Southeastern Conference officials voted yesterday not to invite Texas A&M into the conference as was widely speculated. This move, however, is generally perceived as a legal move so that the SEC won’t be subject to any potential litigation for “poaching” the Aggies from the Big XII. The die is cast and the momentum is gaining for a seismic reorganization of major college sports.
As I detailed here yesterday, this movement has a long history and is centered around the desire of the larger schools to seek increasing exclusivity with regard to the revenue from their sports. This sentiment hasn’t changed and will be the driving force behind the major shifts we’re about to see.
One other major factor in play here is the increasing dissatisfaction with the role of the NCAA. As we saw back in the ’80s with the CFA, when the college presidents don’t like what their established internal enforcement organization is doing, they simply ignore it. And the United States Supreme Court has ruled they have every right to do so.
Presently, the NCAA has become a nuisance to the big schools in several ways. There is growing pressure on the schools to implement some sort of “pay for play” system. This isn’t a result of some sense of largesse on the part of the BCS coalition. Rather it’s the realization that they’ve outkicked their coverage on revenue production on the backs of students. It’s only a matter of time before a successful lawsuit is brought against the schools which could put them on the hook for punitive damages in addition to payouts far beyond what the schools are willing to share. Last week the NCAA held a conference with member presidents, at least half of whom, reportedly, were not from BCS schools. They were resolute in stating that the NCAA will never consider any “pay for play” options. While schools like Ohio State and Texas have the athletic budgets to offer some sort of scholarship stipend, as mentioned by OSU AD Gene Smith, the smaller FBS schools like Miami of Ohio would be bankrupted by such a system. This schism sets the stage for the larger schools to pull out of the NCAA and form their own organization, one in which they’re not forced to share revenues with schools like Boise State.
Another “wild card” at play is the ongoing FBI investigation which has been centered recently in Columbus, Ohio. Sources close to the investigation have said all along that the investigation was not centered around Ohio State, per se, but on college athletes and possible RICO violations. The USA Today’s Danny Sheridan has already tweeted that he is aware of the name of the “bag man” who allegedly delivered payment to Cam Newton’s father, Cecil. For those of you haven’t followed Danny Sheridan’s career which spans several decades, this story marks the first time he’s been involved in any news other than his cottage industry: establishing betting lines and sports gambling. It doesn’t take psychic powers to read the tea leaves on how Danny Sheridan came to have this information. Suffice it to say, Auburn, and perhaps other BCS schools, are facing some serious trouble that goes much deeper than NCAA violations.
So what we have is the “perfect storm”: Big schools with a history of seeking exclusive revenue opportunities, threats from other entities to take a piece of that revenue, possible major violations going on at member schools, and a host of corporate communication entities that would line up to pay handsomely for the rights to broadcast games. That translates into the coming upheaval we’ll see play out over the next months and few years as college athletics transitions into an entirely new entity.