Power Brokers of FBS College Football Forcing Hand of NCAA and Dr. Emmert


In a World Wide Web and/or newspaper article, posted in the The Indianapolis Star on July 25 2013, written by Mark Alesia, who was given a independent/exclusive interview to Dr. Mark Emmert, President of the NCAA, to discuss a future topic within college athletics that deals with changing the landscape of college football at the highest level. After reading and dissecting the article, it’s seems very apparent that the “powers that be”; the commissioners of the 5 major FBS conferences are starting to turn the screws on the NCAA asking for major changes or what they call “significant strategic advantages”(Alesia, 2013). College football at the FBS level possesses a governance model and rules that are to stringent  for them to operate under and follow for the student athletes. With all due respect to the NCAA and Dr. Emmert, stand your ground along with the remaining 280+ NCAA Division 1 institutions.

“NCAA President, Mark Emmert agrees with major-college football commissioners demanding substantial change in the Indianapolis based association, and has called a summit of Division I schools in January” (Alesia, 2013). Is Dr. Emmert agreeing to this because of the media platform used by the power brokers to promote their campaign for change which would be hedonistic for them and them only?  It seems from my perspective that this means Dr. Emmert and the NCAA Division 1 programs, should succumb to the pressures of the 5 power brokers of college football commissioners in how college athletics for FBS football should operate. The message being sent by the power brokers is, we are generating all this revenue, we want changes and we want them now. Those with the money get to make the rules, promote change and only for what I consider a Democritus style of operating. The issues at hand that the 5 power broker conference commissioners  and 60 high profile FBS programs would like to implement, with no disregard to what the remaining 280+ FBS programs think are:

A. The SEC, B10, B12, ACC, P12 and Notre Dame want to eliminate the current governance model that they are under and create their own division of athletics, calling it Division IV (Alesia, 2013).

The governance model may possess many rules and could use some adjustments, but remember they all agreed to this as signing up to be a member of the NCAA to display the NCAA logo and brand. These are the rules that are to be followed by all. It seems that the power brokers are ready to start a coup and upset the grocery cart for the betterment of themselves and themselves only.

By allowing the power brokers and conferences to create their own division and create their own rules, you not only create a monster, but a “God like complex” monster with no governance, institutional control and all the money. College athletics is not Monopoly. However those with the most money, like the power brokers, get to make the rules, solicit large sponsors to increase revenue dollars to their ever growing financial bottom lines, recruit and pay the best student athletes regardless of academics, eliminate the Academic Progress Report(APR) which is part of the governance rules and these are just the major leverage points that would drive the wedge further between the “have” and the “have nots”. Also know as “BCS” and Non-BCS”.

Another point to not allowing this leverage and wedge between the BCS and Non-BCS programs and conferences is, this provides the power brokers a significant upper hand and stranglehold in the recruitment process of student athletes who would only see the money and prestige. The Non-BCS conferences would slowly fade away, like the old west.  All we would see is tumble weeds, no television coverage and limited media reporting. We all know that only the media follows winning and prominent programs. Credible Non-BCS programs like Boise State, Nevada, Louisiana Tech, Hawaii, BYU,  and Louisiana Lafayette to name a few there and others, will be forced to pay large exit fees, $$$$(money), from their current conference and forced to pay the large entrance fee to join one of the power five. The split and divide would also eliminate games scheduled between BCS and Non-BCS programs, thus creating a larger financial gap between the classifications. The arms race was already getting out of hand and is significantly getting further out of hand.  At what point do the Non-BCS conferences and programs say enough is enough? This is just like the roaring 20’s with all the gangsters calling the shots and everybody afraid because no one wants to challenge the power brokers. Even the police, governance model at that time, were afraid of the gangsters. Until they said enough was enough we are taking back some control of the bullies.

It seems that the power conferences and brokers are using the disparity in budget differential as a measurable categorical variable to be part of their elite and sense of entitlement style of operating. The comment made by Dr. Emmert states, “There’s a need to recognize there are Division 1 schools with $5 million athletic budgets and the $155 million athletic budgets, and trying to find a model that fits all of them is the enormous challenge right now” (Alesia, 2013).  This tells me that the power conferences and brokers want a devised  and regulated system based up financial budgets. If you don’t meet a certain budget requirement, then you belong to this group. This is more and more sounding like the English Premier Soccer League model, but with the relegation not determined by wins and losses but in how large your budget is. This part of the arms race for supremacy is starting to change the landscape of college football from equality, opportunity for a great education and association to those with all the money get to make the rules and tells everybody else, either join or you get left behind. This sounds like the middle ages, a King and his Kingdom with merry jesters and supporters (BCS conferences, power brokers and commissioners) and everyone else are the peasants (Non-BCS programs, conferences and non football FBS schools) who have to scramble for scraps that the King’s throws out them in an effort just to kiss the hand or be in the presence of the King.

