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Program Twilight: Spitballing an NCAA FBS Reorganization

Looking that the problem of how Division 1 FBS is poorly organized to allow for real competition for the championship and especially for attracting the talent necessary to even have a chance.

Tre Turner doing Running Back Things on a Jet
John Schneider - SB Nation

Face it, if you are Arkansas State, you are stuck and are likely to never, ever get a shot at anything but a conference championship. That means you’ll never really attract much NFL attention, not much in the way of dough, and certainly not much in the way of big star talent. You might put good football teams on the field, you may even win your division or conference championship. Ask UCF how being undefeated with a tough schedule got them into the Golden 4 of the ‘Fakeoffs’.

The entire logos, ethos, and pathos of the NCAA FBS is about as close to abusive as you can get without being tagged with the label. The Logos and Ethos circulate around the Money plus Prestige multiplied by the program results in NFL Draft drive for the available Talent to continue the equation. The Pathos factor remains the teams that can never break into the self-reinforcing feedback loop.

FCS Football Championship Series teams have conferences and divisions… They also have major divisions with Division I, Division II, and Division III schools playing for their own championships. Division III kids don’t even get scholarships (just coaches grants and athletic department help with courses and such) but the players all compete hard, and the schools/programs mean it. I have often mentioned my second son’s alma mater, Christopher Newport University. I love my Captains… they had at tough season last year, but they compete in the New Jersey Athletic Association which is like the B1G of Division III football. CNU will be back in winning form soon enough, but none of their players will attract much attention outside of their league… but what they do have is a shot at a Division III championship when they qualify for the playoffs by winning on the field.

Well, it’s high time for that to happen at the rigged for TV rights FBS. We constantly talk about the Power 5 and Group of 5 conferences, but we never really think about the implications of the realities in that configuration. G5 conferences will get to the CFB ‘Playoffs’ when the devil starts shopping for figure skates… Even an undefeated team that hammered Power 5 level opponents didn’t make the cut, Alabama was handed that slot – Alabama that didn’t even win the SEC, BTW.

A huge part of the attractiveness to talent is winning, because winning championships attracts NFL attention. Just look at the number of draft eligible players from Alabama and LSU for the past couple of seasons and tell me that the NFL doesn’t care.

It’s important to remember that some of the “reorganization” items are not directly related to the organization of sports programs, but may be offered as a reorganization of how things are structured. Here are some ideas for spreading the wealth without mandating a huge change in conference structure would be to do the or more of the following:

  1. Separate the FBS into three Divisions with three championships and use relegation to promote or demote programs within the three Divisions. This would end the tyranny of P5, G5, and the cats and dogs at the end. Our Friends at the Hustle Belt might actually like some of their teams playing for actual league level championships.
  2. Fix the divisions – no independents- and end the Conference specialty broadcast networks. Work with all sports networks to build a grid schedule where each team draws a number for each week, and the broadcast slot is awarded to that game. There would be no networks, and all teams would receive exactly the same broadcast compensation. This would happen through the playoffs which would be arranged in an 8-game 1st round of 5 conference champions and 3 wildcards (the only teams chosen by committee based on a fixed public formula).
  3. Make the NCAA a completely independent body from university athletic departments and remove the conference boards and governing bodies. This means that no one in the NCAA leadership can come from any of the associated programs. Those three executives CEO, CFO, and CCO (Chief Compliance Officer) must be from outside of both college administration and collegiate sports. Then the board is publicly elected like a corporate board and serve limited terms. This would make the NCAA roughly equivalent to the NFL, or MLB in power without the internecine warfare between conferences. It would also allow for the relegation and league balancing necessary to even out the talent flow. With this formula there are no conference TV networks, all programs get the same revenue stream from the gross pool of funds provided by media revenue.
  4. Tie the university athletic departments directly to the universities that they represent. All revenues must be shared on a fixed basis with the general scholarship fund with the university. This includes all trademarks and other university related ephemera. For example; Virginia Tech’s Athletic Department operates separately from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (the school’s real name). The school can’t even use the trademarked symbols from the Athletic Department without some sort of formal arrangement. It would be interesting to see where the NCAA related license materials distribute funds, I’ll have to dig.
  5. Do away with the differences between FCS and FBS programs in football. Basketball is looser and has a larger league exposure. Operate all programs within a conferencing structure that accounts for the size of their program and their facilities. Place bowl games within the context of exhibition, and move the major bowl game coverage to the playoffs for each Division within the Conference, and the inter conference playoffs. Win on the field not in the polls. Relegate on a fixed cycle (four to five years) as programs grow or choose to drop back.
  6. Divide Collegiate Programs into two groups; Professional Minor League, and true Collegiate Programs. Neither the twain shall meet. This is one proposal we will explore in detail later because, frankly, it makes the most sense with what is currently going on. This one is very complex and the proposed solution is radical.

Those are the major reorganization proposals. Some are complementary and others are separate. Several will need to be talked about in detail because they are radical, like #6. We’ll deep dive into the Minor League thing (which would also help college baseball). We’ve already talked about playoff reorganizations but will probably revisit that article just to see where we are from where we were and what effect it could have on talent. Remember this is all about attracting free agent high school talent and evening out professional exposure to enhance the voluntary response of the players.


Now’s your turn. Which of the following do you think needs doing? Explain in comments, including keeping the current situation.

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Yup, burn the entire mess to the ground and rebuild based on better governance, equitable revenue, and a winning on the field mentality. (variations of 1, 2 and/or 5)
    (16 votes)
  • 13%
    Change the way the NCAA and TV rights are managed to more evenly distribute the money which will help lift all boats. (2, 3, and/or 4)
    (10 votes)
  • 13%
    Admit that the Championship teams (upper Power 5) are essentially minor league football teams, now. Just formalize the situation and build a new transparent business model. (6)
    (10 votes)
  • 52%
    Bag it, no one is fixing anything, there is too much money and too many fiefdoms to protect to believe that anything is going to be done to interrupt the current structure.
    (39 votes)
75 votes total Vote Now

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Next up: A collegiate Draft

As always,