It finally happened.
After two years of campaigning, the Power 5 conferences got what they wanted Thursday, as the NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved a new governance system that gives the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 the authority to introduce and pass their own legislation.
And Atlantic-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade isn’t happy about it. Neither are many of the other smaller conferences.
Hmm, why is that?
Fox Sports senior college football writer Stewart Mandel has a few theories.
“Well, while this seems like a good solution right now, to let the Power 5 conferences have the freedom, have the autonomy, to pass some things that they can easily afford – like cost-of-attendance scholarships, like allowing schools to pay for family members of players to travel to bowl games and the NCAA Tournament – that’s all fine, and it doesn’t affect a conference like the Atlantic-10,” Mandel said on The Damon Amendolara Show. “In fact, if the Power 5 passes those rules, the Atlantic-10 (may implement some of those rules, too).”
“There’s a nervousness throughout college sports, though, that this isn’t enough – that two years from now, three years from now, five years form now, the power conferences will feel like, ‘Well, we tried, but we still don’t have much in common with these other 300 (or so) schools, and so, we’re just going to break away completely.’”
“Of course, that would be the worst thing imaginable for conferences like the A-10 that depend so heavily on the NCAA Tournament and having all those schools under one tent.”
Is it possible that the Power 5 could eventually break away from the NCAA and still host a March Madness that includes teams from outside the Power 5?
“It’s hard to imagine how that would work; that’s obviously a long ways down the road if that comes to pass,” Mandel said. “I talked to Jack Swarbrick, the Notre Dame AD – obviously a school that’s independent and knows a little thing about going off on their own. And he said, ‘Look, it’s not even the basketball tournament that would be the most affected. (It would be) sports like baseball and hockey.’ I mean, Union College won the Frozen Four this year.”
“So while there’s a pretty wide disparity (in) competitiveness from the power conference to everybody else (in football), there are other sports where you can be a smaller-budget school and you can still compete at the highest level. And I think both sides really do want to preserve that, and this is the plan that they decided was best.”
But why would the Power 5 want to keep something like, say, the NCAA Tournament intact?
“Well, I think a couple reasons,” Mandel said. “One is the competitive aspect, like we said. I think they know how good a thing the NCAA Tournament is. Even though sometimes it costs their own teams – if Mercer upsets Duke in the NCAA Tournament – that’s what makes that event special. And if they broke away and the closest thing to a Cinderella in the basketball tournament was Rutgers, that just wouldn’t be all that appealing.”
Besides, breaking away from the NCAA would absolutely obliterate the argument that college athletics are an amateur enterprise.
“It’s harder to make that argument if they truly did break away,” Solomon said. “I mean, that would be a semi-pro league. As long as they’re affiliated with Stony Brook and Cal Poly, they can at least trot that out as a cover.”