College sports at most FBS-affiliated programs are driven today by one all-consuming pursuit: The money chase.
The recent conference realignment decisions of six PAC-12 institutions, including two founding members of the 108-year-old conference, should be the final tipping point forcing university presidents to explain why the current structure is still in the best interests of all Division I college athletes in all sports. These football-driven realignments create substantial challenges for basketball and Olympic sport athletes, who will spend much more time traveling and will miss many more classes with cross-country conference competition than football players.
The Knight Commission believes our December 2020 proposal for an overhauled structure will be better for athletes in all sports and improve governance. Our proposal calls for the creation of a new governing structure solely for the sport of FBS football, with the NCAA continuing to govern all other sports.
An important feature of the proposed new national governance entity for FBS football is that it be overseen by independent directors, rather than by university presidents and conference commissioners with built-in conflicts of interest.
Our proposed structure would NOT require all current conferences, with their existing media contracts, to be dismantled. However, a new national governing structure for FBS football could provide greater flexibility for competitive affiliations to be different for all other sports. The current NCAA structure and rules are restrictive on this point, requiring FBS football conferences to have at least eight programs that play regular-season competitions in basketball and a specified number of other Olympic sports.
Two law firms vetted our proposal and found it would comply with Title IX and antitrust laws.
This overhaul also is needed to correct the current misalignment of revenue, authority, and responsibility at the national level. Unlike every other NCAA-sanctioned sport, FBS football’s championship, the lucrative College Football Playoff (CFP), does not contribute a dime to the NCAA, even though the NCAA continues to pay tens of millions of dollars in national legal and health care costs for FBS football annually. At the same time, the CFP—which soon will be a $2 billion enterprise that dwarfs even March Madness—is run by an LLC, managed by college presidents and commissioners with no independent oversight.
If university presidents want to continue pretending FBS football is just like other NCAA Division I sports, then the CFP meeting on August 30 to determine future revenue distributions of more than $1 billion dollars should be its last—and these decisions should be made by NCAA governance. The alternative is to have FBS football be governed by its own entity.
PDF version of the statement is here.