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Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. (Associated Press)<br>

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. (Associated Press)

Hickey Column: Gap between Haves and Have-nots growing

Last Modified: Friday, August 02, 2013 6:08 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

In case you haven’t been keeping track, the Haves’ record against the Have-nots in the Game of Life is something like 75,000-12. (The Have-nots had a pretty decent squad sometime around the French Revolution).

It is a reality in every part of society, and college football is becoming as much a reflection of that as anything else. Unless they can grab hold of the rapidly elevating cliff, those in the middle are being marginalized to the point that they will soon be at the bottom.

Things threaten to get uglier for the Have-nots in college sports when the Haves create their own country-club level with players earning stipends. The Have-not schools, seen by the power conference bigwigs as nothing more than leeches, would essentially be barred from the premises.

It is coming as soon as January, when NCAA Commissioner Mark Emmert convenes what amounts to an emergency summit created to prevent the “Big Five” conferences from running away to do their own thing.

The primary complaint from fat cats like Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is that schools with a $5 million budget have the same voting power in the NCAA as schools with $130 million budgets, and IT’S NOT FAIW. (That’s “fair” spoken in Toddlerese, for those unfamiliar with the language).

Basically, the argument of Scott and the other big-conference commissioners is like a senator from Texas or California saying, “Hey, Why should Rhode Island have as much power as us?”

The Big Five are fixing to rig the structure so it is more like the Electoral College in terms of power distribution.

Live in a small non-swing state? Have fun thinking your presidential vote matters. Maybe one of the candidates will stop by for 45 minutes during the campaign.

Now we can get the same deal in college sports.

The counter-argument is that it is absurd for the likes of Texas A&M to be operating under the same structure as Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and there is strong merit to that claim.

The enormous television contracts inked by these newly expanded mega-conferences make it increasingly dishonest for those who can afford it to not give some of the cut to the athletes making that revenue happen. Oregon’s new football facility looks like it was built by Scrooge McDuck himself, missing only a pool of gold to jump into after games. Or maybe they just haven’t Tweeted out that photo yet.

Point is, anyone who can build such an extravagant structure can probably afford to dole out a few grand extra each semester.

Such changes probably wouldn’t affect the McNeeses of the world, who are rarely competing directly with LSU for recruits who might see a $2,000 per year stipend as the difference-maker.

The trouble comes when those who think they can afford it, but cannot, try swimming in the deep end of the money pool.

Already the American Athletic Conference — aka Zombie Big East — said it wants to keep a chair at the table in this so-called “Division Four.”

If the American jumps, what’s to prevent the Mountain West, Mid-American, Conference USA and Sun Belt from deluding themselves into thinking they can follow? The ability to apply the brakes hasn’t been evidenced anywhere in college sports in the last decade.

If everyone currently in the Football Bowl Subdivision tries to dive in, you’re looking at the college sports equivalent of the mortgage crisis — people snookered into thinking they could bite off more than they can chew, while around them an entire bubble bursts on their heads. This one wouldn’t sink the economy, of course, but it would probably be financed on the backs of students paying onerous additional fees at the “in-betweener” schools.

Even before this next seismic financial shift occurs, things are already fundamentally unfair at the lower levels of college football in regard to the application of instant replay review.

In the few years that replay has been available to all FBS programs, the lack of it at the Football Championship Subdivision level has largely been viewed as an inconvenience. But now that the NCAA’s new rules on targeting players go into effect this season, it is becoming an enormous disadvantage that threatens the integrity of the game at the lower level.

Players will now be ejected if they intentionally hit an opponent above the shoulders leading with the crown of their helmet, which is a fine measure for safety purposes. However, these plays happen so fast that deciphering intent almost certainly requires access to instant replay, which will be available in FBS games.

Somehow, FCS officials — who generally aren’t as sharp or experienced as those at the FBS level, or they’d be there themselves — will be asked to make these determinations without the same benefit.

Think your job is tough? A game, a season, and a coach’s job could ultimately hinge on these calls, and officials will be placed in a very tough spot to make them.

That’s the difference money makes. And that’s just now.

What will happen when the gap between the Haves and Have-nots becomes a Grand Canyon?

• • •

Alex Hickey covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at ahickey@americanpress.com

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