Division IV Could be Reality if Power Five Doesn't get its Way

By Kyle Rowland on June 9, 2014 at 8:30a
32 Comments

Grand Valley State was once the dominant Division II college football program. In Division III, Mount Union has passed the torch to Wisconsin-Whitewater. Might Ohio State and Alabama one day control Division IV?

SEC commissioner Mike Slive hopes so. Well, maybe not the Ohio State part. The Mouth of South let fly a string of promises if the Power Five conferences aren’t given autonomy on setting rules, which includes benefits for student-athletes.

At the SEC spring meetings, Slive said the conference was prepared to pull out of Division I and form their own division with its own rules. They would be able to establish guidelines on offseason coaching, financial aid and transfers, among other hot topics.

It could be a world where Ohio State only plays programs of equal size and stature, the offseason could look entirely different than the current structure and players would receive an increased stipend.  

There are valid points for the autonomy argument, but Slive’s message reeked of a disgruntled child who takes his baseball bat and glove and storms off for his house, leaving his friends at the diamond.

The NCAA’s board of directors will vote in August on an autonomy plan for the 65 schools that comprise the five major conferences – SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC. Slive’s ultimatum was in preparation for a “no” note. He added that the SEC isn’t in favor of splitting off, but the status quo is unacceptable.

“We want the ability to have autonomy in areas that have a nexus to the well-being of student-athletes,” Slive said. “I am somewhat optimistic it will pass, but if it doesn’t, our league would certainly want to move to a Division IV. My colleagues, I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t feel the same way.”

In conversations with Eleven Warriors last week, Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer and Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo each said they envision a day when the Power Five splits away. The impact would be far reaching.

Financial implications are at the top of the list. Division IV schools would be in line for a hefty payday, with TV contracts likely soaring. Something that wouldn’t be lost is the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the College World Series. A Power Five power play would only affect football.

“We would want to be part of the basketball tournament and all of the championships,” Slive said. “We don't want to disrupt the championships, even if we went to Division IV.”

At the heart of the argument is the major conferences’ hope for providing student-athletes with an extra stipend. Last year, a proposed $2,000-per-year stipend was shot down after smaller schools shouted from on high saying big schools had an unfair advantage thanks to better resources. No one will dispute that Ohio State is better suited to hand out money than Bowling Green.

Still, providing student-athletes with a stipend based on the amount of their tuition (cost of attendance) remains one to the most passionately debated issues in intercollegiate athletics.

“If you’ve used [student-athletes] to promote whatever, they deserve something from that,” Beamer said. “The thing about if you start paying, you have to keep it on an even playing field. You don’t want it to get to a point where one school gets a tremendous recruiting advantage because they can pay whatever over another school. But I think a stipend makes perfect sense.”

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith is in favor of the Power Five having the capability to give athletes stronger healthcare and a larger check. For Ohio State, that would be $3,340 for in-state students and $4,786 for out-of-staters. The crux of the debate is, of course, about money. Isn’t that the basis for every discussion in college sports?

The amount paid out by universities and their athletic departments for cost of attendance scholarships would be between $500,000 and $1 million per year. That’s a day’s work for some heavy hitters and angst inducing for schools in the MAC, Sun Belt and other lesser conferences.

As change swirls in college sports, there also remains a series of lawsuits that could greatly impact the economics of the NCAA. Today begins the anticipated Ed O’Bannon trial, where hundreds of millions of dollars could be at stake depending the case’s outcome. Northwestern’s unionization effort also hangs over the proceedings.

Florida president Bernie Machen went into full hyperbole mode, deeming it a “crisis” if the big schools aren’t permitted to provide cost of attendance stipends. It harkens back the days of yesteryear – or last year – when Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was equally irate about changes in the NCAA. He infamously said major college sports would go the way of Division III, a hollow threat that was rightfully scoffed at.

Threats and perceptions of whining have long been an endgame tactic for the Power Five. Don’t get something their way, make far-fetched claims that could affect the future of college football. Think something will go against them, threaten all the little schools and deliver little basis or facts.

