NCAA Boiling Point: Our Conference on the Left Is Now Our Conference on the Right




Here is an absolutely fantastic article by AskMikeandScott about conference expansion. We obviously had to feature this, and is the perfect example of how FanPosts can be used to convey excellent ideas and opinions on our website. Kudos to aMaS, and I hope he will continue to write articles like this in the future!

"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."[1]

The rapidly evolving conference affiliation story has been in the headlines again this week. But there seems to be


something brewing under this cauldron of shifting conferences. When the water is done boiling, it is becoming


apparent that there will be 4 Super Conferences containing 16 teams each. Who the final teams are, who’s on the


bubble and who’s out will be debated. However, the cynical mind believes there is something more sinister going


on – the exit of 64 schools from the NCAA or the negotiation of the NCAA "Super Division 1." [2]



[1] The Who, "We won’t be fooled again"

[2]The views expressed herein are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of any member institution, entity, this website or any person. This opinion was inspired by the recently published excellent expose on college athletics by Taylor Branch in The Atlantic online. I am sure that ideas in that article have made their way into this piece and this is a mélange of many ideas cited therein or explained in other articles, op-eds and blogs over the years as I have followed this topic. This opinion piece, however, is not designed as "scholarly" research or an attempt per se to offer anything new. It is top-of-mind and merely for entertainment, humorous and thought-provoking purposes. Notwithstanding, I am happy to consult with the proposed new association for the right fee.



"And the Morals that they worship will be gone."


The Super Conferences believe that they control viewership and that their very names engender sufficient good will that multi-billion dollar contracts with ESPN, CBS, etc. will fall like manna from Heaven. They are so popular that they can even create their own TV Network because everyone wants to watch highlights of the 1978 Cotton Bowl when Notre Dame beat Texas to win the National Championship.  Yes, folks, a school with a basketball program coached by Rick Barnes and a football program coached by Mack Brown, believes that it can generate millions in revenue from having a network that people outside of Austin, Dallas and Houston will care about. Moreover, these schools have felt hemmed in by the NCAA’s Byzantine rules and regulations. Probation and loss of scholarships, Bowl game bans, etc are really just speed bumps to an Ohio State, Miami or Kentucky. Al Davis would be proud of these schools because they are all about "Win baby win," and "how much in revenue did we rake in for that last Fiesta Bowl. Oh, we have to give back the trophy and count it as a loss. Bummer." And to have the college presidents, e.g. Clinton Crony and Miami President Donna Shalala, whimper something about we believe in academic integrity, University Mission and "Student athletes," is as hollow as an Obama press conference.


Therefore, why not just say, "ladies and gentlemen, we understand the power we have, we understand that people only want to watch mediocre Michigan and Ole Miss football or the bottom two teams in the Big East – Seton Hall and Rutgers play basketball more than say an Ohio U v Indiana football or basketball game. Hence, we are breaking away and creating our own association – the Special University Powers Enterprise Ruling Association ("SUPER A") (or whatever some bright marketing firm making a $1 million can cobble together from some meaningless words and letters to create some catchy acronym BIGMONEY, HYPOCRISY, BANK, etc. – we could even have a twitter contest to save the SUPER A money). And, in some dark consultant’s, College or Conference President’s or AD’s offices, someone, somewhere, right now is working on this very concept.




"I'll tip my hat for the new constitution, Take a bow for the new revolution"


So could they do this. As preached in the lofty, hallowed classrooms of some of the SUPER A’s law schools, go to the governing documents. So, I "quickly perused" the 429 pages of the recently updated (8/1/11) Division 1 Manual, including the Constitution and By-Laws.[1] My simple question – can a member institution just quit. What I was surprised to learn is that, in addition to the fact that "sand volleyball" can be a women’s emerging sport,[2] is that the Constitution and By-Laws do not address or necessarily restrict an institution from just exiting the NCAA. An organization has become too big and powerful when it forgets to have a "Hotel California" clause. That is a clause that says "You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave." Here, a school presumably (without time to review more or interview, or access to any other contracts or governing documents) can check out anytime it wants and leave NCAA status.[3] The "powers that be" probably think that no one will ever leave. Why would you leave the glorious bounties of the CBS/TBS basketball contract or the Bowl Championship series, etc.? Simple, because more than "some one" could leave (64 to start) to make even more money. [4]The easiest method is just to withdraw and stop paying the $1,800 annual fee. And the Conference can stop paying its $900 fee. Clearly, the association dues are not designed to fund the organization.[5] (See Atlantic Monthly article). The big money is in the TV contracts, the EA Sports contracts and the other licensing deals. But what happens if the Super Conferences are not "in the game" anymore. What if they took their various balls, bats, pads, sticks and gloves and went somewhere else or equally likely demanded a new conference level – Division SUPER.


