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Report: NCAA Hopes To Give Big Conferences More Autonomy By August

Cubes - 267 - AUTONOMYAccording to Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, the push to allow big leagues and big schools more autonomy within the NCAA structure is just months away from reaching its conclusion.  Hatch told ESPN.com that wealthier leagues (meaning the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) will be granted “a range” of autonomy hopefully as soon as August.

“We’re not talking about full autonomy,” Hatch said.  ”We’re talking about a range of issues.”

The biggest issue is the right for the big schools in the big leagues to offer full-cost-of-tuition scholarships to football players.  What that dollar amount will be has yet to be decided, though most seem to believe two thousand bucks per semester is a likely endgame.  Where things go from there — lawsuits over Title IX, lawsuits from players of non-revenue sports, a new players union — is anyone’s guess.

Hatch is part of a seven-member “steering committee” charged with making enough change to please the NCAA’s highest-dollar programs.  As we’ve said for years now, there was never any real chance of a full breakaway from the NCAA.  Such a move would have required too much work on the part of the big schools to build a new structure from the bottom up.  No, the most likely outcome was a fix within the current model.  Hatch believes that’s coming, though the new autonomy will only go so far.

“There’s a range of things that would not be under autonomy.  Trying to distinguish what is and what isn’t is our current challenge.  We hope the (NCAA Division I) board (of directors) can approve this by the summer.”

Tip: Don’t expect the conferences to be allowed to re-write the NCAA rule book carte blanche.

It will be interesting to see how the upcoming changes will play out over time.  Some — like Alabama coach Nick Saban — believe the biggest schools should simply create their own super-division at the top of the NCAA food chain and schedule only amongst themselves.  The smaller schools don’t want to lose the revenue that goes along with being an FBS-level football program (booster donations go way up) nor do they want to lose the big paydays involved with visiting the stadia of America’s top teams (like Georgia State traveling to Tuscaloosa to face Saban’s Bama squad).

The current movement is designed to keep all the current FBS teams as part of one club, albeit with some members a lot more monied than others.

At first blush, it would appear that big-money programs offering full-cost-of-tuition scholarships would more easily out-recruit the little fish.  But, for the most part, the best recruits in the country are going to select SEC and Big Ten schools over Sun Belt and MAC schools anyway.  So how much more powerful can the most powerful schools really become?

Again, it will be interesting — very interesting — to see how this new autonomous structure plays out over the course of the next few years.

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NCAA Adopts New Rules And Tweaks Recruiting Process

rule-book-holyIt was less than a year ago that the NCAA attempted to streamline its rule book and allow recruiters to have more freedom.  Unfortunately, no one at the NCAA had really run the changes by athletic directors.  So when the recruiting system was somewhat deregulated, coaches and ADs yelped that the new landscape would be too lawless and too expensive.  So those rules were walked back.

Now the NCAA has made some new changes to its  rule book with more input from the troops on the ground, if you will.  The new rules will…

 

*  Allow football players to participate in eight hours per week of required weight training and conditioning during an eight-week period each summer.  Up to two of those eight hours can be dedicated to film review.

*  Prohibit school staff members from attending all-star games or any activities associated with those games.

*  Establish an extended dead period when no face-to-face recruiting can take place.  The new, lengthier dead period will extend from mid-December through mid-January.  This winter the dates will be December 16th through January 15th.

*  Establish a 14-day dead period in late June and early July for FBS-level schools.

*  Allow schools to pay for meals for up to four family members who accompany a recruit on an official visit.

 

All these changes are likely to be supported by the majority of college coaches.  For example, the first rule — eight hours of summer work each week — simply gets football in line with college basketball, a sport that’s already adopted workload guidelines for its offseason.  Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze believes this will allow coaches to hold players “more accountable on the things like academics, social issues and things that may arise” during summer months.

The rules lengthening the December dead period and establishing one for June/July will provide coaches (and recruits) the opportunity to spend more uninterrupted time with their families during the holidays and summer.  That’s good for everyone.  Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen has been one of the biggest proponents of such a summer break, though he favored schools setting their own dates.  Locking in the same two-week period for everyone makes more sense, however.

The meals-for-family rule could be an interesting one to watch.  This might be a small first step toward allowing big schools to do one thing (like provide steak and lobster to a recruit’s family, for example) while the smaller-budgeted schools do another (“This is from Chef Boyardee!”).  The NCAA’s release on the subject does not mention any type of financial cap on what the schools serve.

