The NCAA is Changing — With or Without a Division IV

Posted by Chris Johnson (@chrisdjohnsonn) on November 4th, 2013

Division I college athletics are entering a period of change. Anyone who pays attention knows this to be true. And those who don’t, well, surprise! Acknowledging the prospect of change is one thing; knowing exactly how the NCAA will change is entirely another. As recently as this summer, conference commissioners hinted at the possibility of the formation of a new NCAA subdivision. It was to be called Division IV, reports suggested, and it would be created with the express purpose of allowing wealthier schools with more resources to operate under a different set of rules. The idea that all of Division I – whose institutions range from penny-pinching programs like Grambling State to, um, Texas –  should be forced to abide by the same rules always seemed silly. Conference commissioners were simply airing the obvious truth that’s been kept below the surface over years of clunky, uneven, inefficient NCAA governance.

Momentum behind the Division IV concept seems to have subsided. The possibility the NCAA will change remains high. (AP)

The big boys wanted their own sandbox to play in, somewhere the little guys couldn’t impede the passage of important measures such as cost-of-attendance stipends or unlimited training table meals. They wanted to be able to make decisions about rules and regulations without having to worry about smaller schools with comparatively microscopic budgets – including one so far removed from the major conference realm it asks its students to fork up extra money to help allay the “financial emergency” within its athletic department – getting in the way. All of this made sense. A new subdivision of college athletics was coming, and we were all going to need to learn how to live with it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 09.26.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 26th, 2013

morning5

  1. A random late September day was an odd time for the tried-and-true “baseball model” argument to once again rear its ugly head, but Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney did his part in making a discussion of one-and-done headline-worthy on Wednesday. His stated premise is one that we’ve heard hundreds of times before: that the NBA (and interestingly, he also mentions the NFL, which is usually immune from this argument) and colleges should work together to allow elite basketball and football players to enter the “pro ranks” — whether through the minor leagues, IMG training, or whatever else — immediately out of high school. As he puts it, “if an athlete wants to professionalize themselves, professionalize themselves.” Forgetting the dripping irony implicit in comments from someone who has done more to “professionalize” his conference than any other administrator, he relies on the value of collegiate “brands that have been built over 100 years” to suggest that college athletics will be just fine without the star power of Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, and the rest. Here’s the thing: they won’t be. While it’s true that Michigan fans will continue to watch Michigan football in the same way that Kentucky fans will watch Kentucky basketball regardless of the talent wearing those uniforms, the rest of the country will not. Casual fans of both sports want to see stars, the “next big thing,” and as we already know from the awful preps-to-pros era of college basketball (roughly 1997-2005), the game suffered as a result of the loss of its best players before they ever made it to campus.
  2. Now, this isn’t to say at all that league rules forcing basketball players to spend a “gap year” between high school and the pros in college, overseas, or in the D-League is fair to them either — the above argument relates more to what’s best for the sport of college basketball rather than the elite players themselves. As such, Dana O’Neil gives the flip side of the debate, which is to ask what true positive effect does that single year between the ages of 18 and 19 have on NBA Draftable players like Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker? She figures that Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel lost approximately $2 million as a result of his knee injury last season, but she doesn’t address the money that #1 pick Anthony Bennett made for himself because of his one successful year at UNLV (the same dichotomy might be shown in a comparison between the stock drop of UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad versus the rise of Kansas’ Ben McLemore). Still, her point about the NBA protecting itself from draft mistakes is a salient one — teams hope to avoid the next Kwame Brown by evaluating men playing against other men — but her underlying question as to “the point” of the one year in college seems forced. The point is that the one-and-done rule is actually better for nearly all parties involved except for the tiny percentage of highly-evaluated high schoolers whose stock ends up dropping during that one season — it’s better for the NBA, its teams, college basketball, its teams, and even some of the players themselves (the ones, like Anthony Bennett and Kyrie Irving, whom it helps). Two years would be even better.
  3. We mentioned yesterday that SI.com‘s Andy Glockner is unveiling his top 20 current college basketball programs this week, using a methodology that includes historical and contemporary success, sustainability, budget, facilities, league affiliation, fan base, and recruiting pipeline. The biggest surprise in our view in the #16-20 grouping was the inclusion of Illinois at #19, but his latest group has a couple more interesting placements. At #15 was Memphis, which no doubt has a great fan base and facilities, but my goodness, it’s tough to swallow a program that has underachieved relative to its talent in each of its head coach’s four seasons on campus. The other peculiar placement is certainly UCLA at #12, behind a football-first school of Florida at #11 and back-to-back Sweet Sixteens Indiana (somewhere in the top 10). With a brand new Pauley Pavilion, this is probably based on some hesitation about Steve Alford as the new head man in Westwood, but if he can prove to have even an average recruiting touch in Southern California, it would be hard to buy this program falling outside the top 10. We’re looking forward to his rankings on Thursday — how will he handle North Carolina and Syracuse — do they fall into the second five behind Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville and Michigan State?
  4. Arkansas‘ Bud Walton Arena suffered a good bit of water damage due to torrential rains in the area last Friday, and as a result the men’s and women’s basketball teams have been forced to hold preseason practice sessions at the school’s PE/Rec building. While flooding of a school’s home arena isn’t a typical occurrence, the outsourcing of the team’s workouts to the intramural courts highlights the school’s need for a permanent basketball practice facility. Arkansas remains the only of the 14 SEC programs without one, and the Razorbacks’ 15-year long dalliance with mediocrity is partially to blame, especially from a recruiting standpoint. The damage to the arena isn’t expected to be long-term, certainly good news for the Fayette-nam Rim Rockers and all the other intramural stalwarts tired of ceding their best courts to the SEC’s most middling program.
  5. One of the best health stories of the past few years in our sport has been that of BYU’s Dave Rose. He was one of the very small percentage of survivors of pancreatic cancer, having a large tumor removed from the organ back in 2009. He recently spent another few days in the hospital after a six-month scan revealed a few more cancerous spots on his pancreas, and the Salt Lake Tribune filled us in on how he is feeling heading into a new season. Rose has proven to be someone with an eminently positive attitude, and it shines through in the piece. Still, a relapse from his remission with such an aggressive disease is cause for concern. We will certainly send equally positive thoughts his way, and hope for the best as his team heads into what should be a quite promising season on the hardwood.
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Catching Our Breath: Conference Realignment Scenarios as of Tuesday Morning