Not having all the various contracts available to review that the NCAA and the Conferences have and that might be a detriment to allowing these 64 to walk, what might be deduced is that at least some past Tourney/Bowl years revenues might be lost. As I recall, the NCAA Basketball tourney money is paid out over a rolling 5 year term so there might be some penalties from withdrawing, but upfront money from new TV contracts might help alleviate that pain. Of course, creative lawyers might be able to negotiate a settlement of those past years as well.


For years, the belief is that the Super Conferences have positioned themselves to garner a bigger and bigger piece of a modestly growing pie. There is no real reason to create Super Conferences as in the end it diminishes the chances of the member schools to win Conference Titles and/or go undefeated. As the mid-majors in football and basketball have caught up or figured out the system (Boise State can go undefeated and be in the mix in football every year and Butler has shown a mid-major can make it to the Basketball Finals back-to-back), the ability for teams in the 2d division of the Super Conferences to win titles can’t be the motivator. Win a few meaningful games, pack the stands, get a dance bid, show the alumni your competitiveness may help donations, season ticket sales, marketing for admissions and blogs devoted to writing about the school and potential recruits, but what is more important is the pocketing of the huge checks from the TV and licensing contracts. Therefore, the bigger the conference, the more chances to earn money and the more money to be shared. The last time Providence was relevant in hoops was 1987 when Billy Donovan was playing and Rick Pitino was coaching. Yet, as a member of the Big East, it could have earned about $1.4 million in NCAA cash just by being a part of the conference between 2004-2009.[6] If it can catch a couple of NCAA bids as the 6th or 7th best team in that conference (2004 for example), the number can jump dramatically for the school if the Conference gives extra shares for participation in the Tourney. If Providence is 1 of 64 sharing all the TV and licensing revenues, and assuming that networks would find this SUPER A thing appealing and the total dollars still approximate the NCAA number, then Providence will greatly benefit. Providence may be in a bit of a bind as they do not play football. Hence, the Big East may have to study culling Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Georgetown in favor of remaining Big 12 schools and adding Memphis, Tulane or Houston if it wants to play in the new game. (Nothing will encourage dumping a few schools like money in the water).[7]


"Smile and grin at the change all around"


For the athletes (we will now officially drop the Student tag), this could also be beneficial. First, the new SUPER A could establish all new recruiting and eligibility rules. Clearly, enticing players to your school with cars, jobs for the family and cash might still be considered wrong (or you could go all free market and bid whatever, just limit the number of "scholarships"). But, there has been a clamoring for "pay" and licensing fees for the student-athlete. So, try it. Have a sliding scale for each sport. $25,000 per year for Football and Basketball, $10,000 for all other sports. With a kicker, there is a total budget for each school that doesn’t equal $25,000 x eligible scholarship players. It is less than that number so that there would be some "bidding" for the players. A 4th string OL might be able to get $15,000 from Florida who is building depth or $20,000 from Kansas because they have a better chance to play. These funds can help with travel and basic necessitates. Further, the licensing contracts can and should include the athletes for a small additional amount and should also extend into the future, e.g. $1,000/year in perpetuity.  It must be pointed out that for every Reggie Bush, there are hundreds of no name RBs that will never do anything after college, and thousands of OLs. The great fallacy that those advocating about the injustices facing certain top players is that they all will be great pros or that "they were the reason the program was successful." For every RB to be successful, he needs a scheme and blockers. The blockers may never play pro ball, but without somebody putting a helmet on someone, that RB is going to get clobbered. In the end, it still is a team game. Further, when that athlete signs his letter of intent, no matter how highly recruited, no one knows for sure whether he will be Reggie Bush throughout his College and Pro Career or injured in his first game and never play again. How many great RBs have come from Georgia versus Jackson State? Notwithstanding, there should be some sharing of this licensing revenue for all and maybe there is a negotiated scale for this as well.