Many of the decision makers believe autonomy in some form will pass, avoiding an unseemly divide of the haves and have-nots. There’s already a mountain between the rich programs and the ones attempting to get through the day with little financial damage. But with so much uncertainty to the college sports business model, one court ruling could change everything.

“I do believe this is a historic moment, and if we don’t seize the moment, we are going to make a mistake,” Slive said. “I’m optimistic we’re not going to go to the Division IV.”

In the end, Ohio State and Alabama will continue dominating the college football landscape, Division IV or not. 

32 Comments

Comments

CC's picture

Be careful what you wish for.  There are many reasons college football is better than the NFL, one of them in my opinion is that there are 100+ teams.

+5 HS
Gametime's picture

I agree & disagree, I mean from a fan perspective, I'd rather see rotating OOC schedules that pit the B1G vs. SEC one year, then the B1G vs. the Big XII, etc. rather than seeing OSU vs. UAB or UCF.

I think the regional exposure and conference pride would be a pretty awesome thing to see. That would force the likes of Florida or LSU to travel to Columbus, East Lansing, or State College in November and give OSU exposure traveling to Norman, Austin, So Cal, or Eugene in a rotating schedule. It would create a lot of match ups we'd love to see, IMO.

I'd even liken it to playing NCAA on playstation - who doesn't stack their schedule with top #10 opponents for big time marquee games during the season rather than play "FCS west" or "Southern Methodist Western New Hampshire St."

...I too dream in color and in rhyme
So I guess I'm one of a kind in a full house
Cause whenever I open my heart, my soul or my mouth
A touch of God rains out...

+5 HS
daveyt11's picture

It's inevitable..the power of those big schools will win out. Basketball is fine as is, but big time football has too much $$ out there. The Alabama v McNeese ST or OSU v Fla. A&M etc... I think college football fans are getting tired of those type of matchups.

 

+2 HS
CC's picture

That isn't the point.  They play today and they aren't in the same division.  This has nothing to do with the fans.

 

+1 HS
brylee's picture

That very well may be true, but the fans are getting tired of the Alabamas vs. McNeese and OSU vs. FAMU bs.

+2 HS
Will in Arizona's picture

Elite college basketball players are worth much more than elite college football players.  Although football generates a lot more revenue, there are so few basketball players on a team that they end up being worth more per player.
 

The March survey, from the National College Players Association and Drexel University, said that the projected fair market value of the average college football player is $178,000 per year from 2011 to 2015, while the projected market value for the average college basketball player for the same time is $375,000.

The report also said that football players with the top 10 highest estimated fair market values, like Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, might be worth as much as $547,000, during the year 2011 to 2012.

Basketball players with the top 10 highest estimated fair market values, such as Kansas Jayhawk forward Andrew Wiggins, for instance, might be worth more than $1.6 million for the same year.

 

osu07asu10's picture

So does this mean that Alabama will play MSU in 16' and 17' as opposed to the powerhouse Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky?

"They don't know what they don't know." - Coach Mick

+4 HS
1MechEng's picture

I think we may be opening Pandora's Box here.

There are many far reaching implications to paying football players. And once this ball is rolling, it's not going to want to stop. All college sports will want remuneration for their athletes - Hoops will be next. Then baseball. And so on ...

Then there's the issues of taxes. I can see some states having a recruiting advantage because of the tax situation (just like the free agent market in the NFL and NBA -- see Florida, for example).

Finally, I think we'll see the "Give them and inch, and they'll try and take a mile" course by the athletes. Once they get these benefits, how soon before they push for higher compensation?!

I'm just not sure about all of this ...

+5 HS
hetuck's picture

Title IX mandates cost of attendance would have to be paid equally to all scholarship athletes. In the case of OSU, the amounts listed above would place it in the range of $3-4M. Hopefully the next B1G TV contract would cover it because football ticket prices are at a tipping point. The next option would be sports contraction and for Title IX purposes, they would be mens sports. 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

+4 HS
Liening's picture

Hetuck:  ...football ticket prices are at a tipping point...

