7 Reasons the NCAA's $2,000 Stipend Will Bust Super Conferences and the BCS
The changes in the NCAA rules announced this week will fundamentally change the structure of the the AQ conferences and the BCS.
To review: Schools across the country, from east to west and north to south—including the current champions in football, Auburn, as well as Connecticut, the men's basketball champion—have had problems with the NCAA rules associated with both academics and financial irregularities.
Enter the U.S. Department of Justice, who started asking questions about scholarships and what amounted to the practice of subsidizing players to play.
Not to be left out, Congress moved into the spotlight and held hearings about a variety of NCAA-related issues, including BCS fairness and conference realignment.
In response, university presidents moved to stem the hemorrhaging image and hedge the problems where they were occurring.
Jim Tressel was a quick casualty; others followed. Schools began to clean house and demand action.
Enter the NCAA, who looked at the problem and came up with two solutions.
The first is to give ear to the claims that many of the student athletes are not really students—just place-card holders on their way to the NFL, NBA or other pro sports.
To that complaint, the NCAA's board returned to basics with a renewed emphasis on academics, by approving a new four-year Academic Progress Rate cutline from 900 to 930. Many wanted it higher, at 950 or more.
That level of cutline was severe enough to eliminate defending men's basketball national champions UConn from postseason play this year.
There will be repercussions for eligibility for postseason play for many teams. Yesterday, the board agreed to a four-year plan to ease into the new requirements to lesson the impact.
But the biggest change, among the many, was the provision to allow schools to give student-athletes a $2,000-per-year stipend (payola, money, green) to offset school expenses.
Following are seven reasons this will destroy the BCS and bust the concept of super conferences.
Reason 1: Not All Schools Can Afford to Pay All Athletes
Boise State football
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Schools may be doing well in football, and they may even be making money from their football program, but not all schools make money or are even breaking even.
To give a $2,000 stipend to football players and not basketball players will be more than awkward in creating a special class of student on campus.
Add to that the women's sports. What schools can afford to pay $2,000 a year to ALL of their student athletes?
That will mean schools that do well at one sport will begin to suffer in recruiting, because even though it can afford to pay the football players, it can't afford to pay the soccer team or Rugby team.
Reason 2: Recruiting
BYU Rugby Camp
Recruiting will be severely hurt.
BYU Rugby won the national championship in 2009. They compete every year, along with Cal and others in a fierce sport of great athleticism. Will BYU, Cal and others have the money to pay what amounts to national championship-team players?
If BYU can't afford to pay their national championship-calibre Rugby players, where will they go? To a school that will pay them to play. The same goes for football, baseball, track and field, basketball and every other sport.
Recruiting will now be further complicated by the pay-to-play problem. If you don't think this is a problem, take a look at this.
BYU Rugby is a perennial powerhouse. In the last six years, here is how they have finished. If those players could get paid to play at the Universities of Hawaii or Alabama, how many would defect? One could be the difference between the national championship game and being an also-ran.
The same goes for basketball and all other sports.
USA Rugby Collegiate Championships
- 2011-USA Rugby Collegiate Championships Runners-Up
- 2010-USA Rugby Collegiate Championships Runners-Up
- 2009-USA Rugby Collegiate Championships Champions
- 2008-USA Rugby Collegiate Championships Runners-Up
- 2007-USA Rugby Collegiate Championships Runners-Up
- 2006-USA Rugby Collegiate Championships Runners-Up
Reason 3: State Schools Won't Have the Funding
Kansas State football
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One of the great success stories this year is Kansas State.
Kansas State's football team officially began play in 1896. While Kansas State moved along like many mid-west football programs, and though there were some great wins along the way in the 1920s and 1930s, by 1989 Kansas State had amassed the worst win-loss NCAA Division I record of 299–509–41.
Fortunes changed in 1989, when Bill Snyder became the head coach. He brought success and high rankings to a program that had seen nothing but failure year after year.
His coaching was highlighted by a No. 1 ranking during the 1998 season and a Big 12 Conference championship in 2003. Between the years of 1993 and 2003, Snyder's teams went 109–29–1 and attended eleven straight bowl games.
This year, Bill Snyder is back after a short term of retirement. With pressure on state budgets, state laws of fairness and some states not favoring football at all, where will the money come from for Kansas State to enjoy the resurgence and success it has today?
California has raised tuition twice in the last two years by a total of 22 percent. They are going through negotiations to cut retirement pay by 50 percent and raise the retirement age.
Who among California's state employees will favor giving Sacramento State University women's volleyball team $2,000 a head to play volleyball? What will happen to the state schools and their ability to compete in-state for athletes—let along regionally or nationally?
The rich will get richer, those depending on state budgets will get shut out, and along with it programs will suffer drastically.
Reason 4: Coaches Go Where the Money Is
Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow
Coaches, especially the best ones, go where the money is. "Show me the money" isn't the first thing they say, but it is always in the discussion.
If a school does not have the money to pay the student athletes, what school could attract an Urban Meyer? The Utes couldn't hold onto him.