The other interesting angle that could be explored if the SUPER Association was created is the relationship with the pro leagues. With the exception of MLB which was a vibrant organization with a complex development infrastructure in the early 1950s, the NFL and NBA were in their infancy when the NCAA came into being. The NFL Championship would not become the Super Bowl for over a decade. The NBA had a franchise in Ft. Wayne, George Mikan was shooting hook shots and Dr. J was just Baby J. Today, both the NBA and NFL are multi-billion dollar global enterprises. But what both still lack is a development system. Both rely almost exclusively for the next round of talent from colleges, and in particular the SUPER A. In the 2011 NFL Draft for example,  31 out of 32 picks came from proposed SUPER A "member institutions," with the other player from Temple. Although there has been an influx of international players today, the 2011 NBA draft still had 22 out of 30 players from SUPER A schools in the 1st round with only five international players and three "mid-majors."


With that background, and without the hypocrisy of "amateurism" as a "founding" goal (NCAA Constitution Article 2.9[7]), the SUPER A could have the NFL and NBA contribute "development funds" to the SUPER A to enable it to invest in insurance for players who might get injured, for classes on how to behave like an adult, public relations (how to respond to an FBI investigation or to Twitter without exposing one's self) or financial management (how not to be taken for a ride by your "advisors). Additionally, the NFL and NBA could conduct more training skills classes and offer "camps" sponsored by the leagues to help and evaluate the talent. The Draft and the potential for the athletes could be greatly enhanced when those first classes of SUPER A players come out. You also could have the leagues and players’ associations put into effect more reasonable eligibility requirements (two full years in school) that would help the athletes adjust better and with the pay and other benefits allow them to work towards improving as a player and a person. In essence, an associates’ degree in professional sports development or a "tech school" equivalency. Moreover, the SUPER A could have as a rule that the player can always come back to school and earn his/her 4-year degree tuition free at any time. Again, the clean slate of a new association makes the possibilities endless.


"The change it had to come, We knew it all along"


In the end, taking the hypocrisy out of college sports will need to be a bold move. Innovative thinking may be currently sitting in consultants’ and college board rooms right now. And, oh by the way Notre Dame, you will need to be in a football conference or become the University of Chicago if you are not careful.





[1] NCAA Manual, Constitution, and By-Laws 8/1/11,

[2] Id. at p. 280.

[3] At least the ACC in admitting its 13th and 14th members last week got this right. They now have a $20 million exit fee. See H. Denich, "ACC Adding Big East’s Syracuse and Pitt," Sept. 19, 2011,

[4] Branch, "The Shame of College Sports," The Atlantic, Oct. 2011.

[6]  As the Atlantic article explains, this almost happened in 1981 when 61 schools almost bolted. See Branch, Id. at p.  7.

[6] P. Grimaldi, "Win or Lose, Schools Reap Rewards  from Basketball Tournament." Providence Journal Online March 15, 2010,

[7] By the way, I sttill think the NCAA tournament without the 64 teams that would leave be a pretty good tournament that people will want to watch. Then you could have that school play the SUPER A winner in a non-sanctioned pay per view multi-million dollar spectacle. The key is that the NCAA schools would need to keep an exempt exhibition game open on their schedules and the NCAA would need to amend the rule on when the season ends. See NCAA Manual  17.3.4 at p. 247 and other sections therein. See what happens when you actually read that thing.

[8] NCAA Manual, at p. 4. Interestingly, this is the 9th principle listed after such examples as Gender equity, Rules compliance and Student-athlete well-being (which also has a subcategory for Gender equity). Hence, gender equity is twice as important as amateurism in the NCAA rules.

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