A rock and a hard play, indeed

Mike Slive, master of subtlety:

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said if the Power Five conferences — which also include the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big 12, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 — don’t get the flexibility needed to create their own bylaws, the next step would be to move to “Division IV.”

“It’s not something we want to do,” Slive said on the final day of the SEC meetings. “We want the ability to have autonomy in areas that has a nexus to the well-being of student athletes. I am somewhat optimistic it will pass, but if it doesn’t, our league would certainly want to move to a Division IV. My colleagues, I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t feel the same way.”

You don’t say things like that if the move towards autonomy is going smoothly.  You probably don’t get all grandiose about your ambitions, either.

“We hope everyone realizes we are moving into a new era and this is the way to retain your collegiate model. It would be a disappointment, and in my view a mistake, not to adapt the model. This is a historic moment. If we don’t seize the moment, we’ll make a mistake.”

Who’s this “we” you’re talking about, Commish?  Let University of Florida President Bernie Machen explain.

“We’re in a squeeze here,” Machen said. “There are now six lawsuits that name our conference in them that specifically have to do with the whole cost of attendance and stuff like that. We would like to make changes, but we can’t because the NCAA doesn’t allow us to. We’re really caught between a rock and a hard play. We desperately would like some flexibility.”

Problem is, the little guys are worried about the hard play, too.  Just ask ’em.

Like several other commissioners outside the Power 5, however, Aresco has questions about whether some of the areas initially included under the autonomy banner instead belong to all 32 conferences in Division I.

And one of those issues in particular — transfer rules — could very well be a fulcrum for how much power the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 are allowed to grab.

Last week, when Pac-12 presidents outlined their plan for reform in a letter to the other 53 presidents of power conference schools, one of the 10 bullet points was to “liberalize the current rules limiting the ability of student-athletes to transfer between institutions.”

What that liberalization encompasses, however, was left vague — perhaps intentionally. Even the power conference schools themselves aren’t sure how far to take it.

But the proverbial line in the sand could be drawn if the Power 5 want to loosen the rules so much that athletes wouldn’t have to sit out a year if they transfer.

Schools in the American or Mountain West see the possibility of de facto free agency as a major threat, where an Alabama or Texas could theoretically try to fill a hole on their roster by simply poaching a player who excelled in a less prestigious conference.

Now free agency would cut both ways.  As I mentioned before, there would be nothing stopping a Sun Belt school from trying to entice a kid warming the bench at Alabama to jump ship.  But if this sort of recruiting turns into an ongoing venture, who’s better equipped to manage it?  To put it another way, how many advisors do you think Nick Saban would bring on board to handle mid-majors recruiting?

So it’s understandable if the middies are reluctant to sign on to something they worry they’ll get steamrolled over.  But Slive’s message is that it’s a futile concern, because one way or another, the Big Five are going to get what’s coming to them.  And if that’s not clear enough,

… Machen envisions rough waters ahead if things don’t change.

“The whole thing could go up in smoke if the lawsuits come down or with the unionization rule,” he said. “So the whole intercollegiate model is at risk if we don’t do something. If they don’t want to do this, it seems to me it’s incumbent upon them to come up with something else that will help us get out us this box.”

My bet is they throw in the towel in August when the NCAA board of directors votes on the steering committee’s proposal.  Really, what choice do they have?


Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, The NCAA

11 responses to “A rock and a hard play, indeed

  1. mwo

    Maybe that pious sonofabitch will standardize the drug testing and subsequent discipline policy for all the schools in his fiefdom.(the SEC) Maybe he will address the obviously biased and fourth rate officiating in his power conference.He should clean up his own backyard before starting any shit.


  2. Bernie

    “(The lawsuits) have to do with the whole cost of attendance and stuff like that.”

    “What we’re talking about at Florida is now paying the student-athletes above board. That part of the jig is up. But we can still turn this into a win for us. Our Bull Gators will have to pay our student-athletes more for sure. But since it is no longer a cash-only transaction, the resulting tax break more than covers it.”

    “We want autonomy because the smaller conferences frankly do not have the resources to out-bid us for student-athletes, whether they are in high school or at another college. It’s all good.”


  3. RocketDawg

    This is the beginning of the end of college football as we know it. I predict that in 5 years a large segment of the fan base won’t care anymore.

    Changing the transfer rule to immediate eligibility is a bad idea, it will become free agency in college and you will see kids jumping from school to school in search of playing time. Better to still have them sit a year but maybe not lose that year of eligibility so it is a little more fair.


  4. Yo MTv Raps

    Student athletes should be able to transfer at will. Easiest way to relieve the reluctance of mid-majors would be for the recruiting school to pay the mid the value of the previous year’s scholarship. That way the recruiting school would be dis-incentivized from recruiting from the mids unless they really wanted the player.


  5. Skeptic Dawg

    While football is at the forefront of this subject and the core passion for many fans, it will be interesting to see how this mess effects non-rev sports. If there is a split from the NCAA, will it be football only? Will the less popular college sports (golf, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, UGA hoops etc) survive? The ramifications of the current lawsuits are potentially devastating for all college sports.


  6. Hogbody Spradlin

    ‘A rock and a hard play’? Unh unh. A university president said that?


  7. It might create a whole other set of unintended consequences, but going to a Division IV for the power schools would be a way to solve this. Kids can transfer within their division (or lower) one time with no penalty. If you transfer up, you sit a year. Still gives the kids more leeway than they have now, but also protects the schools. I don’t see a good way to do it just within the current division structure.