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Marques Pfaff
Marques Pfaff
News and thoughts about sports from Marques himself.

Autonomy for the Big 5: College Athletics Shifting Closer to Massive Overhaul

Thursday, Aug, 7 2014

It’s no secret the almighty dollar ultimately governs everything in this world and amateur athletics is no exception. On the show today I brought up the issue of autonomy for the big five conferences (i.e. ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 & SEC)  in college football and whether it’s ultimately a good thing for all parties involved. While there will almost certainly be some good that comes from this vote today – in particular for student-athletes at major athletic institutions – I hesitate to say it will extend to all NCAA Division I members.

If you missed the story don’t worry, you’re not alone. Given the potential impact of this decision on college athletics, it received very little in the way of publicity. Here’s a brief synopsis; the NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted in favor of allowing the power conferences to create and implement their own rules such as additional stipends and insurance benefits not currently covered by a scholarship. The vote will also allow these conferences some additional freedom in recruiting rules. This is a watered down explanation and I encourage everyone to check out Stewart Mandel’s article explaining things better (link below).

On the surface, this might sound great for a select number of athletes at what I’ll call the power institutions … and quite frankly it is. The problem arises in that you’ve effectively created a new level of football within the FBS. The smaller schools can’t keep up. Even if given the opportunity, there is absolutely NO WAY a school from the Mid-American Conference (MAC) or Mountain West can offer that same type of package to a potential student-athlete given the budgets these schools work with. The rich get richer and the college landscape continues to inch towards a change of massive proportion. In a system that favors a select number of schools – and all because of money – how can the current model of amateurism hold up? It can’t … and it won’t.

Consider a prospective football student-athlete choosing between a MAC school in which he could start right away, or an ACC school in which he’ll likely need to ride the bench for two years before seeing any kind of action. In the past, this individual may have chosen the MAC school simply to get on the field sooner … but how can anyone reasonably do that now given all the financial benefits associated with attending a power five conference. Now this rule won’t be applicable to many student-athletes whose only real chance to play comes outside the power conferences … but it will have a major effect on the many who are borderline. So while this decision will almost certainly have a positive effect on athletes at power schools, it also further solidifies the fact that money rules college athletics and the rich get richer.


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