Fordham AD David Roach: 'We'll Do Certain Things to Keep Up with the Big 5'

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Fordham AD David Roach: 'We'll Do Certain Things to Keep Up with the Big 5'
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Back in March, the movement to reform college athletics picked up steam when Peter Ohr, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, ruled that football players at Northwestern University were employees, giving them the right to form a union.

A couple months later, former UCLA star Ed O'Bannon appeared as the lead plaintiff in an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA over the use of athletes' names, images and likenesses in broadcasts and video games.

Today in Indianapolis, the NCAA Board of Directors voted to adopt a proposal that would give the Big 5 conferences (Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern) greater autonomy.

According to The New York Times' Marc Tracy, the board voted 16-2 to give schools in those conferences the power "to raise the value of scholarships, improve health insurance, allow players to consult agents and more."

Just another day in college sports.

So what does this mean for Fordham and for the school's marquee program, men's basketball?

It's hard to say when we don't even know what exactly the future holds for the Big 5. All schools will now vote on the autonomy measures passed today.

Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke told USA Today's Dan Wolken that by no means will today's decision signal the end of the discussion. "Because there's been all this buildup, (the public thinks) once we've got autonomy there's going to be an agenda that's clear-cut and decisive," Burke said. "But I don't think it'll be that fast."

Boise State president Bob Kustra told The New York Times' Steve Eder that this “will do nothing but place greater pressure on athletic budgets and move the ball farther down the field toward professionalization.”

Last month, Fordham athletic director David Roach provided a passionate defense of his athletic program and the university.

"What people need to remember [is that] a full scholarship at Fordham right now is worth about $63,000 a year," Roach told Bleacher Report. "Multiply that by four and increase it a little bit, and you're saying to a high school kid, a recruit, 'You come to Fordham—New York City, beautiful campus—you're going to get a great education, and the value of it is $270,000.' How many 18-year-olds are making $63,000 a year?

"Then you put in athletic training, strength and conditioning, coaching and all that stuff. The value of that is really great."

While Roach's argument is valid, today's news doesn't appear to have anything to do with academics. It's about money.

"Unfortunately, with the five major conferences doing what they've done, whether it's realignment or going for the TV dollar, they've created something that people have been able to poke at because the money is so great," Roach said. "And if the money is so great and you're paying coaches $6 million, you're doing this and that, what about the student-athletes?

"I think there needs to be a little more ownership at that level. That's kind of how this all happened."

Roach doesn't think college athletes will be paid anytime soon, despite the momentum that appears to be headed in that direction.

"I don't necessarily think anybody is going to be paying student-athletes like some people seem to think," he said, "because once you start paying them, it's a whole different deal. [Then] you're a minor league; you're this and that.

"They're doing the right things and saying the right things, [for example] full cost of attendance for scholarships...but it's kind of a troubling road we're going down. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out."

How it plays out nationally is one thing. How it plays out at Fordham is another.

Fordham is a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference in all sports except for football, which competes in the Patriot League. Its men's basketball program has been in a slump for a good portion of the last two decades. Even at the best of times it's not going to bring in the type of revenue that a big-time program in a bigger conference would generate.

While we won't know for some time where this is all going, Fordham's mission, whether we're talking about men's basketball or any other sport, remains the same.

"I think for us we still have to say, 'This is the value of the Fordham education; this is what you're going to get,'" Roach said.

"We'll do certain things to keep up with the Big 5, especially when it comes to the marquee Atlantic 10 sports," he added

"We're not going to do it for all 22 sports. But that's OK. To an extent now we prioritize by who has scholarships. ... Some teams have partial NCAA limits, some don't have any."

Talk about reforming college athletics has, for the most part, taken place at the national level. Locally, specifically at Rose Hill, fans and alumni are focused on getting the men's basketball program going.

This year, Fordham will be entering its 20th season in the Atlantic 10. In 17 of 19 seasons in the league, the Rams have finished below .500. Still, Roach insists Fordham is in a good place being in the A-10.

In fact, he had high praise for the conference.

"I think Bernadette McGlade, our commissioner, has really done a great job of keeping the conference together, adding the right schools," he said.

"Six teams in the men's NCAA basketball tournament—that's pretty darn good. We've got some really good coaches. I think it's an exciting league."

 

Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Charles Costello covers the Fordham Rams for Bleacher Report. A full archive of his articles can be found hereFollow him on Twitter: @CFCostello.

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