Morning Five: 07.23.14 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 23rd, 2014

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  1. The dog days of summer mean that the Morning Fives in July and August typically consist of a somewhat mind-numbing combination of three things: 1) hot air (people saying things that they shouldn’t be saying, or saying them without the benefit of tact); 2) player movement (transfers; injuries; arrests); and 3) organizational movement (strategy pivots and programmatic shifts, in the hopes that nobody notices while they’re on vacation with the family or otherwise not thinking about college athletics). Today’s M5 will address each of these areas, for your thoughtful consideration and bemusement. October can’t get here soon enough.
  2. From the organizational movement department, the NCAA — which, due to its academic calendar construct, loves to release key information during the summer months, and especially on Fridays — announced late last week that its Board of Directors is set to take a vote next month that would ultimately give the five power conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12) greater autonomy over the future structure and workings of the NCAA. Let’s call this move what it is — administrative extortion, designed to give the revenue-producing schools more weight commensurate with their power and influence in return for keeping the NCAA in one piece. The power leagues have long chafed at the notion that 300 low-level schools could band together to prevent them from doing what they want to do (i.e., institute the $2,000 full cost of attendance stipend proposal that was DOA in 2011), and know that the NCAA (the organization itself, not a grouping of schools), overwhelmingly funded by the NCAA Tournament’s broadcast agreements, wouldn’t have much of a financial leg to stand on if those five conferences decided to do their own thing. The Yahoo! article linked above explains many of the proposed details, but the objective is clear here: the coup d’etat has begun in Indianapolis; just make sure to look up from your beachy pina colada to witness the culling.
  3. Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, a $700 million (annually) behemoth that the NCAA cannot afford to screw up, Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione was recently named the Chair of the Selection Committee for the 2015-16 season. So, a year away, as Utah athletic director Scott Barnes will hold the reins for the upcoming 2014-15 season. As Matt Norlander notes in the article, although the NCAA has done a solid job of moving away from the consistently white maleness of the Committee Chair in recent years (2009 Chair Dan Guerrero is Latino; 2010 Chair Gene Smith is African-American), it still hasn’t managed to cross the gender divide. Two members of the current committee — Conference USA’s Judy MacLeod and UNC-Asheville’s Janet Cone — would ostensibly have the inside track at the Chair in the next couple of rounds, but there are obviously no guarantees.
  4. The hot air department brings us to Castiglione’s conference commissioner, the Big 12′s Bob Bowlsby. During the conference’s football Media Days event on Monday in Dallas, Bowlsby expounded on the dirty little secret that anyone who closely follows collegiate athletics already knows but avoids discussion publicly: as he said, “cheating pays presently.” Noting that the NCAA Infractions Committee has not had a meeting in over a year, Bowlsby pounded the point home that if a school “seek[s] to conspire to certainly bend the rules, [it] can do it successfully and probably not get caught in most occasions.” He went on to defend the NCAA’s overall business model as a sustainable enterprise only in its current or near-current form, but the damage was done with respect to his pointed comments on cheating. While it’s difficult to test the veracity of Bowlsby’s overarching claim, it is much easier to determine how often the NCAA is doing its job with respect to policing infractions. A brief search of the organization’s Legislative Services Database shows that only two Division I schools — Howard and New Hampshire — have received NCAA penalties since January 1, 2014. Neither play FBS football, of course, and the sports involved were cross-country, gymnastics, volleyball and track and field. While again, it’s very hard to prove a negative, the absence of higher-profile and frankly, more, revenue-producing schools on that list, is more indicative of willful ignorance than of active compliance.
  5. And now, on to player movement. After eschewing a year at SMU to play with his older brother, Emmanuel Mudiay has reportedly signed a one-year deal worth $1.2 million to play in China. Brandon Jennings had trouble adjusting to the lifestyle of a professional and the culture shock of a new country (Italy) in 2008, but he turned out to be a fine player upon arrival to the NBA a year later. Mudiay’s year overseas will also be worth watching, but his international childhood (born in Zaire, speaks French) will surely help him adjust. As for players still in the US, Florida junior Devon Walker tore his ACL in practice late last week and will miss the entire 2014-15 season as a result. Notching seven starts on last year’s Final Four squad, Walker was expected to log significant minutes for a Gators team that has numerous holes to fill. His depth will be valuable to have a year from now too, though, and we wish him a speedy recovery.
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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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