Agree.  I notice that this year the football ticket lottery deadline has been extended from May 30 to today (June 9).  Is this the first time they have had to do that?

GLiening

hetuck's picture

I don't buy alumni tickets through the lottery so I can't say for sure. I do not recall getting the number of emails as this year, however. The next step will be general public packages. They'll bundle VT and scUM separately. 

From what I've read here, it sounds like the student tickets have sold out. Keep in mind OSU added 2500 new student seats in the South stands. You can buy standing room tickets in the boxes up to a certain number to keep the Fire Marshall happy. Add in a few extra vendors and you could see an announced attendance of 110K for scUM. 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

RBuck's picture

Can't we call it Division I-A?

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

+1 HS
kholmes's picture

The small schools by voting in their own self interest are making the big schools look very bad in the court of public opinion. This "cost of attendance / small stipend" shows it perfectly.

-Virtually all of the Power Five is in favor of giving more to athletes in terms of the full cost of attendance or a small stipend ($2000 as mentioned above) to cover incidentals, emergencies, extra costs.

-The small schools (Eastern Michigan, Troy St, etc) cant afford it so they vote against it (because of cost and to ensure no other schools have competitive advantage) .Given the larger numbers of non-Power5 schools, these smaller schools get  to vote it down for the entire NCAA.

-The public sees the NCAA/schools are making tons of money but then sees the NCAA vote against the stipend. Who does the public blame for this selfishness? Of course, they are going to point to Texas, Alabama, OSU and UM and say those schools are making tons of of money off of TV contracts and yet arent willing to share it. In the end, the Power Five schools get criticized even though they are the ones trying to share the wealth. The Eastern Michigans and Bowling Greens of the world get to vote against it but they dont receive the criticism from the public.

The Power Five needs to be able to make decisions such as these to help the student athletes. In the past, the emphasis of NCAA rules/votes has been to ensure competitive balance among all schools. But keeping this old emphasis means that the student athletes suffer as you are essentially saying schools that can afford to pay for full cost of attendance (or health insurance, paying for athletes to return to school, etc) can only do it if all (or at least a majority of) schools can afford it. The move by the Power Five is a move to shift the emphasis from competitive balance to an emphasis on the student athlete.

+13 HS
Jack Fu's picture

Perfectly stated.

jamesrbrown322's picture

NAILED IT!

 

"I can accept failure, but I cannot accept not trying." - W.W. Hayes

Liening's picture

Consider the Title IX ramifications to paying football players, who are guys.  Will schools be required to choose women's sports and provide equivalent remuneration?  This could get really complicated.

GLiening

+1 HS
hetuck's picture

It would have to be paid equally. See my post above. 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

kholmes's picture

The stipends/full cost of attendance would be for every sport so it wouldnt have that issue. That is why it seems like such an easy thing to do to help out the student athletes...but it was shot down because the "poor" schools couldnt afford it so they voted against it and there are more of these "poor" schools.

YTOWNBUCKI's picture

With big money comes big corruption.  Maybe in 10 years we can get on e-trade and buy stock in Ohio State.  This is getting ridiculous.

+5 HS
Hovenaut's picture

There has to be change, but this isn't going to be cut and dry.

We may not see an all universal resolution, but I hope institutional leadership doesn't (completely) lose sight of truly benefiting the student, the school, the community.

+3 HS
ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

Division 4?  So basically Division 2 is smaller than Division 1, Division 3 is smaller than Division 2, but Division 4 is bigger than all of them.  Odd.

You do have to be careful with things like stipends.  Full cost of attendance, better health insurance, and such is fine.  Stipends are where you have to be careful, though.  The schools should agree to some value that they can all pay without the amount being so low that it's pointless.  I don't want to see college football recruiting become a bidding war, even if my school stands to benefit greatly from that.

