Thursday, April 24, 2014

Big 5 Autonomy Ends Expansion

Sometime today the NCAA’s Executive Committee will vote to endorse a plan to give the 65 member institutions of the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12 and the SEC the autonomy to make their own rules. 

In August, at the NCAA convention, the 350 schools that comprise the NCAA’s Division 1 will vote to ratify the changes.

There is some thought that the schools not in a power conference will veto the change and make the Big 5 play by the same rules as everyone else – that will not happen.

A veto almost certainly means that the Big 5 will break away from the NCAA and no one wants that.

So the 252 Division 1 schools that play in the 18 conferences not in the Big 5 will vote to ratify the changes along with the rest.

And once they plan then realignment, at least in the next 5 to 10 years,  is over.

Once the Big 5 have the power to make their own rules the desire to add mouths to the table will  shrink as their wallets grow.

The first change the Big 5 will make will be to pay their student-athletes scholarships to cover the full cost of attendance.  At WVU that means about $2,000 extra for every scholarship athlete.  That’s not a problem for WVU. The Mountaineers, flush with cash from the move to the Big 12 and their shinny new deal with IMG, have included that line item in the budget for the past few years.

Expect more changes too -- changes like insurance for athletes and covering other incidentals.

You can also expect the ACC and Big 12 to use their new found autonomy to change the rules for conference championship games.

The Big 12 won’t need the NCAA’s minimum of 12 members to play a championship game and the ACC will no longer be forced to sacrifice a lamb from the Coastal Division to FSU or Clemson.  Each will be free to determine their own rules for who plays in the championship game.

For the ACC that means no more Blue Devils or Deacons offering weak opposition to FSU – it means that two best teams will play to represent the ACC in the playoffs and it means the fans will enjoy a FSU-Clemson rematch nearly every year.

For the Big 12 it means no expansion. The conference is dead-set against expanding if the additions do not add to the television pot. 

I think that’s a huge mistake on the Big 12’s part but you can’t argue with their logic. Right now there isn’t an expansion candidate available that can satisfy the plethora of metrics necessary to justify expansion.

A few are close. A few are tantalizing close and only need a track-record of success and few more points in the college football “Q score” to be worthy of inclusion.

Recently a Big 12 official told me that the conference was prepared to offer BYU and the UCF Knights membership in the conference  if they were forced to meet the NCAA’s minimum number of members (12) for a championship game.

He told me that Bowlsby believed the details with BYU could be worked out and that UCF was by far the next best candidate available.

That won’t happen now – at least for a while. The trick for BYU and UCF will be in finding the money to compete with schools from the Big 5 for recruits and visibility.

It’s not hard to see BYU keeping pace. The Cougars have a contract with ESPN and their independent status will make them an attractive option for scheduling.

UCF will likely need it's alumni and fans to make up the difference to keep the Knight's program moving forward.

 I'm told the Knights will be vetted again in 2020 and if the Knights can continue their success and push themselves over the top in terms of measurable they may just get their ticket punched into the Big 12 when the new television deal is due. 

The change also means stability for the ACC despite the plans for further expansion by the Big Ten. A reliable Big Ten source tells me that UVA has communicated to the Big Ten it is no longer interested in leaving the ACC.

The money UVA receives will be in the same ballpark as the money the Big Ten receives. At least its enough to keep UVA in the ACC rather than being an outlier in the Big Ten.

An athletic department official at North Carolina State spoke candidly with me a few weeks ago about expansion and he had a few surprising observations.

He told me that only NC State and FSU would be willing to leave the ACC and then only if the offer came from the SEC and he doesn’t expect that offer to come anytime soon.

The source at NC State said that FSU agreed to sign the ACC’s Grant of Rights shortly after being  rejected by the Big Ten (academics).  Once FSU signed then all the others were eager to sign.

I asked the NC State official about the Big Ten’s belief that the ACC grant of rights could be circumvented and his answer was surprising.

He confirmed that the only consideration ACC member institutions received for signing the grant of rights were intangibles like security and that NC State thought the grant of rights could broken.

“There is some question that a state institution like NC State could legally assign broadcast rights without compensation at true market value.” He said.

But it’s his opinion it doesn’t matter.  The only schools in the ACC that meet Big Ten academic standards are not interested in leaving.  No amount of money is going to convince UVA or UNC to leave the ACC especially with the new autonomy of the power conferences on the horizon.

The reason is money.  Very soon the Big 5  will distance themselves from the rest. The ability to make their own rules allows them to eventually claim all the money and once that happens its just a matter of time before the Big 5 have their own commissioner and a unified television contract.  When (and if) that happens the difference between what the Big Ten earns and what the ACC earns will be negligible.

1 comment:

  1. The P5 will become the P4. Central Florida and BYU won't stop Big 12 schools from taking better offers when they come.