Overall, this is a much more measured approach to rule changes than the laissez-faire plan NCAA leaders tried to adopt earlier.

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CBS Ranks Every Team 1 To 126

gfx - by the numbersHow good is your favorite team?  Or, for some of you, how bad is your favorite team?

CBSSports.com has decided to rank all 126 FBS schools today.  Yes, all 126.  A silly exercise?  Of course it is.  But it’s an exercise guaranteed to generate clicks, views, visits and comments (which is pretty much all that most media companies care about these days).

You can click, view and visit to see the whole list right here.  Regarding the SEC’s teams…

 

1.  Alabama

6.  LSU

10.  Texas A&M

12.  Georgia

19.  South Carolina

20.  Ole Miss

22.  Florida

35.  Auburn

36.  Missouri

41.  Vanderbilt

48.  Arkansas

55.  Mississippi State

56.  Tennessee

81.  Kentucky

 

We got nuthin’ to add.  Just thought you might find it interesting.

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Report: New Themes Emerge During NCAA, Athletic Directors Meeting

three-men-talkingYesterday we told you that NCAA president Mark Emmert was promising big changes to the way his organization governs Division I athletics.  Last night, Dan Wolken of USA Today broke down some of the major themes that — according to D-I athletic directors — came up during this week’s conversations between the NCAA, faculty athletics representatives, and ADs.

According to Wolken, his sources claim those themes are:

 

1.  “There is zero momentum to the long-theorized notion of leaving the NCAA and forming a new organization.”  If you read this site, that won’t surprise you.  We’ve been pooh-poohing secession talk since launching MrSEC.com in 2008.  That said, according to Wolken’s sources, we’re not likely to see a completely new super-division at the top of the D-I tree, either.  “Rather a new subset within Division I would be mostly about flexibility and voting power to enact policies without pushback from schools that don’t have FBS football programs.”  In other words, there would be no separation between the haves and have-nots on the playing field.  There would, however, be a separation when it comes to voting on such things as full-cost-of-tuition scholarships.  The new super-division that we have prophesied would be more of a backroom split than a front porch division.

2.  The idea of each sport having “some autonomy to deal with its unique issues” is being kicked around, a la the US Olympic Committee.  Swimmers and basketballers aren’t held to the exact same rules and Wolken says “there’s some consensus that governing football and men’s basketball by the same set of rules as, say, tennis no longer makes much sense.”

3.  Everyone is still hung up on how exactly to provide more financial aid to student-athletes.  “Though there’s virtual unanimity that athletes should, and ultimately will, receive some sort of stipend above the value of their scholarship, there’s still disagreement about how to implement it.”  A stipend?  A full-cost-of-tuition scholarship?  Something else?  There appears to be no consensus on how to get from A to B even though everyone realizes that B is the ultimate destination.

4.  No one is sure what — if any — changes could be in the offing for the NCAA’s rules on agent-player relationships.

 

The big takeaway appears to be that there will be no big breakaway from the NCAA.  Also, a new super-division of the richest schools could be more of a behind-the-scenes power bloc than a front-and-center split between the mega-conferences (SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12) and the rest of the FBS leagues.

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Smart Talks Hurry-Up; Numbers Suggest Bama’s “Struggles” Slightly Exaggerated

gfx - by the numbersEver since Texas A&M made Alabama’s defense look mortal last season, hurry-up offenses have been hailed as the chink in the Tide’s otherwise impregnable armor.  Unfortunately for the rest of college football, that theory appears to be a bit overblown.

“You guys have made a big deal about this up-tempo,” said Bama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart yesterday.  “Several teams in our league are very effective at it.  You’ve got to address the issue but it’s always been an issue.  For us, it’s more about how to get better at it more often.  Seven times in a year instead of two times in a year.”

Smart then added: “I’d still rather that than the triple-option Georgia Southern come running through here.”  The Eagles ran for 302 yards against Alabama in a 45-21 2011 loss.

While Texas A&M did hand the Crimson Tide its only defeat while using the hurry-up last season, the results for other fast-paced teams have been mixed:

 

*  Over the last three seasons, Alabama has faced six FBS teams that averaged more than 69 plays per game.  Of those six teams (Ole Miss, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas A&M last year as well as Duke and Mississippi State in 2010), only A&M scored a victory.  Of those five teams that lost, none of them scored more than 14 points.  (A&M scored 29 in their 29-24 win in Tuscaloosa last November.)