B. These 5 conferences plus more than likely Notre Dame, want to change the governance model in which all NCAA institutions follow and create their own governance model, rules and which would ultimately lead to their own private playoff system. Leaving the remaining 60+ FBS/CFB football programs to fend for themselves (Alesia, 2013).

Who will oversee the governance of the power conferences and their brokers? Was that not why they created the NCAA logo, rules and by laws to keep all on the same playing field. By allowing the power conferences to segregate themselves form the governance model will significantly increase the power they already have. The power conference main argument is  “there are 140 committees” (Emmert,2013) that makes decisions and feels that its spread to thin and decisions or changes take forever to be adopted. If there are too many committees, then create an 11 member committee who would have the best interest of ALL NCAA athletic programs and not those with all the money. The 11 member committee would act like the Chief Justices in the Supreme Court, knowledgeable and can make a Stuart Mills approach in the decision making process when things need to be addressed. Within that 11 member committee, they would have at least and no more than 4 staff members, not higher centers of influence who can sway the decision thought process. These 4 staff members are highly educated in the NCAA policy, procedures, academics, by laws, compliance, eligibility and all the rules and how to bring those rules up for a vote or discussion, using educated members of society to offer their knowledge on those specific topics with the best interest of all involved.

All the power brokers sees in front of them is the money they would generate to assist into offering their recruits and student athletes the stipend they so rightfully believe they should be getting or be distributed. This within itself would tip the scales in their favor in recruitment advantages. The power brokers and commissioners only see the fairness in which they would receive in increased support, advertising dollars to best suit their needs like a Democritus society and just say “yes we are seeking the best interests for all”. When in  reality, its all about them and how far they can distance themselves from the peasants.

C. The 5 power brokers WANT, not suggests, to provide $2-5K athletic stipends to all scholarship student athletes for the “full cost of attendance” (Alesia, 2013).

The one question that needs to be addressed to these power brokers is, what makes their student athletes significantly more important than the other student athletes who are being recruited by other NCAA Division 1 FBS programs? Since when did high school athletic talent, which is a great accomplishment within itself, become a financial right chip to be paid for? College athletics is not a job, its an opportunity to display your athletic talent and skills where by, you were allowed the opportunity to earn a quality education with cost covered by your athletic talents, which would assist you in obtaining knowledge. That knowledge which is provided by higher education professors and doctoral professors who are qualified to educate these young students and student athletes in the program of study in which they want to strive for as part of our working professional society.

The athletic stipend is a great idea, but is being used as a bargaining chip by the power brokers to draw a line in the sand. I would like to see athletic stipends be implemented, but implemented properly and with accountability on both sides of the table. I understand that student athletes can not work while on athletic scholarship to earn some extra cash. Maybe that governance rule needs to be addressed in addition to allowing the student athletes the ability to work 8 hours, one day a week to provide them with responsibility outside of education and athletic which will prepare them for a working class society. Everyone does not become a professional athlete. The price in which college athletics are measured by at this level, should not be by, what you do to win the national championship, but in how working towards a national championship in relationship to developing life skills, accountability, education and offering employment experiences to these student athletes makes them a more well rounded person.

If athletic stipends are going to be implemented then the power brokers cannot segregate themselves from the rest of the group. There should be a discussion on revenue sharing, like professional sports. If the power brokers are sincere in this idea of student athlete stipends, then I would be the first AD at this meeting in January asking them to consider revenue sharing and creating some form of accountability to the student athletes to earn those stipends.

D. Big Ten Commissioner, Jim Delaney, states “he wants lifetime scholarships for athletes to finish their education and a non-athletic year for “at risk” students, followed by four years of eligibility” (Alesia, 2013).

