By Ralph D. Russo
HARTFORD, Conn.: Larry Scott of the Pac-12 joined the chorus of commissioners calling for sweeping change in the NCAA, and said it can happen without confrontation and with the five most powerful football conferences still competing on the field with the other five.
Scott was the last of the leaders of the big five conferences to make a public push for NCAA reforms that will allow the schools with the most resources to have more freedom to determine how they use them.
“I don’t think of it as much of an us vs. them situation as maybe is the impression out there,” Scott said Thursday as the Pac-12 wrapped up a mini-media days on the East Coast that included their football coaches appearing on ESPN. “I’m certainly aligned with what you heard from my colleagues this week in terms of the need for transformative change, but I think it can be evolutionary and not revolutionary.
“I don’t think it will be as confrontational and controversial a process as some of the reports I have heard this week.”
Scott and fellow commissioners Mike Slive of the Southeastern Conference, John Swofford of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Bob Bowlsby of the Big 12 and Jim Delany of the Big Ten want to change the way the NCAA passes legislation.
The most notable issue has been a $2,000 stipend that would be added to the athletic scholarship to cover the full-cost of college attendance. The big five conferences want to be able to give the stipend to all scholarship athletes.
“Schools that have resources and want to be able to do more for student-athletes are frustrated, concerned that we’re being held back from doing more for the student-athletes in terms of the stipend,” Scott said.
The stipend was shot down by some of the less wealthy NCAA Division I schools that might not be able to afford it. There are 349 schools in Division I, 125 at the highest level of college football called FBS.
“The idea that there is an even playing field in terms for resources is a fanciful and quaint notion,” Scott said.
Scott compared the stipend being stymied to the delays in bringing instant replay to college football in 2000s.
“Instant replay took longer than it needed to get into college football because not everyone could do it,” he said. “There are still some schools out there whose conferences can’t afford instant replay. It doesn’t strike me that the world’s fallen in or that it’s created some crisis just because everyone can’t have instant replay.”
Scott said university presidents that make up the NCAA board of directors will talk about reform when they meet next month. Proposals could come later this year.
Scott said he still wants FBS to have a “so-called big tent,” with more than just the top five conferences being included.
“That’s why the reports of a possible breakaway and things like that are overcooked,” he said. “That’s not anyone’s agenda.”
He said the move toward more nine-game conference schedules and an emphasis on strength of schedule in the upcoming College Football Playoff will naturally lead to fewer games between the big five conferences and the other five FBS leagues (Mountain West Conference, American Athletic Conference, Sun Belt, Mid-American Conference and Conference USA). But there will still be competition between the two groups.
What is likely to decrease are games between FBS and FCS teams and so-called guarantee games, when a school from a power conference pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to a school from a lesser conference to play a road game.
Some FCS and lower-level FBS programs, especially those in the Sun Belt and MAC, rely on those guarantee game payouts to fund their athletic programs and losing them could be a problem.
“I’m not very sympathetic. I just don’t think the concept of buy games is a healthy thing for college football or for fans,” Scott said.
“It’s been a quirk in the system that they’ve benefited from and good for them. I certainly don’t feel like it’s an entitlement or right they have. To me that’s not a higher priority than creating higher quality college football matchups. There is plenty of socialized revenue distribution through the NCAA.”