*  Since 2010, only seven FBS teams have managed to top their season average in plays-per-game against the Tide: LSU in 2012 (a UA win), Kent State and Penn State in 2011 (both UA wins), and Duke, Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State in 2010 (only LSU beat Alabama).

*  Over the last three seasons, 16 FBS teams have managed to run 60 or more plays against Alabama (though not all of those teams ran a hurry-up).  Of those 16, only three won their games with the Tide (Texas A&M in 2012, LSU and Auburn in 2010).  On the flipside, that does mean that three of Alabama’s five losses since 2010 have come against teams that were able to get off 60+ plays.

*  Finally, those 16 FBS squads that managed to run 60+ plays versus Bama averaged just 13.1 points per game.  The 21 FBS schools who failed to hit the 60-play mark averaged just 9.3 points per game against the Tide.

 

Did Texas A&M have success in the hurry-up against Alabama?  Yes.  Georgia had some success going up-tempo only to lose 32-28 in the SEC Championship Game.  Ole Miss faired better than most with Hugh Freeze’s hurry-up, but the Rebels could still muster just 14 points against Alabama.

Texas A&M was a unique combination — a fast team with a tremendous quarterback who happened to catch Alabama after an emotional road win at LSU.  Other fast-paced teams haven’t been so lucky when battling Smart’s defense.  That might be why he doesn’t seem to be frenzied as the media when it comes to the “Bama versus the hurry-up” storyline.

“When teams go fast tempo there’s a lot of things they can’t do at the line,” Smart said.  “We try to create an advantage for us by being able to give them negative plays and I think if we can do that it can hurt them with their up-tempo.  We’re excited about the challenge of facing it.”

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Bowlsby, Swofford Suggest A New Division Could Be Coming

packed-bag-ready-to-closeEarlier today we told you that a) ACC commissioner John Swofford was talking about “need-based” financial aid for student-athletes yesterday and b) we still believe a new division of “haves” — apart from the “have-nots” — will eventually be formed at the high end of the current FBS subdivision.

Now we can tell you that Swofford has taken a stronger tone in his speech today and that Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby has also started talking about a new division.

We’ll start with Swofford — commissioner of the least wealthy of the five mega-wealthy leagues remaining — who explained why a new division might be preferable to a full break from the NCAA:

 

“(A new division is) a potential way of making a change that would basically retain the fundamental NCAA oversight and umbrella, if you will.  If the five conferences were to break off, I mean, that’s a complicated move.  You’d have to, in essence, duplicate the NCAA in some form or fashion, and then what does that mean for intercollegiate athletics? 

So if you’ve got another division, if that’s the answer within the NCAA, you can maneuver and find an appropriate way, I think, to address (issues like player stipends).”

 

As we’ve noted many times before, a full-scale exodus from the NCAA would require the power conferences to adopt a new rule book, hire new leaders, hire new enforcement officials, etc, etc.  That’s just not going to happen.

A new division will happen.  The biggest conferences — and one wonders where the ACC is on this considering Swofford’s comments of a day ago — want to be given the power to decide for themselves who they pay, how much they pay, and how they go about doing it.  But a proposed stipend for athletes was gunned down at the NCAA level because the presidents at the many “have-not” schools can’t afford to increase scholarships or pay stipends to athletes.  And they also don’t want to be left behind on the recruiting trail by schools who can afford it.

For that reason, the biggest conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12, and SEC) will have to threaten to leave altogether — Mike Slive hinted at a break last week — before the NCAA presidents vote to allow them to just form their own division at the highest level of the NCAA food chain.

For now, it’s politics.  Smaller school presidents can say, “Go ahead and leave” knowing that the bigger schools probably can’t or won’t.  The bigger school presidents will have to bluff otherwise.

Moving from the ACC to the Big XII, Bowlsby said today that a new “Division 4″ is possible for the top football schools and that there is “unanimity” among the FBS commissioners on that point.  (That’s interesting, considering that would include the commissioners of leagues like the Sun Belt and MAC.)  He said that leaving the NCAA isn’t likely “except as a last resort.”