Posted by rtmsf on September 20th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences and a frequent contributor.

With this weekend’s out-of-the-blue bombshell that Pittsburgh and Syracuse were leaving the Big East behind in order to accept membership in the ACC, the wave of conference realignment that is sweeping the nation has reached critical mass. Even with last year’s moves turning the Pac-10 into the Pac-12, adding a twelfth team to the Big Ten (among other things), and this summer’s talk of Texas A&M bolting for the SEC, there was still a chance that all of this would settle down and we’d be looking at a conference landscape that mostly looked pretty similar. No more. While the Big 12 has been on a death watch for weeks now, all of a sudden the Big East has jumped its place in line and the conference is scrambling to maintain some sense of order while its member institutions look for soft landing spots.  And with A&M to the SEC seemingly an inevitability, and with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State at least (if not Texas and Texas Tech as well) likely headed to the Pac-(fill-in-your-choice-of-numbers-here), the era of superconferences appears to be upon us. So, before things change again, let’s take a quick look around the nation at the conferences as they stand today, how they could change tomorrow and how that will effectively alter the college basketball landscape.

courtesy: The Football God

Big East

Today: TCU joins the conference next season (although apparently TCU and the Mountain West have had a conversation or two in recent days about how good they had things before the Big East got in the way), with Pittsburgh and Syracuse as of now bound to the conference for this year and the next two (with buyout negotiations likely still to be considered), putting the league at 17 basketball teams (nine in football) for 2012-13 and 2013-14, then down to 15 (seven in football) starting in 2014-15.

Tomorrow: Those numbers above are assuming that the ACC doesn’t snap up Connecticut and Rutgers (the two most mentioned names) and West Virginia isn’t able to find safe refuge as the 14th member of the SEC. In short, football in the Big East is in severe trouble, as are some of the historic rivalries in one of the nation’s premier college basketball conferences. If the ACC picks off a couple more Big East football programs, the conference has to start over more or less from scratch, with Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati left scrambling for a home. If there is a way for the Big East to stave off football extinction, it is likely at the hands of the death of the Big 12. If Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech take up with the Pacific Coast, maybe the Big East snaps up Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Missouri, and can carry on as a (hopefully) rebranded league.

Basketball: Nevertheless, there could still be a strong basketball conference here, regardless of what happens to Big East football. If Georgetown, Villanova, St. John’s, Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence, DePaul, and Notre Dame want, they could maintain a pretty solid eight-team conference among themselves, (provided ND isn’t somehow pressured into joining the Big Ten), or even snap up a handful of teams from the Atlantic 10 (Xavier, Dayton, St. Joseph’s, etc.) and carry on that way. Still, while hoops fans can console themselves with the prospect of North Carolina, Syracuse, Duke and Pittsburgh matching up with each other on Semifinal Saturday of the ACC Tournament, the sad fact is that the spectacle that is the Big East Tournament at the Garden is about to take a major hit.

ACC

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Countdown to Armageddon: Is Secession From the NCAA Inevitable?

Posted by rtmsf on July 7th, 2011

In the past eighteen months, those of us who love college sports — NCAA Division I sports, specifically — have witnessed a series of near-misses that has threatened to overhaul and redefine the games we care about so dearly.  The first shot across the bow was the NCAA’s presumptuous near-expansion to a 96-team NCAA Tournament, an idea hatched with dollar signs in its eyes and only quashed when the public and media covering the sport threatened to go Vancouver at the organization’s Indianapolis headquarters.  The second shot was last summer’s conference realignment madness, a tumultuous sequence of fits and starts that didn’t as much change the landscape of the six power conferences as it left everyone shaken by just how brazen and inequitable the system underlying major college athletics has become.