Dear Mr. Delaney, with all due respect to your experience, knowledge and dedication of athletics, please explain to me by using peer reviewed journal articles that significantly supports that student athletes should be given a significant advantage over the general population student to be guaranteed a scholarship to complete their degree related field? I would be more than willing to read about it. Even the general population students seem to struggle academically and need to stop their education or return later when they are more mature. The key aspect we forget is that these are students, who are athletes, who need to have some educational knowledge to be part of our society if they part of the 99% who are not given the opportunity to play at the highest level of professional athletics. The student athlete is there to learn a degree related field which will prepare them for life and have something to fall back on when they stop their professional career or seek a career in a professional career environment.

If you want to provide lifetime scholarships to student athletes in addition to creating a non athletic year for “at risk” students, then it this needs to be offered to the whole student body and not just student athletes. As per the “at-risk” student athlete, then we should educate coaches to be more observant of academic abilities over their athletic talent in which they recruit. We need to stop mollycoddling the student athletes and make them accountable for their educational advancements. By offering the student athletes automatic scholarships and stipends sends the wrong message to future student athletes that, education is not important but your athletic skills guarantees you an automatic free education with no sense of urgency to learn academically.  I  totally understand that a large percentage of student and student athletes struggle on certain topics. They would not be considered as “at-risk” student athletes if they were not catered to on ever thing. Yes; assist, guide, help, tutor, studies halls, study groups and do whatever it takes to let them achieve the grade they need to earn in the classroom environment. The onus should be on the student athlete learning academically as possessing a great experience athletically.

E. What the power brokers have already lined up, ” the power football conferences have a 12-year, $5.6 Billion ($5,600,000,000.00) deal for television rights to the College Football Playoff starting with the 2015 season” (Alesia, 2013).

How is it the power brokers and the 5 major conferences can collaboratively line up a large 12-year, Billion dollar contract to promote a playoff environment for them and create a platform to create regulation in need of change that benefits them, but cant seem to put their heads together in a collaborative effort to create a playoff format that would be INCLUSIVE to all 125 FBS programs and future FBS programs. Again, thinking hedonistically for their own personal gain and not to assist all involved at that level. Just think what a portion of that money would do for the Non-BCS programs who compete at the same level of athletics, play by the same game rules and NCAA rules as the 5 power brokers and conferences. Just think what a traditional 16-team playoff format would do for college football allowing everyone a criteria based opportunity to compete for the national championship versus the 69 BCS programs who do now and then 60-62 BCS programs starting in 2014.

What the power brokers and commissioners are afraid of is losing and losing that opportunity to not only be called a national champion, but the financial implications that comes with competing for the title. They fear that if they allow the Non-BCS members an opportunity to compete for the national title, they could possibly lose and not receive the notoriety, prestige and financial wealth. Thus allowing the pendulum to swing away from their control.  This is like a young child who is very possessive of his toy and does not want to give in or give it up. Why do you think that the power brokers and conferences possess a significant home field advantage in their non conference schedule, which generates more revenue for them and manipulates and skews the 6 computerized systems and 2 human subjective polls used in determining the current national champion.

In a published book, research performed by and authored by myself, “College Football in the BCS Era, The Untold Truth: An Analysis of Factors that Supports the 16-Team Playoff Model” examined that very specific variable. For example and proven since 1996, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) holds the highest non-conference home field scheduling rate of 79.8% compared to the rest of the FBS conferences. Also proven since 1996, Alabama winner of the last 3 of 4 BCS titles holds a 90.2% in home field advantage in their non-conference scheduling practices. They have figured out if I don’t have to play on the road for a non conference game, convince other FBS programs to play at our stadium or a site centrally located near us and luring them away with money that they significantly decrease their chances of losing and the significant advantage to the large $17 Million dollar championship game. That’s 9 out of every 10 non conference games at home or in their own backyard with significantly less travel time and distance. How do you think Alabama and the SEC can afford to pay their coaches those salaries, lavish facility improvements and no one challenge them on how they did it.

 

This hedonistic approach by the power conferences and their conference commissioners are only looking out for themselves and themselves only. From my perspective, in which I can not prove as of yet, I believe that the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the Pacific 12 (PAC 12) are along for the ride on this train. They see the money trail that can be generated and how that money can best serve their hedonistic needs. What can be significantly proven is that this train is being led by Southeastern Conference Commissioner, Mike Slive and Big Ten Conference Commissioner, Jim Delaney. Its also noticeable that the Big 12 Conference Commissioner, Bob Blowsky, is now on the same train as Mr. Slive and Mr. Delaney. Intuition tells me that Mr. Bill Hancock, Commissioner of the Bowl Championship Series, is also part of this train ride but there is nothing printed with his name associated with this move. I would be the first to apologize to Mr. Bill Hancock, if he is not part of this train ride. It seems evident that this group of power brokers and conferences have “drawn a line in the sand” forcing the hand of NCAA President, Dr. Mark Emmert, to force a summit to discuss this option without fully investigating if there is a more Stuart Mills approach that would be beneficial for all under the same NCAA logo.

