In 2014, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors passed a new model giving the five major conferences authority to create their own legislation and voting rights for athletes. Essentially, it allowed SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 create their own rules – bypassing smaller conferences who often rejected motions that were either too costly or to heavily weighted to monied conferences.
Essentially, it was the end of the NCAA, and the majority of the college sports community applauded. After all, we have been conditioned for years to beleive that the NCAA was an evil, cumbersome, and dubiously selective agency that provide far more red tape than actual governance. With the NCAA hobbled to push paper for the five mightiest conferences, we were told that college sports was now unfettered by corrupt bureaucrats.
Nearly a decade later, NIL and unlimited transfer portaling are terraforming the Group of Five to the Power Five’s minor leagues, and the Power Five itself is rapidly whittling itself down to the Totalitarian Two. Was this what we envisioned when we dismantled the NCAA?
Without a strong NCAA, Power Five conferences are making no effort to play fair in the era of NIL and the transfer portal. See the incredible article from Bruce Feldman and Max Olson in The Athletic for how it all works. Reader’s Digest version; G5 coaches have no confidence in reporting to the NCA infractions from P5 coaches directly or semi-directly contacting their star players and encouraging them to jump into the portal, enticing them with lucrative NIL deals. What’s a G5 coach supposed to do? Report a coach to an organization run by the very people who are abusing them?
Meanwhile, the Big 10 and SEC are black holes gobbling up programs from what were supposed to be their peer conferences, forcing the Big 12 and PAC 12 to reach far from their own footprints to acquire G5 fill-ins. Hell, even Mike Aresco is worried now, suddenly summoning the G5 kingdoms to unite in their own defense.
What have we done? By neutering the NCAA, we shifted judicial power from an impartial(ish) third party to Tony Petitti, Greg Sankey, Fox Sports and ESPN. You would think that the PAC 12, ACC, and Big 12 would echo Aresco’s “no labels” call for unity – merely as a matter of self preservation – but apparently those conferences still believe they hold a winning hand. Hey, PAC-12, have you kept up with your own efforts to reach a broadcast deal?
In hindsight, maybe we didn’t need to destroy the NCAA so that basically two guys and a pair of soulless media outlets can call all the shots. Perhaps what Mike Aresco really wants is a return to the old NCAA – that slow, stuffy, self-important entity that would at least take a dim view of Power Five coaches direct messaging G5 tight ends with moneybag emojis, or even take a deeper look into how UCLA and USC managed to collude themselves into a sweet deal with the Big 10. Because now what we have is Darwinian anarchy where only the fattest wallet survives.
And it’s kinda gross.
IMAGE CREDIT: Welcome to AI, y’all. That’s supposed to be Greg Sankey and and Tony Pettiti