“For lack of a better term, we have a football problem.”

Or, to put it another way, the wolves are tired of the squirrels telling them what to do and the NCAA wants to wash its hands of the entire affair.

College football has always been a class war: public vs. private, Power Five vs. Group of Five, SEC vs. the world. Membership has always had its privileges. Those 65 Power Fives schools annually split 78% of the half-billion annual take from the College Football Playoff.

There is a growing thought among those power schools, which are wondering whether they should share at all. What has emerged quietly in recent months is perhaps the biggest class war in decades.

“Membership” is the buzzword as the NCAA rewrites its constitution. It would involve a further divide among the 130 schools playing major-college football. Division I-A, now called the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), was created in 1978. That was the last big carving of haves and have nots.

Essentially, a parting from the lowest-resourced programs in the FBS could occur. The reasons would be same as they were 43 years ago: The smallest programs have too much of an influence — voting and otherwise — on how a group of 80 or so schools would like big-time football to look.

“I think that discussion is going to happen,” a current Power Five athletic director told CBS Sports. “In FBS, yes. The discrepancies in terms of revenue, just among FBS, is already huge. But from the Big Ten to the SEC to the smallest conferences in Division I, it’s not even apples and oranges.

Gosh, whoever thought money would be at the root of the matter?

The Transformation Committee is co-chaired by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and Ohio AD Julie Cromer. By its mere composition, the committee foreshadows a separation. Sankey is head of the nation’s most powerful football conference. Cromer is AD of a MAC school, which plays some of its games on weeknights to maximize exposure.

SEC schools will soon be making $60 million each in average media rights fees annually.  The MAC’s current ESPN deal, which expires at the conclusion of the 2026-27 season, is worth $100 million … total.

“Anything that has Sankey in it would give me an indication that the divide will get greater,” said a college sports consultant who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the situation.  “Julie being at Ohio, I really like Julie. She’s smart as hell. I would see her and Sankey clashing big time. I suspect that’s the case, but Greg’s going to win every time because he can. He’s got the power.”

Sankey has a massive TV contract and he knows how to use it.  Like this:

Consider top schools voting to increase their allotments to 95 football scholarships. (The current maximum is 85.) Those that couldn’t afford to fund those 10 extra scholarships would be priced out of the market and possibly end up in “Division IV”. Same for the idea of fully-funding equivalency sports. Those sports include baseball and soccer, which can have large rosters but split a finite number of scholarships. (For example, Division I baseball teams divide 11.7 scholarships.)

What if those minor sports were fully funded with scholarships the same as “head-count” sports such as football? It would conceivably force smaller schools to drop down a level because of the increased financial obligation.

“Can you imagine if Georgia, in that hotbed of recruiting, basically had 100 scholarships?” asked that Power Five AD.

I’m trying to imagine how your typical Gator fan would react to that.  But I digress… happily.

12 Comments

Filed under College Football, The NCAA

12 responses to ““For lack of a better term, we have a football problem.”

  1. Ran A

    Why not just cut through all of this:

    SEC, Big 10, ACC, Big 12 and Pac 12 – leave the NCAA. Invite Notre Dame (and I’m sure there are a couple of other Independents and the Service Academies) – force the Independants to pick a conference and be done with it.

    Then the NCAA can re-calibrate with everybody else and even work to keep these schools to a model that is closer to the original model.

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  2. rigger92

    I have no idea if they’re going to do it or not, but, if the Fed Government gets around to subsidizing free 4 year college to everyone that wants it these smaller institutions are going to be flush with cash like they’ve never seen.

    Seems to me that they could thrive in athletics under that scenario which would make this “new membership” deal tenuous.

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  3. Sankey as Foghorn Leghorn explaining the new world order to the studious little chicken.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anon

    Why can’t UGA and SEC baseball teams offer 20 full scholarships to deserving HS players? Just do it. F the NCAA.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. theotherdoug

    My D was recruited for swimming by lower Div 1 teams including GT. Most could offer 14 scholarships spread over about 28 girls, but didn’t even fund those 14. Instead of full cost of attendance their pool was 14 instate tuitions or it was only 8 scholarships.

    That’s just one example of how cheap a lot of these schools are

    Liked by 2 people

    • Doug, I had a similar experience with my daughter and being recruited for swimming. Even Power 5 schools cut corners (swimming in particular) to “save” costs. Like the University of Washington doesn’t even have a swim team anymore but Washington State does. So these FBS schools are going to get hosed. Bluto is right, I can see a world in the very near future where the Power Div 1 conferences break off and form their own “professional” college conference, because they don’t want to share their revenue and acquiesce to a toothless circus bear in Indianapolis. The smaller schools, and even some sports within the Power Conference will suffer. Most of the prized revenue will go to feed the beasts of football and basketball for the big boys, everything else maybe sacrificial. It sucks, but many folks have opined about this because it’s been evolving for years invoking the bs 80/20 rule explanation…I know the line starts around the building for the complaint department, so I’ll grab my black socks and yell at the crumbsnatchers to stay off my lawn.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. ASEF

    That “Europe model” involves entrance examinations, which are pretty rigorous. If there’s going to be an infusion of more federal dollars into post-high school education, it will be at the community college level. Tons of people in expensive 4 year schools who should probably be in a CC program their first 2 years.

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  7. ASEF

    College football is a much more expensive sport than college basketball, where we enter every season with over 350 teams eligible for NCAA tournament participation.

    But, we’re already seeing some parallels in college football, where a Coastal Carolina in some ways becomes a better opportunity than a Duke or Georgia Tech (or UCF over Nebraska, or…) in pretty much the same way Gonzaga became an infinitely better gig than Washington State in basketball. And that’s entirely a function of P5 schools forced to play by G5 economic rules.

    Any move by Sankey et al is going to create howling that they’re out to protect the Georgias and Bamas, when the reality is that they’re moving to protect their rank-and-file, not their headline programs.

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