The key aspect to the power brokers making this decision is that it creates a huge debate topics and provides them more leverage to make financial decisions which are significantly Democritus. If the NCAA and its 280+ other non-significant member institutions allows this to happen they have no one to blame but themselves. This divide between the power brokers and the conferences would not only significantly change recruiting practices, but significantly making it tougher for the Non-BCS conference and programs to compete in that arena. They will have no financial leverage to offer recruits, like the power brokers and conferences. If this summit does go through and the power brokers get their way then this will push the discussion of anti-trust lawsuits that much closer to the table. Involving not only lawyers, but congress as well.

I am all for a playoff system but the system needs to be designed for ALL FBS programs. That’s why I authored and published my findings. Its an inclusive approach to determining a national champion in college football at the FBS level on the NCAA. The money generated by my 16-team playoff format would benefit all FBS programs with an equal and criteria based approach, making it fair for all. A fair for all premise the 5 power brokers do not believe in or wish to discuss because they would not have any control over it, no matter what they say or publish. There is always the hidden meaning behind their objective. With that large sum of money of $5.6 Bil. on the table to be gained by television revenue and sponsors for airing this playoff format, then why can’t the Non-BCS programs have an opportunity to participate. Athletic level is not determined by financial budgets, but by athletic ability and the cognitive abilities of both coaches and players to make the right athletic decision at the right time. Mark my words, when the 4-team playoff format arrives in 2014, the 4 slots will be filled by BCS programs and will always be filled by BCS programs. Until they advance the playoff format to 8 or 16 teams, the Non-BCS programs are still the peasants in the kingdom run by the (5) Kings of College Football. Again, its a hedonistic approach in which the 5 power brokers want to operate, but no one wants to stand on the other side of the line that they drew in the sand and debate the topic with them. Please let me be the one that represents the Non-BCS  and non FBS football Division 1 programs at this summit.

 

Alesia, Mark. (2013). “Indy Star: NCAA president Emmert vows ‘fundamental change’ in how top divisions make rules and policies” retrieved from the World Wide Web, google search on July 25, 2013.

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NCAA Targeting Rule: Right or Wrong?


Starting in the 2013 college football season, a player can be ejected from a game, plus adding a 15-yard penalty at the completion of the play, for targeting.  Is this the right decision or the wrong decision? Its possible it could be a little of both.  I understand the purpose, motivation and the implementation of the rule; for player safety and to decrease, with the increase rise in student-athlete concussions and injuries from targeting.  With the rule in place, this now causes more subjective assessment to the men and women who are in place to regulate and apply those rules to the action on the field. Many athletic directors, coaches and sports writers have stated, “the rule will be tested in the first game and over the course of the first weekend of games”. This is so true.

I examined this rule from an athletic administrators point of view, seeing the whole picture. As an administrator, this means that I must have complete competence in my coaching staff to teach proper tackling techniques and proper reception of a tackle by a player.  In addition to, implementing sportsmanship in a game that possesses historic gamesmanship and now we add SIGNIFICANT amounts of money on the line from sponsors, bowl committees and to compete for the “national championship” of college football in an already flawed and skewed system that determines who should compete for the national championship. There will times during the season that a key player will forget about the “targeting rule” and play football they only way that has been ingrained into their minds, hard, fast and to win. This will cause the player to be ejected from the game that could be tied, one-possession difference, two-possession difference or just out of hand. Coaches will have their patience, attitudes and coaching etiquette put in check and tested, all from this rule.

