The NCAA might quickly lose the Energy 5 faculty soccer conferences
When COVID-19 nearly ruined the 2020 college football season, UNLV’s planned trip to the state of Iowa was postponed for a decade.
Postponed once, the game could be completely wiped out by 2030, not because of a global pandemic, but by the desire of the Power Five conferences for even more control, power and money.
Those football conferences and Notre Dame could be held in a completely separate department long before that, forcing UNLV and other programs outside of the Power Five to compete on their own with no chance to play big money games on big stages.
With college athletes’ ability to make money with their name, image, and likeness, it’s already required by law in several states, and with a Supreme Court case asking whether the NCAA’s restrictions are in place for violating federal antitrust law for compensating student athletes, the gap between the haves and the haves in the college football world is about to widen.
Given their larger fan base and media exposure, soccer players at Power Five conferences would be much better positioned to benefit from the new NIL regulations, giving these programs an even greater recruitment advantage than they are already enjoying.
UNLV sporting director Desiree Reed-Francois said through a spokesman that she would withhold comment on a possible Power Five football outbreak for the time being, but that the school was working on a NIL plan.
On Thursday, the College Football Playoff Management Committee proposed expanding the playoff field from four to twelve teams, with six seats reserved for the highest-ranking conference champions and the other six going to a wide selection.
One such field could include the Mountain West champion, which opens up a possible path to the playoffs for the UNLV. MW Commissioner Craig Thompson is on that committee.
But should the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, and Big-12 break out, they could create their own postseason format that these other programs don’t include.
A long time to come
The Power Five conferences have been in control for many years in preparation for such a move.
“College football clearly dropped out anyway,” said University of Southern California sports business expert David Carter. “Autonomy five, or whatever they want to be called these days, they run it more than the NCAA.”
To that end, the Knight Commission, the organization that has great influence over college sports administration, has proposed formally removing all high-level football programs of the NCAA Division I, the FBS, of which UNLV is a part, from the NCAA umbrella.
The commission released a report in December, entitled “Transforming the NCAA DI model,” which creates a separate governance structure for FBS programs known as the National College Football Association.
“FBS football generates the most revenue of any college sport, yet there is no single entity that controls and is responsible for the sport,” said Amy Privette Perko, CEO of the Knight Commission. “So governance of the sport is split between the college football playoffs, the conferences and the role of the NCAA.”
That role, Perko said, includes taking legal responsibility for the sport and overseeing the regular season, all with no income.
According to several experts, the economy would be the driving force behind any type of FBS or power five football outbreak, whether formal or informal.
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, a former Duke basketball player and outspoken critic of the NCAA, said power conferences are already at a point where they only play football and men’s basketball.
“The days when you could plan a game and everyone just left are over,” said Bilas. “Expectations are now higher and the competition for viewers’ time and attention is growing. The students don’t go as often as they used to. They want to go to the bigger games so they’re not that interested in seeing those other games. “
Effects of the NIL legislation
Athletes’ ability to capitalize on their name, image, and likeness is the next likely focal point that will determine the future state of the NCAA.
It’s a problem that the NCAA has been fighting for many years. Maintaining such payments contradicts claims that their athletes are amateurs. But on this issue the dynamic is against the organization.
Many states have enacted or are considering enacting laws that will allow athletes to benefit from NIL. These state decisions prompted the NCAA to set up a working group last year to work out a proposal that is expected to be voted on by the Division I Council on June 22 or 23.
Regardless of what the NCAA does, laws will go into effect July 1 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and New Mexico that allow athletes to accept advertising contracts. The same is true in Arizona starting July 23rd.
Laws in 12 more states will be enacted next year and beyond, including Nevada in 2022. Assembly Bill 254 goes into effect January 1st and was passed by an overwhelming 34-8 in Assembly and unanimously in the Senate. Governor Steve Sisolak signed the law on May 29th.
Congress is also considering passing laws to establish uniform national standards.
Bilas said that while the NCAA has repeatedly battled athletes’ ability to make money from their NIL, they have remained silent when it comes to coaches and sports departments who are self-enriching.
Money, he said, is the reason these departments continued to play games even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We played because the institutions owed content to media rights companies, and in order to get paid for that content, they had to play and deliver the content,” said Bilas. “That can be proven by a single question. What is the name of a non-athlete who the university put on a plane for a university event last year. There is no. So other students wanted to take part in their chosen field of activity, but they weren’t allowed. “
Supreme Court should weigh up
Around the time the NCAA makes a decision on NIL, the US Supreme Court will announce its decision on the NCAA v Alston case. At stake is whether the NCAA will remain exempt from antitrust laws in order to maintain current amateur rules.
A federal district judge ruled last year that the NCAA must not limit athletes’ educational benefits, such as receiving equipment such as laptops or cash grants for academic achievements. The NCAA argued that athletes who received such benefits would create a loophole that could be exploited to offer recruitment enticements that are more akin to the game’s pay.
The NCAA’s stance did not seem to please the Supreme Court justices during the hearing on March 31st. The newest member, Amy Coney Barrett, asked why the NCAA can decide how athletes make money. Judge Samuel Alito noted that athletes are already receiving compensation in the form of scholarships and grants.
“The bottom line is that executives understand that the status quo will change,” said Perko. “There are going to be big changes in college sports, so I think most executives want to better understand how this new structure might address some of the issues surrounding antitrust challenges of the future, and how this model will make it better for universities and athletes. ”
Nobody knows for sure how the Power Five soccer programs would create their own division other than that, given upcoming decisions by the NIL and the Supreme Court, it will likely come sooner rather than later.
It is also worth seeing what happens to the TV contracts. Contracts for four of the Power Five conferences and the College Football Playoffs will be renewed over a period of three years, beginning in 2023. The Atlantic Coast Conference signed a 20-year contract with ESPN in 2016.
The Power Fives could spend the time leading up to these deals expiring positioning themselves for even bigger paydays.
A possible blueprint
If the Knight Commission prevails, there will be one central line for all 10 FBS conferences. Perko pointed out that the last major change in the structure of college athletics came in 1973 when the three divisions were formed.
“The Commission believes it is time for a different evolutionary structure,” she said. The development could be even more dramatic.
The Power Fives could be a clean break, and the Knight Commission’s governance model would apply to these schools. Perhaps the Power Fives will take the best of the best and create their own Super League.
“Just because you’re in the Big Ten doesn’t automatically mean you get a spot,” Carter said of one such scenario. “How will Purdue feel? How will Mississippi State or Oregon State feel if they fail? Are they going to litigate?
“Think from a booster standpoint, another part of it. If my school didn’t get it, yes, I’m angry, but looking from the outside in, what’s the point of donating to Oregon State when they’re playing in a different conference constellation? or another structure? “
It is a question that could be asked of programs including the UNLV across the country.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at [email protected] Follow @ markanderson65 on Twitter.