Slive last week.  Bowlsby this week.  The NCAA presidents nuked stipends last time around.  Now the big boys — as noted above — are starting to talk about breaking away entirely.  Again, it’s politics.  Or high-stakes poker.

More from Bowlsby:

 

“I think we all have a sense that transformative change has to happen…

We’ve made it too easy to get into Division 1 and too easy to stay there… Northern Iowa and Texas aren’t much alike.”

 

The biggest commissioner appear ready to start taking a John Denver approach to things.  “All their bags are packed, they’re ready to go.”

 

John Denver ~ Leaving on a Jet Plane

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ACC Commish Talks “Need-Based” Funding Increases For Athletes

offering-cashMike Slive has been banging the drum for more than a year for his schools to be given the right to offer additional financial aid to their student-athletes.  The SEC commissioner has repeatedly spoken of the need to provide full-cost-of-tuition scholarships.  He did so again during SEC Media Days in a message that many viewed as a warning shot across the NCAA’s bow.  The commish said that view wasn’t “totally inaccurate.”

ACC commissioner John Swofford, long an ally of Slive, spoke yesterday about “the financial well-being of scholarship athletes,” but he seemed a bit more timid in his approach bringing up the idea of “need-based” funding:

 

“We’ve been talking about this nationally for several years now without finding something that works.  It’s very difficult to look at it in terms of a sport — or two sports — just from a legal standpoint with Title IX, and what’s appropriate and what’s legal and what’s moral and how you address that.  Should it be based just on need?  A lot of people have been supporting of enhancing a scholarship if it’s just based on need…

I’m not for paying players.  I don’t think that’s what college athletics is about.  But I am for looking — very diligently — at ways to enhance the scholarship itself, whether it’s need-based, or whether it’s a simple stipend, or some other way to approach it such as going to the full cost of attendance.

But you’ve got to be able to find something that enough people can accept and support in order to move it forward.  So far we have not been able to do that.”

 

Need-based increases are not what Slive and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany have proposed in recent years.  So why isn’t Swofford following their lead?  Well, Slive and Delany happen to captain the two richest ships in the college sports ocean.  Swofford, meanwhile, is behind the wheel of the poorest — and we use that term loosely — of the five remaining major conferences.

Slive and Delany know that their schools can and will be able to afford to provide full-cost-of-tuition scholarships.  Doing so would also further provide a recruiting advantage for their member institutions.  Swofford’s full roster of schools might not be able to afford to buy such an advantage for themselves right now.

We’ll tackle this issue a bit more tomorrow, but for now, we find it interesting that Swofford is talking about “need-based” increases.

As we’ve stated on numerous occasions, we believe the biggest conferences will eventually form their own new division at the deep end of the current FBS pool.  Those schools will then provide greater financial assistance to their student-athletes.

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Report: New Playoff Selection Committee To Include Current A.D.s

u-turnMatt Hayes of The Sporting News is reporting today that “an industry source” has told his publication that “current athletic directors will be used on the committee” that will select the four teams who will take part in college football’s new playoff system each year.  As Hayes points out, that is a complete reversal of what college football’s powerbrokers — including College Football Playoff executive Bill Hancock — have been saying for months.

The plan calls for an athletic director to leave the room when his/her own school is up for debate.  According to Hayes’ source, however, an AD can stay in the room and take part in the discussion if a team from his/her own conference is the topic of conversation.

Get ready for more controversy, folks.

As we’ve stated from the outset, the selection of the four teams for the new playoff will be even more controversial than the BCS formula that was used to match America’s top two teams.  Now you’ll have sitting athletic directors weighing in on who’s invited and who isn’t.  Unless the panel includes an AD from each of the 11 FBS conferences (and from Notre Dame, as Steve Spurrier might point out), you’ll have fans claiming that the SEC was blackballed by a Big Ten AD, the Pac-12 was blackballed by an SEC AD, and so on.

And even if you do have an AD on hand to represent each FBS conference (and Notre Dame), there will still be room for — let’s say — Georgia fans to claim that Florida’s AD didn’t push hard enough for the Dawgs while he served as the SEC’s rep on the committee.

It’s only going to get worse from here.

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Miami Columnist: Leave Urban Meyer Alone

Urban MeyerUrban Meyer’s actions or inactions during his time at the University of Florida has generated much attention and criticism in the wake of murder charges against former Gator Aaron Hernandez.  Miami Herald columnist David J. Neal will hear none on it.  His message? Leave Urban Meyer alone.