From the men and women who will be refereeing these highly energized games, conference, non-conference and rivalry games, they are going to make split second decisions on ” not to” or “need to” throw the flag in these situations. Remember they are human, making split second decisions on is this targeting rule and situations, did the offensive player change his head or body position to make it look like a targeted hit and how often will the coaches lobby on the sidelines for those types of calls when the targeted hit is just a hit/tackle. Then we add the increased consciousness of where the game is played, whose fans, national television, sports commentators trying to analyze the hit, because they have 15 different camera angles to watch instant replay over and over to examine a frame by frame hit. The referees might miss some calls or make calls that were not right, but an ejection occurred. In a split second, judgement, subjective call,  the referees need to determine intent of the hit/tackle and if it warrants ejection. We need to support the referees decision, because they are there to govern the rules that they are trained in and to wear those stripes.

The most interesting aspects about the implementation of this rule are three. One, they are implementing a rule that possesses no statistical facts on the number of targeted hits during the course of a specific time period of college football, analysis, research or peer reviewed journal articles that supports the penalty to be enforced to the rules implementation. Two, with the increase of targeted hits and increased concussions with student athletes and professional athletes, the media and coaches needed a rule in place to protect the athletes. I get that, totally understand and respect the need for the rule, but not the implementation. Finally, the onus is on the referees to make the right decision with no experimentation to the rule, during regular season games, this does not include spring practice games when the rule was first implemented. If research, statistical evidence and peer reviewed journal articles are out there to support this stringent penalty to the rule, please let me know. I would enjoy reading it and analyzing it for validity. That means articles written and published by educators in journals that possess accreditation, possess reputation and peer reviewed. An article written by a sports reporter is credible but not valid in the education sector.

I support the rule as a much needed rule, this makes it right. To protect player safety and the sportsmanship of the game. What is wrong with the rule is how the penalty phase is being enforced without statistical evidence to support the penalty of immediate ejection from the game. If we were to add fairness and education to the sport with the student athletes during live action, then we give all opportunity to change their behavior patterns as football players. From what I can assess, with no true statistical information to determine if immediate ejection is needed from a targeted hit, then there needs to be a learning curve as we use the rule for learning on both sides of the ball. As my athletic administrators mind set, analytical thought process and critical thinking skills start to work, I would have suggested a two phase process to the implementation of the rule and the ejection process to the rules committee. I would have suggested to the committee the following:

A. First time a player is called for targeting, automatic 15-minute suspension from the game or into the next game, pending on when the penalty occurs within the time frame of the game. The player can return after serving a mandatory 15-minutes penalty of no play. Coaches should take the players helmet and shoulder pads away for 15-minutes. This will allow the player to cool off, understand that he cannot make targeted hits and offers coaches an opportunity to educate the player(s) on what they did wrong and instruct them in how to correct the actions. This also puts ALL players in the game on notice, that these types of hits will not be tolerated and the referees are doing the right thing.  This also take less pressure off the referee to automatically eject a player for a targeted hit. Make the call for the targeted hit, but educate and coach. The ONLY sub-rule that supercedes Rule A is, if the player that is called for targeting and injury or fatal injury occurs; such as concussion and/or paralysis, then immediate ejection and a 1-game suspension should occur no appeal process.

B. If the same player or the next player initiates a targeted hit, on either team, then automatic suspension/ejection from the remainder of the current game and the next game should be implemented. Student athletes will learn from what the first player did to receive the 15-minute ejection/penalty and mentally take note that they need to focus on working together for the promotion of the game, sport, safety of all players and sportsmanship.

C. Conference commissioners and rules committees should not fall to the lobbying that athletic directors will take into reviewing the call after the game is over. There will be no over-turning of suspensions. The rule is in place, they need to accept it. All the players, coaches and athletic administrators have been educated on the rule, the purpose of the rule and must accept the decisions made by the referees for the just cause of ejection to the rules.

The two phase process is more utilitarianistic versus hedonistic, in which the current rule is now. I am all for player safety and the improvement of the game, but rules such as this that causes the need for split second, judgement and a subjective thought process, is going to create a media frenzy. When Player X is ejected, from Team Y, from Conference Z,  during game A, who are competing for the possibility of a  “national championship”  game, with SIGNIFICANT amounts of money on the line from bowl games, sponsorship and recruits wanting to associate with winning programs, this is where the media frenzy will start and lobby for a change to the rule. The two phase ejection rule, which I would have submitted to the rules committee, would have a better due process, offers players that second chance with the 15-minutes suspension from the game, opportunity to educate the players from the coaches perspective.

Rash, quick decisions and implementation of rules without research to support the need for the penalty phase, will always come back and bite those hard for implementing the rule and ejection process. The rule is the right decision, the implementation of the ejection process is wrong.

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