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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Death of the NCAA

Who among us likes to hear someone, correctly, tell us, “I told you so,”? None of us, I would presume. Even when the person reminding us of how wrong we were all along is a trusted friend or a family member, at best, the statement does little more than beg to original question. Often, that expression serves of a source of annoyance and a reminder of the downside of our stubbornness.

The NCAA appears to be very close to a point which its members, fans, and business partners can tell it that. For years, fans, journalists, and countless other people have called for a playoff system in college football. The NCAA has insisted upon not implementing a postseason tournament for football. Every logistical excuse is available. The bowls are rooted in college football tradition. There are travel considerations. There is not a clear set of fair criteria.

I have witnessed sports journalist after sports journalist, over the years, come up with a logistically sound playoff system including as few as three and as many as 16 playoff spots. I always found such columns to be interesting, creative, and fun to read. I also thought often, “This will never happen.”

I probably wouldn't mind hearing "I Told You So" directly from Carrie Underwood, but that may be the only exception. 1


Over this past weekend, Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh announced their intentions to leave the Big East and join the Atlantic Coastal Conference. The ACC accepted. Within the past month, Texas A&M University announced its plans to leave the Big XII and join the Southeastern Conference. Rumors have already surfaced that the Big XII (which is already down to 10 teams) is in danger of losing two more big names in Oklahoma and Texas. These schools are rumored to be eyeing a move to the Pac-12.

Meanwhile, schools such as Texas Christian University, who recently announced its intention to join the Big East Conference in 2012, may be left holding the bag for several years. TCU joined the Big East, in part, as an effort to improve its status for Bowl Championship Series bowl games and greater access to an opportunity to play for the BCS National Championship. With the exodus of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, in addition to rumors swirling about a possible departure by the University of Connecticut, the Big East appears to be following a similar road as the Big XII: major-conference extinction.

The super-sized expansions of the Pac-12, Big Ten, ACC, and SEC are setting up the stage for a college football world with four super conferences and a playoff system revolving around those conferences. The NCAA appears to have zero say-so or influence on conference affiliation. It has made no effort, whatsoever, to set up a college football playoff system and has elected to allow the bowl system and the media to dictate an unofficial champion of its most popular sport. If the NCAA has so little influence or concern about the structure and postseason of its member schools in football, then what, exactly, do these four super conferences need the NCAA for?

Like I said, TCU may be left holding the bag. 2

The NCAA has drowned its member institutions with rules, regulations, sanctions, and probation for every possible misstep imaginable, and some that one could not have imagined before reading about it in the news. I would wager that the organizing body is very unpopular among college football fans and that major college football program institutions would prefer the absense of an environment in which non-compliance is an inevitability, considering the number of people, directly and indirectly, connected to a big-time college football program.

This thought crossed my mind last year when the first wave of conference musical chairs, involving TCU, Utah (Pac-12), and Nebraska (Big Ten) began last year and has only been reinforced by some of the recent speculation I have heard on sports talk radio: Once the super conferences are formed and finalized, those members’ football programs will secede from the NCAA and form their own body, their own rules, and their own playoff system in football.

Ten years ago, such an idea would be inconceivable, to the point of laughter. As it stands, the NCAA has neutered itself in football to the point where member institutions are unilaterally deciding membership alignment. I think, barring an intervention or compromise, that it is only a matter of time before the NCAA is plucked from the affairs of major football programs. Once that happens, what is to stop those institutions from doing the same with their revenue-neutral and loss-leading sports such as basketball, baseball, and track?

I am sure this could make an interesting historical attraction one day. 4


The NCAA has come under fire for decades for failing to take steps to draw a fair and definitive conclusion to its college football season for major programs. The conference shuffling of heavy hitting, major schools, is the beginning of a massive power shift in college football from a confederation of major conferences, mid-major conferences, bowl committees, and the BCS to four super conferences possessing the lion’s share of the decision making in college football.

The NCAA deflected, rationalized, and compromised on a means of deciding a champion in college football while being heavy handed with institutions failing to dot “I”s and cross “T”s properly. If it does not act very quickly, decisively, and in a manner that is friendly and accommodating to member schools and fans, its day of reckoning will come sooner than later. The NCAA could be on a road to becoming part of the past of major college football and possibly the past of major college sports altogether.

I wonder how Mr. Finebaum really feels. I doubt he's alone. 3

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