Godzilla, a “radiation-mutated creature” who has been the star of several Japanese-based movies since the mid-1950s, typically stomps its way around smashing things until it is finally subdued. A real-life Godzilla earlier this month got even stronger, thanks to the NCAA.
The NCAA board of directors voted 16-2 to give the Big 5 — Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12, the most powerful and richest collegiate conferences — the ability to “unilaterally change” rules that for years applied to all 350 Division I schools. Now 64 schools, including Minnesota, that currently belong to these conferences could, beginning in January, make up their own rules regarding stipends, recruiting, and practice time limits, for example.
Even though all conferences will have this “autonomy umbrella,” smaller leagues like the SWAC and the MAC will be like those airplanes trying to shoot down Godzilla in those movies as the Big 5 will be
able to flex their muscles at ease. The five conferences last season netted an estimated $27 million from the football bowl games.
The new football playoff system to debut this fall reportedly will pay the Big 5 at least $50 million from the first year of a 12-year television contract — a cool $10 million each. And we didn’t include monies from ticket sales and merchandise and sponsorship deals.
It takes at least 75 schools to vote to override the NCAA decision, but most likely that won’t happen. “I would be very surprised if it doesn’t pass,” noted Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany during this year’s football media day in Chicago last month.
The once-invincible NCAA has been reeling of late from legal body shots. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s anti-trust suit. O’Bannon argued that the NCAA should not solely benefit from players’ images and likenesses, and Wilken issued an injunction along with her 99-page ruling that prohibits the governing body “from enforcing any rules or bylaws that would prohibit its member schools and conferences” from offering Division I football and men’s basketball players “a limited share of the revenues generated from the use of their names, images, and likenesses…”
Drexel Professor Ellen Staurowsky was an expert witness in the O’Bannon case. She told the MSR that the NCAA is losing their “protecting the players” argument with each lawsuit filed against them — there are at least three of them currently in play.
“I think with any legal proceeding, you never know what the final outcome is going to be,” she states. “I think [the] players need some sort of players association if substantive change [is to come]…to protect their interest.”
Meanwhile, the megabucks keep flowing while the players, the ones mainly responsible for the flow, remain pocket-empty.
“It’s not a perfect enterprise,” said Delany.
As stubborn as Godzilla was, it eventually faced its demise. But we’re talking change in college sports, a move toward more equity, especially in revenue sharing.
Staurowsky surmises, “Unless we resolve those issues on behalf of the players, this is not a thing that’s going away [any time soon].” The sports management professor hopes that the NCAA “would do the right thing and change its practices, but there is such a culture of resistance around doing those things.”
“I don’t know where it all ends up,” concluded Delany. “It may be a number of years before it becomes clear.”