Where is Division 1-A Football Headed? Part 2
by Wayne Crump
TSL Extra, Issue #19
For those who have read my article in the last TSLX, things have changed drastically in the last several weeks.
These major changes will have a significant impact on D1A over the course of the next several years. Changes to the original proposals are:
So what are the rules now?
Are the new rules cast in stone? Definitely not! If a minimum of 30 schools petition the NCAA, it can now come to a full D1A membership vote. However, to overturn the committee, they will need 73 votes. To make matters worse, both Kent University and the MAC both had representatives on the committee, and they both voted for the change. Without across the board MAC support, I see virtually no way that this can even be brought to a vote, much less overturned.
So what will be the net effect of this change?
Let's look at attendance alone.
I have seen numbers all over the place, especially for the smaller schools. I have actually seen two drastically different attendance figures on the NCAA site at one time. Why? Well, smaller schools cook/inflate their numbers. I think we all can remember a recent Tech/Temple game in Philly where the attendance was something like 18,000, yet everyone fit between the 40-yard lines, about 10 rows deep.
Look at Virginia's numbers for last year. Are you going to imply that Virginia had almost zero no-shows for their home games? Many schools report ticket sales, not true attendance. This will be the case no more. It will become an audited head count now. This is going to have a drastic effect on schools like Duke, Temple, and Wake Forest whose attendance is rumored to be something like 55-60% of reported numbers.
We can definitely assume that if your current head count is less than 15,000 (cooked or non-cooked), that you certainly can not make the cut. (By the way, if you are checking out the NCAA site, watch their PDF file, there's a LOT of errors in it). We can probably stick a fork in Northern Illinois, Akron, La-Lafayette, La-Monroe, Eastern Michigan, North Texas, Buffalo, Arkansas State, San Jose State, Miami(Ohio), and Kent University (note that they voted for the change). We can stick a fork in them because they are done.
Other schools on the bubble include Idaho, Rice, SMU, Wyoming, Ball State, Nevada, San Diego State, Middle Tennessee, Bowling Green, Duke, Houston and Temple, among others. Some of the schools on the bubble will definitely not make the cut.
Now what about the minimum of 5 Division 1-A home games?
Almost all of the schools above were only able to schedule a total of 5 home games at the most. Many of these matches were against D1AA schools. The following schools definitely fail under that criteria: New Mexico State, San Jose State, Akron, Louisiana Tech, TCU, UCF, and UNLV, among others.
Granted, schools will do what they need to do to stay in, but this isn't going to get any easier, especially for the independents. Michigan just announced that they will no longer play ANY away games, except for Notre Dame and the Big 10 schools. I look for more of this in the future. When the current bottom feeders of the division disappear, how are Navy, Memphis, Houston, and UAB going to get 5 home games a year?
What about 200 grants in aide or $4,000,000, whichever comes first?
This gets interesting. The private schools can probably get by with 100+ scholarships now, especially if they are going bare bones on football with between 50 and 65 scholarships. The new rules change a lot of things. With 78 football scholarships, a scholarship total in the 100 to 110 range would indicate that you are funding Football, and Men's and Women's Basketball, and little else. Fielding Division 1 sports without scholarships will be like throwing your minor sports to the dogs.
Currently a lot of private schools play a cash flow game where the athletic department gets massive discounts. This does work well at hiding true athletic losses. Now there is an incentive to place that full monetary amount into the athletic column to wipe out that $4,000,000 obligation, but it will also reveal a LOT of red ink heretofore not obvious to athletic supporters.
Additionally, Title IX is going to have a major effect of the schools in the Duke tuition range. They will be getting by with funding 93 men's scholarships in football and men's basketball, and handing out 13-15 scholarships for women's basketball alone. Other women's sports are going to have to be legally funded. In other words, for schools like Wake, Duke, and Stanford, the $4 million limit may be a waste of good ink. Their minimum numbers might easily run in the $6 million plus range. Expenses for some of these smaller D1A schools are going to be taking a rather large leap.
So what comes next?
Life will become problematic for the new bottom feeders. I personally cannot see how small independents could survive. The new bottom feeders of the division, (like Rutgers, Army and ECU), will experience substantial problems in filling the 5 home games. Few, if any, of the remaining division 1A schools are going to want to travel to such places as Memphis, East Carolina, and UAB. In the past they've been able to bribe the bigger schools with several away games and one home game. They then fill their home schedule with the likes of JMU and Citadel. This will no longer be a viable option. A school can handle one, and only one, two-for-one deal at a time.
The PAC10, Big10, Big12 and SEC can go about their merry way. For the most part, the Mountain West looks OK. To make sure they have 5 D1A home games, the Mt. West might have to expand, probably taking in the survivors of the WAC. CUSA looks like it will take casualties, as will the MAC. Actually the MAC might just survive, albeit a much smaller conference of perhaps 8 to 10 schools instead of the current 12. The WAC looks done, and CUSA looks to be in trouble. The Big East has one probable casualty in Temple, but they have already confronted that problem. The ACC looks like the lone BCS conference with problems to address in the form of Wake and Duke.
The ACC will have to react. They either have to remove Duke and Wake and add reinforcements, or add reinforcements to shore up Wake and Duke. If the ACC were to expand now, they could come up with a formula that would create a 5 home and 5 away game schedule annually. This would remove the home game problems for their smaller schools. Their primary source of this expansion would probably be the Big East. The probable contenders in this expansion deal would be Miami, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Boston College, (I personally favor Pitt over BC any day). WVU is currently experiencing major athletic problems, which are coming at a most inopportune time.
If the Big East schools stand firm, I think the conference can easily survive as is. However, expansion may be necessary to protect Rutgers and UCONN and get them their 5 D1A home games a year. How that would work out is anyone's guess.
Lastly, let us return to those bowl bids. The new criteria will cut the division from 116 schools down into the 90-105 range. We now have 56 bowl slots to fill. Anyone doing quick math will realize the fact that this broken wheel will need to be fixed in the very near future.
While this move does not reduce D1A to the 84 schools desired by some forces within the division, it is certainly a move in that direction.