published Friday, January 17th, 2014

Greeson: NCAA change coming, and don't expect fairness

There is a change on the horizon, and it will make the new College Football Playoff look like a speed bump by comparison.

The NCAA meetings are going on in San Diego, and want to know what could change -- how about anything and everything?

The first wave of change will be "full cost of attendance," and it will be the catch phrase for the Big Five conferences to dictate the terms or the options the rest of college athletics will have to chase.

The SEC, the ACC, the Big 12, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 have made it clear that if they are not allowed to explore options to provide more money to student-athletes, they will explore other options anyway, up to and including breaking off from the NCAA and forming their own college sports organization. Without those 65 or so teams, the other 280-plus Division I teams would struggle to survive.

But can the unfunded majority, who most likely will not be able to afford "the full cost of attendance" or a stipend and surely will not be able to match the numbers the Big Five conference schools can offer, be able to survive on a playing field made even more uneven by different rules for different members?

And, yes, football always has been a slanted field, but are we ready for a day in the NCAA basketball tournament when the Kentucky point guard gets an extra $5K a year compared to his counterpart from Butler when those teams meet in the Sweet 16?

Add to that the entire wave of change that likeness and autograph rights may allow schools with high-profile stars and even higher-profile boosters. (And if you think Big State U is not going to find a way to make sure a slew of its more accomplished players are not doing regularly scheduled autograph shows, and to make doubly sure that the crew of five-star high school seniors know about said perks, well, then, we don't know what to tell you.)

Yes, the NCAA needs an overhaul. It has been a consistently mismanaged organization that is slow to react and obtuse to the core and to its surroundings. It needs to be burned to the ground and rebuilt.

But the proposed changes of compensating athletes is not an overhaul, it's a distraction. It's a sleight of hand that is not the NCAA's idea or in its best interest. It's an opportunistic and well-timed strike by those who can afford it to get what they want and make sure they will continue to get the best TV deals, players and donations no matter what the future may hold.

Maybe it's time that athletes share in the pot of gold that TV dollars have delivered. Maybe not. Who knows? And those options should be explored under a new leadership model that is based on fairness and equality across college sports.

This is not that model or that scenario.

This is the big conferences continuing to strengthen their hold on the eyes and the wallets of college sports. This is an NCAA too weak to do anything but acquiesce, and rather than be doomed to a complete reconstruction, Mark Emmert and the NCAA powers that be are willing to let the powerful rule as long as the NCAA gets to pretend it's ruling the powerful.

It may be time to share with the players, and for those of us who have always believed and stated that they do pay players and college scholarships are worth the effort, well, that argument becomes a little watered down when Nick Saban's making roughly $600,000 a month to coach football.

But if you are waving the banner of paying players out of fairness and agree with this direction, why should there be only select sharing and why is the NCAA protecting the power leagues?

This is no more about sharing or rewarding players than the NFL's new concussion rules are about safety. This is about plausible deniability and contract insulation. This is about the NCAA -- and more importantly the power leagues -- protecting themselves from future lawsuits not unlike the one Ed O'Bannon is leading against the NCAA and EA Sports. This is keeping the revenue stream safe, not sharing the wealth.

Who knows? But know this -- change is coming and the radical change that may happen will forever change college football.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and follow him on Twitter @jgreesontfp, and listen to him and David Paschall on "Press Row" weekdays 3-6 p.m. on ESPN 105.1 FM and in real time on timesfreepress.com.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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