OPINION: Non Power Five Schools Should Say Enough


How long will 90% of the NCAA’s membership accept less-than status?

The NCAA’s and Power Five’s backroom deal to have 90% of the membership pay 60% of the costs for their NIL mistakes and allowance of corruption has made it official. Either you’re a part of the NCAA that is semiprofessional athletics divorced from education, which realistically is only football and men’s basketball and paying those athletes, or you’re not.

The Power 5 conferences, who were the plaintiffs on several lawsuits involving them and the NCAA, were in a pickle of their own making. If they went to court and lost, the Power 5 schools would have been on the hook for billions – with a b – of damages to be paid to former Power 5 athlete-students.

How that was to be done was undetermined, and key details like valuations were undetermined. But the Power 5, in a mess of their own making, didn’t want to part with their own billions. So they went to the NCAA, who cut a bargain where 60% of the lawsuit settlement was to be paid by the membership – the 90% of schools that not only aren’t a part of the Power 5, but have no intent or desire to pay their student-athletes a salary for a school activity.

If the NCAA was a government, and that government raised a tax on the population to pay for the gild of the Power 5 athletic department’s offices, there would be a revolution.

If you’re a part of the 90%, you’re more like an observer, with no say in the direction of the organization and no ability to affect change. It’s like taxation without representation.

Shouldn’t the 90% as a unit choose to leave the NCAA and watch it collapse? Why should they remain in an association where they have no say and their financial considerations and concerns don’t matter?

I believe there is serious outrage by the 90%, spearheaded by the Big East, on the settlement deals in which they had no say.

The Power 5’s scheme to pay some men’s players millions of collective and corporate inducements violates every educational norm of the past 150 years. No matter what anyone else will tell you, it violates Title IX, which requires equal opportunities (and has been interpreted as spending) for men’s and women’s athletics. It also violates any pretense that the millionaires are in it for any sort of education, and it violates all sorts of expectations that the contests are not corrupted by the influence of money.

The Power 5 conferences have bulldozed their way into wealthy boosters inducing players, which is something they wanted and 90% of the membership did not want. They recruited Mark Emmert to give them “autonomy” to ramrod through things they wanted to avoid 90% of the membership to discuss or possibly block.

And now, autonomy has reaped the whirlwind. It has has meant cutting a backroom deal to pay almost exclusively Power 5 players to settle a lawsuit that basically affects only the Power 5 revenue model. That “deal” was a “deal” that soaks the entire NCAA membership, affecting low-resource schools, HBCUs and Group of 5 schools disproportionately.

Imagine telling Mississippi Valley State, a HBCU of 1,037 full-time undergrads and a total athletics budget of $5 million dollars that they need to get a financial haircut so Ole Miss can settle a lawsuit for its players, a lawsuit that has Ole Miss named on the lawsuit but not Mississippi Valley State. Yet that in a nutshell is what the NCAA dropped on the heads of its membership Friday.

Big East commissioner Val Ackerman and the power structure of 22 other Division I leagues argued that the power conferences should be paying a larger chunk in damages, since most of the backpay is going to former power conference athlete-students. (An economic report found that 90% of the damage pay would go to Power Five (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12) football and men’s basketball players.) The letter was signed by several prominent commissioners, including Bernadette McGlade of the Atlantic 10, Robin Harris of the Ivy League, and Jen Heppel of the Patriot league.

Nonetheless, the rubber-stamp NCAA board of governors didn’t change anything. Despite the support of the vast majority of Division I, the Big East’s alternative solution of having power conferences pay 60% of the damages while non-power leagues pay 40% was considered but ultimately not approved.

So my question to the Big East and the other 22 leagues – why stay in the NCAA?

Why stay in a place were your vote isn’t heard, and you’re taxed without representtion?

Why not leave the NCAA, and form a new national governance structure of one school, one vote, with students as athletes, and an alternative sustainable compensation model?

I don’t think the Power 5 realizes how badly they need the NCAA membership, and now, after treating the rest of 90% like dirt, how the 90% could use that leverage to restore sanity to college sports.

If the 90% reformed the NCAA with athletes defined in law the way they’ve been for more than a hundred years, they could restart the NCAA tournament, just without all the Power 5 conferences, which frankly would be no great loss.

It would destroy the Power 5’s basketball tournaments and all the value and legitimacy would go with the new organization – with the Big East, and Ivy League.

Isn’t it worth trying? Isn’t that better than being run by an organization that doesn’t care and doesn’t listen and simply takes their money?