For over a year we have heard Commissioners and Athletic Directors from the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, PAC 12 and SEC ratchet up the talking points on Power 5 Autonomy.
This subject probably doesn’t get the media attention it deserves because there are many very complicated issues that are not fully understood by anyone.
I’m going to list a few that I suspect may lead to creation of a new independent College Athletic Association.
(1) Student-Athlete Compensation: This is often discussed under the phrase “full cost of attendance”. Most people understand that the Power 5 Conferences have a growing revenue stream that currently tops $20 million annually per school and in the latter years of the current broadcast media contracts for all P5 conferences will pay member schools close to $40 million annually. Currently, pending lawsuits and the recently settled EA lawsuit prove that student athletes will in fact be compensated either up front by the colleges they attend (requiring change of NCAA rules, thus the push for P5 autonomy) or later in court with the added burden of litigation costs.
(2) Strings attached to autonomy. On one hand the full membership of D1 appears to be giving the P5 the autonomy they ask for but on the other hand autonomy seems to come with strings attached that render autonomy not very autonomous at all. The P5 schools in their current talking points are very clearly stating that full autonomy or acceptable autonomy must be exactly that. Super Majorities to approve rule changes will not be acceptable to the Power 5. The Power 5 require the ability to create, interpret, enforce and waive rules, for the Power 5 not having this specific autonomy would be a deal breaker. The D1 committees and the full membership of D1 support for full autonomy appear to be less than that necessary to accomplish full autonomy for the Power 5.
Why the reluctance? Many in D1 appear to be hesitant to give the Power 5 exactly what they want for fear of the unknown. Many suspect (and probably rightfully so) that autonomy will be a Pandora’s Box, with potential unknown consequences that may destroy College Athletics. While that may sound overly dramatic. Here is an example of just how this fear could become a harsh reality;
(3) If given full autonomy (or if the Power 5 form their own College Athletic Association) one of the areas the Power 5 are very likely to address and change in short order would be transfers. Many in the Power 5 support a model that most closely resembles free agency in professional sports. So what? Many of us think that Students ought to be able to go to school where they want and play where they want anyway right?
Here is the destructive part. Once the Power 5 have autonomy or independence and they adopt free agency. What do you think will happen when a Power 5 program ranked in the top 10 with a good chance of competing for a National Championship experiences a critical season ending injury for a key player or players and it just so happens that a school such as Boise State, Fresno State, UCF or North Dakota State has a player or players that have demonstrated sufficient development and performance to warrant a “promotion” to the Power 5? Current NCAA rules place an immediate road block that the current school may place on the athlete (Leticia Romero). A free agency in the Power 5 schools could eliminate that rule and any potential roadblock to immediate transfer, essentially putting every college athletic program outside the Power 5 at risk.
So many in D1 fearful of creating a monster that will devour them are not likely to support autonomy for the Power 5, however they also must know that the alternative (a new independent College Athletic Association) will do the same.
D1 is at a tipping point with the future very uncertain.
No one has the answer and most don’t even understand all the issue of importance.
One very real possibility is that 1 or 2 years from now, K State may find itself not in the NCAA but in an organization called the College Athletic Association (or similar) comprised of ACC, Big 10, Big 12, PAC 12, SEC (for this discussion Notre Dame is part of ACC) and probably any other school (BYU) or conference (AAC) that want to align themselves with the Power 5
Conference expansion for the Big 12? Not important until evolution, autonomy or independence is resolved.