Is the NCAA Tournament As We Know It On Its Last Legs? (Getty/A. Lyons)

The point of these two events — neither of which resulted in sea changes, mind you — is that, as the power and influence of the alpha dogs of college athletics rises, we appear to be pushing closer to a tipping point where we’ll no longer discuss what almost happened rather than what did happen.  The 74 basketball schools (and 66 football schools) that comprise the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC wield the vast majority of everything — dollars, budgets, fans, television contracts, merchandising, etc.  And as their profit margins continue to increase, these schools and leagues are correspondingly irked that their governing body, the NCAA, is getting in their way.  Whether they see the future of intercollegiate sports as allowing the payment of players or involving agents or full-cost scholarships or third-party enforcement of rules, these power schools know that ideas ultimately favorable to their bottom lines are often at odds with the other 250+ NCAA D-I schools.  This is why, despite existing statements to the contrary, many observers believe that the endgame of all of this wrangling will result in a complete secession of the schools from the major conferences to their own separate entity.  Call it the Confederate Collegiate Athletics Association, if you like, but don’t ignore the possibility.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney was recently quoted in a piece by Steve Wieberg at USA Today, and it’s abundantly clear that he (and likely the other power conference commissioners) see an Armageddon-like future to blow up the NCAA as his ‘nuclear option.’

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Morning Five: 04.21.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 21st, 2010

  1. The pickings are getting a little lean on the NBA Draft front, as Louisville’s Samardo Samuels, Oklahoma’s Tiny Gallon and Nevada’s Luke Babbitt all declared yesterday.  Babbitt has the best shot at becoming a first rounder, as Gallon and Samuels are not considered by most experts to be in that range.  By our count, these three players make a total of 62 early entries for thirty guaranteed first round spots in the June 24 NBA Draft.  Although the May 8 withdrawal deadline is a complete and utter joke, we hope that many of these players will find the proper counsel needed to make an informed decision about their realistic prospects.
  2. This situation involving the new women’s head coach at Missouri could get interesting.
  3. The three reasons that Kyle Singler decided to buck the trend and return to school despite being a guaranteed first round pick?  1) Duke; 2) improvement; 3) his senior year.  If he played anywhere other than Duke, everyone would be holding this kid up as everything that’s great about college basketball.
  4. Keep an ear to any choice quotes coming from Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney today, as he will be holding a press conference in Arizona as part of the annual BCS meetings.  Question we’d pay a reporter to ask: why, sir, must you and your ilk try to ruin everything?
  5. Butler’s Brad Stevens will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the Chicago Cubs’ May 10 game against the Florida Marlins, and as if that weren’t enough, he’ll also lead the crowd in the singing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch.  Afterward, Stevens will save a kitten from a tree outside the stadium and offer a homeless man a job.  Seriously, though, good for him so long as he does a little better with the pitch than the Prez did
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Morning Five: 02.08.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2010

  1. Want to know what’s wrong with UNC this year?  One ACC coach laid out all of the dirty laundry about Roy Williams’ team in an interview with the Washington Post.  Since the coach was speaking as someone who had faced Carolina once already this season, and the article came out Saturday morning, this means that it was one of the following four: Seth Greenberg (Virginia Tech), Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech), Oliver Purnell (Clemson), Sidney Lowe (NC State) or Dino Gaudio (Wake Forest).  Lowe lost to the Heels in their only game and Gaudio still seems too new to make those kinds of statements about that program, even anonymously.  That leaves Greenberg, Hewitt and Purnell, and our money is on Greenberg.  For some reason it just sounds like him (and the WaPo probably has a closer relationship with him than the others).
  2. Florida State announced on Sunday that they will be vacating wins from ten sports that involved 61 athletes accused of academic misconduct during the 2006-07 academic year.  Most of the news will focus on football coach Bobby Bowden losing 12 wins from his career total, but of interest to us is that the basketball program will lose all 22 of its wins from that year as well — one from the ACC Tourney, and two from the NIT.
  3. Based on everything that Isiah Thomas says here about his lack of interest in the LA Clippers job, we fully expect him to see him stalking the sidelines (and the interns!) at the Staples Center next season.
  4. NCAA 96: a voice of reason on expansion of the NCAA Tournament from an unlikely source, the Commissioner of the Big Ten, Jim Delaney.  The key takeaway from his discussion with TSN is ‘let’s learn more about this.’  Exactly.  The more time spent talking to stakeholders as well as THE FANS is simple but seemingly missing from this idea — it helps to remove avarice from the equation and gives reasoned consideration to the premise that just because an idea will be profitable makes it a good thing.
  5. Pat Forde writes that if the COY award were handed out today, there would be no doubt who should win it – Jim Boeheim.  He won’t get any argument from us.  Syracuse received 83 votes in the preseason AP Poll (good for 31st) and 111 votes in the ESPN/Coaches Poll (25th).  The Orange are now 23-1, leading the Big East Conference, and could potentially be Boeheim’s best team ever.  That’s right.  Look through this list and find a better team.  It’s hard to do.
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