The debate about the next generation of NCAA rules has started to heat up. I’m not talking about what proposals might be offered during the upcoming legislative cycle. Rather, what the overall structure of college athletics will look like five, ten, or twenty years from now.
One of the fundamental questions going forward is how important competitive equity is. That is, should the NCAA membership pass rules that promote student-athlete welfare if they give an overwhelming advantage to schools with larger budgets?
That debate is coming to a head over full cost-of-attendance scholarships, outside income, recruiting rules, and access to agents. All of these would hand a major advantage to schools in the BCS automatic qualifying conferences at the expense of mid-major schools.
Personally, I’d like to decide to do something irrespective of competitive equity and then decide the most equitable way to do it. So full cost-of-attendance scholarships should be allowed, but we should look for ways to help fund the increased financial aid across the board.
The major conference schools could have a trump card though. In any negotiation, the party willing to walk away has the most bargaining power. And while it involves quite a bit of reading between the lines, there are subtle signs the big boys are prepared to play that card if they need to.
The problem with a major Division I split is that it limits who can win college athletics biggest prizes. We want schools competing at the highest level to be able to provide a proper experience for their athletes and do so in a fiscally sound way. But being able to compete at the highest level in 2030 shouldn’t be determined by your ability to do it in 2012.
If major conferences were to create a new division or a new organization, they could set the rules about who can join. There is no level playing field right now, but there is possibility and hope. A split that simply creates an exclusive club kills that hope.
The opinions expressed on this blog are the author’s and the author’s alone, and are not endorsed by the NCAA or any NCAA member institution or conference. This blog is not a substitute for a compliance office.