 

There’s no question Meyer could have done more to discipline Hernandez and the entire herd of Florida football players as familiar with the booking room as books for class. Taking fewer risks in recruiting kids with longer yellow sheets than transcripts. Maybe, once in Gainesville, a punitive approach closer to Zero Tolerance. Maybe assign each member in Meyer’s SEC-sized army of assistants a few players to check on nightly.

Meyer did none of those things. He didn’t do anything more than he did because nobody demanded he do so while winning two national titles. He knew what people who controlled his employment cared about.

Somehow, I’m not envisioning the Gator boosters paying the bulk of Meyer’s total pay telling him, “Urban, get your arms around this now.” Do you think the school administration did with any bass in their voice?

 

Neal proceeds to take fans and boosters to task at Miami, Florida State and Nebraska for actions involving former players.  He points out that schools would love to be like Stanford – mix of good athletics and elite academics – but most of them tend to focus on one or the other and throws Alabama into the mix as a point of comparison.

 

…if it’s a choice between being Harvard or the University of Chicago and being Alabama or Ohio State, your garden variety alumni, boosters and fans of the 126 FBS schools take the latter. Which might explain why Harvard guys head two branches of our government while Alabama and Ohio State alums gripe about the government and work for the companies founded by University of Chicago graduates.

 

MrSEC weighed in on the Meyer/Hernandez situation earlier this week.  ”To suggest that asking questions about Meyer’s tenure at Florida is blaming him for Hernandez’s actions later in life is an exaggeration that simplifies and misrepresents what I and so many others are now writing.”

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NCAA Prez To Form Athletic Director Council To Aid In NCAA Decisions

round-tableWhen NCAA President Mark Emmert and the voting body of NCAA presidents passed recruiting reform measures a few months back it was hailed as a long overdue move by fans and many in the media.  Unfortunately, most athletic directors and coaches — at least those not overseeing the richest of rich football programs — felt that the NCAA and its presidents had gone too far, too fast, without consulting any of the people who actually make their living on the front lines, where these rule changes would be felt.

As a result, those pages on recruiting that were ripped from the NCAA rule book — with Emmert playing the role of Mr. Keating from “Dead Poets Society” — were taped right back into the tome just a few months later.

So now Emmert is taking a different approach.  The always-under-fire prez announced this weekend that he will form a council of 10 athletic directors who will meet with him regularly.  Rather than leaving rule book changes to the college presidents, Emmert’s new council of ADs will weigh in and advise as well.

Emmert told The Wall Street Journal:

 

“It’s clear right now where the association has gone, it’s pushed the pendulum too far in one direction.  And it really has cut athletic directors out of the national discussion.”

 

That’s probably not a good thing considering the fact that colleges and universities set up the NCAA to govern, ya know, athletics.

Obviously, there will still be checks and balances.  The NCAA won’t — and shouldn’t — allow a pack of athletic directors to undermine overall academic concerns.  Most likely, the presidents will still have the final say on issues, with the new panel of ADs providing advice.

Ah, but the big question is: Which schools’ athletic directors will take part?

The NCAA must govern over — in football — the FBS subdivision, the FCS subdivision, Division II and Division III.  Will all four classifications be represented on Emmert’s panel or will there be a separate panel for each division?

If Emmert sets out to convene people from only the FBS level, smaller-budgeted schools will likely howl in protest.  Obviously, the five richest conferences of the FBS level (ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12 and SEC) all have their own agendas.  Representative ADs from those leagues would likely push for full-cost-of-tuition scholarships and perhaps an entirely new subdivision at the top end of the Division I, above the FCS and even the FBS.

If Emmert decides to indeed include athletic directors from every level, expect the richest conferences to complain.  “Why should someone from Mount Union have a say in how Alabama, Texas and Ohio State run their programs and spend their money?”

Those scenarios — and there are many more — show once again just how impossible NCAA reform truly is.  And before anyone shouts, “Yeah, down with the NCAA,” please remember that no one’s come up with a better alternative yet.
Conferring with the ADs of the Round Table sounds good, but so did the idea of NCAA reform and wholesale changes to the NCAA’s rule book.  Obviously, the problems lie in the execution of these ideas, not the ideas themselves.
For that reason, we at MrSEC.com will temper our expectations for Emmert’s new team of athletic directors.

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