The phrase "what would Jesus do" will quickly become "what would Urban Meyer do" regarding taking a coaching position. The name could easily be replaced with Lou Holtz, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine, Will Muschamp, Les Miles or Nick Saban. The latter three in a group of the highest-paid couches currently in NCAA football.
Where would they want to coach? Coaches don't coach for free, and quickly players won't play for free.
The best players will go where the best pay is, and to the best programs. A best program includes a well-rounded athletic department, where the school does well in several sports and attracts the best players in all sports.
The coaches will follow the money, and wins will follow the best coaches, and the money will follow the wins, and the best players will... follow the money.
Reason 5: Facilities Will Suffer in Trade for Pay to Play
Arizona Wildcat football
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
One of the problems with recruiting for some schools now is the facilities.
The University of Arizona, though a great school with a great climate (if you like the heat), can't compete in facilities for a recruit versus most of the rest of the Pac-12.
Where will the money go now? Will it go to the players in football, or to all the school's major sports or to facilities?
Facilities will again take a back seat. Schools that are struggling will lag further and further behind and year after year their facilities will deteriorate, while students are being paid to buy ice cream cones, trips to Disneyland, big screen TVs for their digs and gas for the car to go home on the weekend to visit their girl- or boyfriend.
Is this any way to run a football program, let alone an athletic department?
Pay-to-play will devastate the budget of the maintenance department, and the expansion and renovation area that will over time leave the winners with the new and improved facilities and the losers impoverished and unable to recruit and compete.
Reason 6: Prices Will Have to Go Up
ESPN College Gameday
Craig Jones/Getty Images
Where is the money to pay them going to come from?
Do the math. 120 FCS colleges, 100 players and $2,000 each is $24,000,000. What about basketball, volleyball, the 120-plus FBS colleges and other divisions.
Where is this money going to come from?
Increased prices. Ticket prices, television broadcasting rights, T-shirts, decals, jackets—even footballs with a school's logo will all have to have a premium on them that goes along with paying student athletes to play.
Television revenue will have to be renegotiated, and the proceeds divided among the schools. If the Texas Longhorn Network was a sore spot, wait until Baylor wants equal money with Kansas or Texas for its student athletes. Will Texas divvy up the spoils to give Kansas an equal shot at a five-star recruit?
Not so fast, my friend—they don't now, they won't in the future, either.
As far as Texas considers things, Kansas is on its own. So is the rest of the Big 12, and that is what nearly killed the Big 12 with Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri all leaving.
But that isn't even the beginning of the picture. Remember with the example of California and its problems?
What about states with a big school and a lot of little schools, like Colorado, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, New York, and even a few small states like Utah and Nevada? How will they divvy up the money?
Will tax payers in Idaho vote to support Boise State but not support Idaho State and Idaho? The same goes for every other state.
The result is that prices will rise across the board, from the ticket counter to the pay-per-view to every other aspect associated with every sport the NCAA offers.
Reason 7: Inequality of Programs and Fan Base
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
This brings us to the final reason. Inequality.
Inequality between the states that support football programs at universities, and inequality of the fan base that supports those schools. The University of Wyoming has a vastly different fan base than does the University of Texas or UCLA or Southern Cal.
The same can be said for plenty of schools in big-name conferences.
Some of them are Vanderbilt, Duke, Wake Forest and Boston College. Small enrollments mean a small, dedicated alumni base in the future that will support the school with donations and game attendance.
'Does a team travel well' is not just a cliche—it is a fact of life that stems from the wealth and size of the alumni and population the school serves.
The only survival scenario for teams like Northwestern, Villanova, Providence and Seton Hall is equal revenue sharing. With the pressure on all states, fans and schools, how willing will each school be to divide up the money they earn with the smaller schools?
This will lead to: realignment and dissolution of the current conference structure.
The $2,000 Stipend Will Further Separate the Haves from the Have-Nots
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
In the end, the $2,000 stipend will only aggravate the difference between the "haves" and the "have-nots."
Conferences will shift around and change their rules to try to keep members in, but it won't work. The big schools from the big states with the big money will pay their players. The smaller schools won't be able to afford to.
That will be a simple fact of life.
The middle schools may pay their football team, and even basketball team, but what about the girls' teams? Is that equal treatment under federal law?
Ok, hell, here come the lawyers and ACLU.
For the seven reasons listed, the $2,000 stipend will kill football as we know it. Rivalries will be lost, tradition abandoned and conferences dissolved.
We may well also see an FBS with fewer than 64 teams and an FCS with 180, while lesser colleges give up football or athletics all together.
As for the BCS, it is dead.
It may exist for another year or two, or maybe three or four. And then the impact of coaching changes, player recruitment and rich schools with the money paying their athletes will take its toll.
Only a few will be left to compete on the national scale.
Who will they be? The ones like Notre Dame and BYU, Texas and others who have their own revenue stream that they can dedicate to paying their players.
The rest will fall by the wayside to history.
And Kansas State? Bill Snyder won't be able to save them or resurrect them like he has this year, and football will be the worse for it.
So will all of the sports in the NCAA.