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Friday, December 19, 2014
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NCAA finally accepts realty in football

Last Modified: Friday, August 08, 2014 12:39 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

It only took about 108 years of mostly awkward, often sanctimonious, tinkering.

But on Thursday the NCAA finally admitted that it consists of both apples and oranges, and often they don’t belong in the same crate and have a real problem coexisting.

There are probably some apricots and mangos mixed in there too, but for now it will have to be enough for the organization to recognize that the LSU’s and Alabama’s of the world have different resources, needs and agendas than the ULL’s and Alabama-Birminghams.

The NCAA voted overwhelmingly to give the five power conferences — 65 elite (TV-rich) schools — autonomy to make their own rules over the vast majority of the rest of the organization.

This wasn’t mere benevolence by the have-nots, who have long had the strength in voting numbers to tell the big boys what they could and couldn’t do, often it seemed, with a giggle.

So the frustrated haves basically put a gun to the head of the have-nots.

They had made it clear in the last year that the alternative to not being granted the autonomy to make their own rules was to take their ball (and money) and go home.

The reaction was, “Oh, now that you put it that way …”

Motion passes. Meeting adjourned.

So now college athletics is changed forever, ready to forge ahead into bold new territory, and you’re probably wondering exactly how things will change.

Not much, probably, at least not to the naked eye of the average fan.

Most of it, on the surface, is parliamentary procedure and even more mundane stuff, which involves very little blocking and tackling and is so mind-numbing as to be way too boring to go into it here.

But the big boys get their newfound freedom at the first of next year, no doubt aching to legislate and reform like wild men. Some are going to want to spend money like they’re away from home for the first time, others will likely want to start out cautiously to see what it all really means.

They have been playing by different rules, basically, forever. Now, they will just play under different legislation.

The new rules they can now pass will benefit — are you sitting down? — the players, the so-called student-athletes.

And it’s not just lip service.

The old rules were working just fine for the schools themselves. The old way couldn’t legislate against Nick Saban making a bajillion dollars a year or Alabama having a waterfall in its players’ lounge or Tiger Stadium building money-making luxury and club seats up to the stratosphere.

The money is there for the Power Five conferences. They made money, they just couldn’t help themselves.

At some point, even butting up against the constraints of academia/government, good old American capitalism took over and the inevitable laws of supply and demand kicked into overdrive.

A lot of people got paid.

Now the players ­— the only principals who couldn’t get paid — can get a few more of the spare crumbs.

It’s not lip service.

It’s also not sheerly out of the goodness of the hearts of the adults in charge.

Big-time college football increasingly has come under fire from the public and ­— worse — courts and government, for the discrepancies in the payoff for, say, A&M coach Kevin Sumlin and Mr. Football, Johnny Manziel.

So the first order of business surely is that the players will get a little something. Mainly, the full cost of attendance thing, which admits that tuition and books, room and board, don’t really cover the full cost of going to college.

Nothing, by the way, will keep the schools of more modest means from implementing whatever the Power Five legislate for themselves.

“Our universities have understood for some time that there will more than likely be an increase in the cost of operating their athletic programs,” Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson said in a statement Thursday. “There will be challenges, but Sun Belt universities have invested too much not to be part of major college sports in the future.”

It sounds like he’s saying the Sun Belt is going to try, but he stops of short of putting its money where the challenge is.

So the fear is that it will create a greater chasm between the haves and have-nots of football’s highest level.

Maybe.

But a wider chasm than WHAT, exactly?

Yeah, if the big boys are able to offer a little walking-around money and increased insurance benefits to go with the traditional scholarship, it’s a big recruiting chip.

There will no doubt be other benefits.

But, seriously, with the “level playing field” now in place, how many times does a UL-Monroe beat LSU on a player the Tigers really want?

Pretty close to never.

So not much changes there.

l

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU

athletics. Email him at

shobbs@americanpress.com

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