Blog by: George Thomas and Ron Ledgard
This is what worried some when talk of autonomy for the Power 5 conferences surfaced in college athletics.
An ESPN poll revealed that the majority of football coaches in those top 65 schools that comprise those conferences would prefer to play only schools in those conferences.
While it would likely eliminate strength of schedule issues when it comes to polling and how it relates to the upcoming college football playoff, it opens an entirely different can of worms for the likes of Mid-American Conference schools such as the University of Akron and Kent State University.
To be honest, we’re talking what it always comes down to in sports - cash. The Power 5 may as well form their own league today, because the Group of 5 (MAC, American, Conference USA, Mountain West and Sun Belt) would be on life support should something like this occur.
Why? Money. More money. And more money.
A little perspective from that poll:
Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio said playing only Power Five opponents would make it easier “to find a true champion. If teams don't play similar opponents, it gets skewed.”
“We need to be more concerned about the people who support the programs and the university and come and see the games,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "Those are the most important. But we never think about that.”
Strength of schedule is a key. Your schedule isn’t viewed as strong when you play Gang of 5 teams, primarily because though they may qualify as Division I schools, however, with rare exception do they rise to Power 5 play.
It’s one of the main criteria for the College Football Playoff selection committee:
The selection committee will choose the four teams for the playoff based on strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents, championships won and other factors.
But ultimately, if Power 5 schools are no longer playing their less-resourced brethren, their share of that revenue can grow ultimately squeezing the Group of 5 out of the picture.
As for the UAs, the Kent States and others? Playing Power 5 opponents as part of their non-conference schedules, represents a huge payday – ones used to keep the athletic department and other sports running.
Zips coach Terry Bowden said after Thursday’s autonomy vote that it’s important for smaller schools to remain on the Power 5’s schedules.
I get that, but from this perspective, after looking at this poll, it’s logical to wonder exactly how long it’s going to last.
With autonomy, it looks as if the Group of 5 may have negotiated with terrorists to stave off the inevitable. After all SEC commissioner Mike Slive implied that the Power 5 would be OK, if they took their balls, went home and formed their own entity in order to grease the wheels for the desired outcome.
Right now, this is just one poll, but it could very well be predictive of the future of college athletics in America.
And should it happen, that veil of amateurism, which gets thinner by the year, my finally disintegrate.