Who had the foresight to write this five years ago?
A collateral consideration for all of us as national leaders in intercollegiate athletics is the creation of a few “mega-conferences” may result in more governmental, legal and public scrutiny. Pressure to compete may rise with resulting higher salaries and more churning of ADs and coaches. Clear identification of the highest level of intercollegiate athletics reduced to a smaller grouping of (e.g. four 16-member conferences) could cause eventual tax consequences and tremendous pressure to pay those student-athletes responsible in programs driving the most revenue and pressure, and whose coaches and administrators are receiving more and more financial rewards.
The answer may – no, check that – will surprise you.
If the handwriting was on the wall that far back, it really makes the strategy we’ve seen the schools and the NCAA pursue in the interim look that much more futile. Though not unexpected.
Conference realignment did reset the television rights market, which did make athletic directors and coaches a lot richer. At the same time, seeing people who insisted they weren’t part of a multibillion-dollar business acting exactly like they were part of a multibillion-dollar business turned public sentiment away from the schools and toward the athletes. O’Bannon v. NCAA was already in the pipeline, but these moves helped the plaintiffs’ attorneys to take the tack that would ultimately win them the case. Meanwhile, more lawyers smelled blood—or money, or both—and jumped in with suits of their own. Northwestern football players, aware of their role in the cable television universe, petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for the right to unionize. Under intense pressure, the wealthiest five conferences convinced the other Division I leagues to allow the richest to make rules for themselves so they could pay athletes more. (Leaders also acted as if this was charity and not a response to lawsuits.)
Camel farming is easy. Managing oil production is a lot trickier. And so far, these guys aren’t even living up to OPEC standards.