The latest buzzword in Big Time College Sports (BTCS) is “Division 4”. “Division 4” wasn’t even a term three weeks ago, and it will surely be replaced very soon with a catchier phrase. “Division 4” is the inevitable emergence of The Gang of Five “Power Conferences” that could have its own logo even sooner than PJ Hairston next laces up his UNC Nikes…. or Jan Boxhill sends her next intra-institutional e-mail.
Like it or not….. The Gang of Five is coming to a big screen TV near you. A Gang Of Five Summit is already booked for January. We’re not talking “in the sweet by & by someday”.
I’m old enough to recall college football’s version of a hot stove league forever discussing “a Southern Ivy” conference of schools really not all that interested in throwing its academic cred out with the BCS bathwater. Academic cred is now as relevant as the single wing when discussing the future of BTCS.
Construction engineers use the term “water always wins” when discussing how hydrology HAS to be dealt with in building anything. Fail to account for the inevitable effects of Mother Nature’s water and your project will surely be swept away in a rising tide….. maybe sooner, maybe later but “water always wins”. The “water” in big time sports is “money”. If you can’t generate enough $$$$ via TV contracts, boosters, ticket revenue, licensing rights, et al then you simply will not be as competitive versus schools that can.
A mob of screeching board monkeys DEMANDING that their school o’ choice spend mega-bucks to hire a “big name coach” or install a larger Jumbotron to tickle the bling reflex of the next busload of semi-literate ESPN Top 100 blue-chippers won’t be satiated. That mindset is “the cockroach of college sports” – it cannot be exterminated. It can be ignored but at a price.
It takes a lot of money to even try and “be competitive” in BTCS. However you and your school of choice defines “competitive”…. it takes $$$$. Hiring a successful coach (and staff)….. Providing the bling that attracts “student-athletes” (wink, wink)….. Providing the bling that attracts spectators to watch those coaches and players.
Whether the objective is to attract 13,000 fans to Elon’s Rhodes Stadium or 100,000 to the 4-5 schools that now have 100,000+ stadia, and ….. it takes mega $$$$ to do it.
The Gang of Five includes the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and ACC. Everyone else falls into a glob of Northern Ball State Tech whozits that gets what table scraps are left. For now the discussion just involves Football. BTC Basketball would remain pretty much the same with “the Davids” still a part of the mix each March…. or will it?
Issues prompting this latest ASAP re: The Gang of Five include:
* Paying players….. whatever you call it and whatever the amount, any form of monetary compensation beyond what is now offered is “paying the players”. Is that a sacrosanct line that once crossed opens the floodgates and forever changes college sports? Is it simply an inevitable reality? Will just Gang of Five players be paid? Will just football players be paid? ???? Lots of devils in those details….. The O’Bannon Case IS a BFD that probably WILL radically change BTCS as we know it. …. the emergence of un-repentent drug-dealing millionaire rappers as sports agents is yet another BFD to watch develop.
* NCAA Rules….. Will the Gang of Five create its own 5×7 index card of “rules” and throw out the infamously voluminous NCAA Handbook? Would a Gang of Five school be able to recruit under different rules than the whozits? A kid being recruited by Wake Forest and by AppyState, for instance, would be subject to very different situations. ….. not only recruiting but eligibility and general behavior rules would likely be different. …… how could there be any cross-pollination / scheduling whatsoever between Gang of Five and whozits if they are playing under different rules?
* The “student-athlete” concept….. THAT semantical silliness is officially dead and buried now. It has been for a decade or so but it was never official. It’s official now. No one in the Gang of Five is even pretending to be interested in enhancing the academic side of BTCS. I’m not saying The Nyang’oro Plan is going to be the norm, but lets say “emphasis on the classroom experience” ain’t on any Gang of Five AD’s To Do List…. other than as a loser’s lament for the bottom third of Gang of Five schools. There will still be perpetual doormats in each Gang of Five conference. Doormat fans know who they are. It’s the muddle in the middle of each conference that will keep crying “we’re a sleeping giant”. Allowing for the occasional “lightning in a Boise bottle”, the same top twenty programs over the past ten years will simply play musical chairs under any new format.
* TV Contracts….. There are several new “sports networks” on the immediate horizon that are not headquartered in Bristol CT…. most notably Fox Sports1. They will all want the most attractive product to air. More and more Gang of Five conferences and mega-schools are opting to start their own networks. Whoever airs Alabama vs aTm will always win….. With virtually unlimited access to a bevy of Gang of Five TV options every Saturday, what chance will the Elons have to fill its stadium for any game, much less with marginal weather or a non-competitive team and a whozit opponent?
* The Home Theater Option….. you know this is one of my favorite trends to watch. Every goober with a credit card now has at least a 32” HD flat screen. If he can watch his choice of 5-6 Gang of Five games simultaneously (with all those terrific screen graphics) on any given Saturday AND have use of his own toilet and refrigerator….. versus spend $100/person to travel ever how far to see Alma Mammy play Whozit Tech in 95 degree heat or a bone-chilling drizzle??? Even board monkeys will figure out those economics eventually….. for the handful of Gang of Five programs that have waiting lists for season tickets there are mucho more Gang of Five programs plus every whozit program that are offering all sorts of mini-package discounts and incentives. (Including every program within 200 miles of where I am sitting). Other than the Top 10-12 programs, why would ANYBODY pay face value for a football game ticket anywhere in America?
Howsabout if a Gang o’ Five doormat or even a “middle muddle” school choses to “opt out” of this new amped-up arms race? That would be such a ballsy move by not-very-ballsy admins / trustees as to be ain’t gonna happen.
I’m not lamenting this approaching tsunami any more than I lament my own passing years and any other form of “progress”. I love the game of BTC football as a TV spectator experience. The TV tech guys are forever enhancing my viewing experience with those cool on-screen graphics. The cable guys are forever offering me more attractive options each weekend. That 90% of the gladiators are semi-literate “look at me” thug-aletes (and “Johnny Football” YUCK) is simply how it is. THAT did not suddenly come about this past week. One does not go from a 34″ waist to a 44″ waist by eating one doughnut.
There are always 100+ other channels I can choose plus more active pursuits such as gardening, exercising, listening to my audiobooks or joining a political activist faux-pentacostal motley-mini-mob. OK, maybe not that last option.