Class of 2010.

+1 HS
BroJim's picture

I cant keep up with all the trials, rule changes, D-IV, playoffs, and paying players talk. I'll always love Ohio State Football, but I'm not sure if I will like college football if all these changes happen

I season my simple food with hunger

doodah_man's picture

I feel like it is the old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times".

Jim "DooDah" Day
It is hard to play dirty against a man who picks you up.

+1 HS
HotSauceCommittee's picture

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!  All I wanted was a few extra dollars for Raising Caines, my name on the back of my jersey in EA Sports NCAA football, maybe a seat at the table for a few decisions here and there and an opportunity to play in a playoff system. - said nearly every colleage football player.

 

 

+1 HS
Northbrook's picture

What they will never get control of is Bag Man payments which do provide a definite competitive advantage. Might never get control of making players actually do meaningful schoolwork either.

+3 HS
mr.green's picture

So a third string QB would get a stipend and a starting point guard would not? Or we would give starting point guards at some schools stipends but not at every school? OSU could give every athlete in every sport a stipend and Alabama could just give one only to football players and they could get more because Bama then would have more to distribute? 

This is a power/money grab on the backs of athletes that is not well thought out or has not been explained well to me.  Someone needs to sit down and rewrite the rule books so that EVERY school can help their athletes and so that every athlete gets compensated when his/her image is used to sell the product. Cost of attendance is An issue but it is being blown out of proportion in these arguments. No way a majority of families at almost every income level (except the very lowest)  cannot afford to send a few bucks the kids way once he is not living at home. My food bill went down by hundreds a month when my son left for OSU. 

 

 

 

ibuck's picture

Here's hoping the SEC bolts for their own semi-pro league, where the athletes get paid thousands each month and don't have to attend classes. And can train all year long. Oh, wait; that's what's happening to some now. 

The remaining 4 big conferences could then pay a reasonable stipend and keep the college experience, requiring the athletes to get an education, which will be invaluable after their athletic career is done, and so on. And the conference championship games would be the first round of the football playoffs (assuming the Big 12 gets enough schools to have a championship game).

 

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

+1 HS
NuttyBuckeye's picture

This is opening a big ol' can of worms we don't want to touch.  Not all power 5 conference schools could afford to pay their athletes - look at Indiana's poor attendance.  What will these schools do, stay in D1?

To me, any talk of paying athletes means professional - no longer a college athlete.  I don't care if you call it a stipend - it's cash for your sport.  These are student athletes - NOT ATHLETE / student!   I do NOT LIKE the path this is going.... very bad....

Marc Pocock (a.k.a NuttyBuckeye)

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

+1 HS
ibuck's picture

Just to clarify:

You oppose having a scholarship pay for the full cost of attendance at college?

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

Crumb's picture

Just when you think the NCAA has the undisputed title of stupidest sports organization, a new contender arises, hello Silve and the SEC.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

jamesrbrown322's picture

I say that you simple allow each student athlete to use their image to make up to $20,000 annually. That is plenty on which to live considering everything else that is already paid.

The student and school document this meticulously and there are penalties for going over. First time exceeding the $20,000 cap results in a 4 game suspension, with 1 additional game for each $2,000 by which the $20k was exceeded. Second time results in a full season suspension. Any school,  or program, with multiple offenders will also face steep consequences.

Sounds arcane, stupid, and conceivably complicated...but doesn't that describe the NCAA rule book already in play? So, let's at least let the kids make a little bit of money while we're passing and selectively, and relatively enforcing ridiculous rules!

"I can accept failure, but I cannot accept not trying." - W.W. Hayes

+1 HS
hetuck's picture

Here's the Power Five threat: Let us do what we want or we cancel all OOC pay check games. We'll only play games among ourselves. Think what that would do to the MAC, let alone the FCS schools. Ohio U. already gets a $1M subsidy from student fees for athletics. Remove the opportunity to play ay OSU, PSU, WVU, etc. and see what happens.  

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi