had heard about those kind of backroom-type conversations, and he basically said it might be time to put everything out on the table and talk through all these issues that we see in the future. He didn’t back away from it.”
Whatever that means. He sure hasn’t done anything concrete about it, either. Of course, given his recent track record, maybe doing nothing as long as possible is the most prudent course of action for Emmert.