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by Diesel,posted Jul 24 2013 4:19PM
The professionalization of amateur sports is something we've seen in motion for quite a while.
Specifically what's on my mind is the current push by the "big 6" college football conferences and their desire/intent to pay their players. The "Big 6", comprised of the SEC, BIG10, BIG12, ACC, PAC-12, and C-USA are, of course the six highest profile, and highest revenue generating conferences in the sport. They're seen on TV weekly, they're seen in video games, and they have a massive marketing and merchandising machine behind them.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive hinted at it, ACC commish John Swofford flirted with the notion, and the new BIG12 head honcho came right out and said it...the BIG6 commissioners feel that they have been beholden to the small conferences desire to keep the playing field level for too long, and that they should have the right to break away from the NCAA and govern themselves with their own rules. Essentially what it comes down to is money. These schools have the means to pay their players, and they feel they should have the right to.
This is what troubles me. I attended a very well known small school, Appalachian State. We had tremendous success on the playing field winning 3 national championships in a row and beating Michigan. Starting with the 2014 season App will be a member of the Sunbelt conference; we've arrived, right? Perhaps not.
Actions taken over the last 2 years show that the BIG6 has tolerated the smaller schools long enough, but want to take their ball and play somewhere else. After the 2012 season, the BIG10 announced its schools will no longer play schools from the Football Championship Subdivision and SEC's Mike Slive announced a desire to move from 8 to 9 conference games, thus practically squeezing the smaller schools off their schedule. The other conferences will be forced to follow in their own way if they want to keep up.
This is a very complex issue:
1) It's a case of an arms race between the haves and the have nots. The haves want to protect what they have, while the have nots want a piece. But conference realignment forced leagues to bring in new members, most of which were pulled from smaller conferences. To me this is backward logic. They are the ones who brought the smaller schools up, now they want to break away with those schools in tow.
2) There's the Ed O'bannion case. Essentially, the NCAA licenses the rights to use schools' names and mascots, but not its players. They've always flirted with using players' likenesses by copying their stats and jersey numbers...well it appears they used this guy's likeness a little too closely and someone caught it. He sued and won and there's a class action lawsuit in the works that could award millions to former and current players. Obviously schools make a pretty penny licensing to EA but under amateurism laws can't pass any of it along to the players. The proposed stipend system would allow schools to pay players a "reasonable" amount for playing football, license their images (as they're now being paid) thus protecting them from future similar lawsuits.
3) The ability to pay your players is a tremendous recruiting tool, especially if schools are allowed to determine their own stipend amount. Imagine you're a 17 year old kid about to commit. Would you play for Kentucky who can offer you $1,000 a year or Alabama who could offer $8,000? Would every school be forced to offer their players the same stipend? Would football players earn more than basketball players? Would soccer or lacrosse players earn anything at all? Would male athletes get paid more than female? Could you imagine the law suits involved?
4) If the BIG6 had the right to govern themselves independent of NCAA rules, would they change the number of years of eligibility? If players could stay at their schools longer and get paid for it, it would essentially make college football a rival league to the NFL. Would Roger Goodell stand for this?
I for one hope someone steps in to end this. This system would give the big revenue schools a monopoly on the best players, widening the gap between the haves and the have nots.