College Football 2012: Splitting the Divisions Needs to Happen Sooner, Not Later
Jon Solomon from the Birmingham News had some interesting comments from NCAA President Mark Emmert over the weekend.
Emmert talked about the ever-increasing wealth gap between schools and the pressing need to do something about it. Yes, please. This is a move that needs to happen quite soon if the NCAA wants to gain any sort of "control" of the situation.
While the backdrop for Emmert's discussion was the Final Four, in college football we see the most glaring differences between teams and conferences within the already-divided Division-I.
The FCS and FBS subdivisions are, to put it bluntly, not enough. In the "top" division, there is more stratification than most folks care to admit. The game is an arms race, and as people look to be the biggest, to be the first and to be the best, there is an undeniable difference between the top 60-70 schools and the rest.
That's not fair. It's not fair to the schools at the top and it most certainly is not fair for the schools at the bottom. It isn't fair that cutting scholarships is on the table for a school like Alabama or Notre Dame or Oklahoma. They can afford far more than the 85 they are restricted to now.
It isn't fair to schools like Florida International or North Texas that they are expected to compete for a title that they will never truly have a chance to win—in the BCS or playoff format.
Look, the idea of equity between the conferences and the teams is a massive charade. It is a battle that's already been lost by factors that have nothing to do with the NCAA's attempted restrictions.
Texas, USC, Ohio State and the like have an advantage that cannot be "evened out" by limiting scholarships or practice hours or visits or amount of coaches on staff. They have inherent advantages due to size, due to long-term investment and due to the biggest factor in this need for a split—money.
Is it time for the NCAA to split the FBS subdivision?
The big schools have the money, the big schools spend the money and most importantly, the big schools make the money. The BCS is a system that gets this fact, and while they filter money down, they reward more money to the schools who allow for the cash to be made.
For all of the hate about the BCS, this is something that the NCAA does need to look into as far as the classifications go.
Splitting the divisions would be a plus for everyone. A split would allow the big guys to flourish, and it would put legitimate achievement within the grasp of smaller schools.
This push for everyone to be FBS is only serving to run up huge debt numbers, increase student fees and put teams in waters that their programs are not built to successfully navigate. UMass, South Alabama, Texas State and UT-San Antonio are just getting into the FBS waters. Expecting them to swim with the likes of Texas A&M, Auburn and their other state programs is not doing them any favors.
The bottom 50 or so schools in the FBS are, in every way, a lot closer to FCS programs than they are to the bulk of the BCS programs. Not just talking wins and losses or on-the-field production. Rather, the schools themselves—from a facilities and budget standpoint—have a lot more in common with the Appalachian State and Sam Houston States of the world than they ever will with LSU.
There are only two real options—share revenue or cut the fat. Sharing revenue is more of an idealistic move than an actual possibility. Unlike the NFL, college football operates more than 120 separate organizations, tethered into 11 different conferences all operating independently to generate revenue. Arkansas and Kentucky have absolutely zero interest in sharing money with Colorado State or Miami of Ohio to help elevate the landscape of a whole.
The SEC cares about the SEC. The ACC is worried about the ACC. While the bigger conferences work together, it is about keeping more money for themselves than it is about sharing. If they can keep the amount of hands grabbing for slices of the bill small then their respective leagues can remain on top and prosper.
It is time to end the charade. Stop the garbage posturing about competitive balance. It doesn't exist. It is not a real thing. It will not come to fruition.
There are not enough restrictions in the world to pull a T. Boone Pickens-fueled Oklahoma State into a legitimate level playing field with Tulsa.
Instead of spending time trying to make teams feel big by slapping an FBS next to their name, it is time to fix the problem. Separate the division, let the big guys go forward and prosper. Give the lower division the hope for real success in the form of a title they have a snowball's chance of winning.
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