NCAA should look very different in the not so distant future

By Erik Prado

Yesterday my colleague Aryn Braun wrote a column highlighting Northwestern’s Kain Colter’s recent movement to form a players union.

She said of a potential players union that “it probably scares the NCAA half to death.”  She’s right, and not only because of Colter’s movement.

Don’t be surprised if there is no NCAA football in 15 to 20 years.

Roughly one month ago, 58 percent of administrators from the big boy conferences in college athletics (ACC, Big 10, PAC-12, Big 12, SEC) voiced their support to give the conferences their own voting block.

Those five conferences dominate college athletics mainly because of their football-driven schools, but remember, not all schools field a football team. If one were to look at the second biggest sport, men’s basketball, they would find that there are 351 Division I teams in 32 conferences.

FBS football is king. It pulls in the viewers and the largest amounts of money. Schools that don’t have FBS teams are already at a financial disadvantage

Therefore, college athletics will be better off if the big conferences separate.

First, student-athletes will most likely get paid. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has called for the NCAA to give stipends to student-athletes. Some schools in the ACC, such as Virginia and North Carolina State are pondering the possibility of offering a $2,000 dollar stipend to their men’s basketball recruits.

Various school officials from smaller institutions have publicly said these stipends would cripple them financially, as they would be added costs to the scholarships.

What difference will separation make though? Small, non-football schools barely make money off their athletic programs today.

Since 2010, re-alignment in college football has been a hot topic. The Big Ten has added Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers. The SEC added Missouri and Texas A&M two years ago and the PAC-12 expanded as well. They all expanded to tap into more revenue streams.

The Big Ten Network is a moneymaker for the conference. In 2012, the conference had $315 million in revenue. Each member school, excluding Nebraska, received $24.6 million. The SEC’s revenue is expected to jump when the SEC Network launches this summer.

Television deals are causing conference profits to skyrocket, so you can see why Colter feels like players deserve a piece of the pie. This is not a new concept in American society.

This revenue sharing can more than pay for stipends for all student-athletes in the big conferences.

The argument against separation will be that athletes will jump at the chance to attend a big conference school, leaving very little talent for the little guys.

The answer to that is simple. The current NCAA landscape does not promote the amateurism the league so proudly claims, leaving true amateurs to fill the voids.

Football players are making millions for their universities. Video games are being made using their likenesses. Star players have their jerseys sold, albeit without their names. If someone were using your likeness, would you not want some of that money? Don’t lie to yourself by saying no.

The big conferences are going to eventually become larger than the NCAA itself. Separation needs to happen because if it does, it will restore the “amateurism” aspect of college athletics to many schools around the country, while letting the big football schools form a new, money driven league.

Erik is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @e_prada.