Top College Football Programs Should Unite and Leave the NCAA
With each new speculated conference expansion plan emerging from sea to shining sea, it's never been more obvious what should be the next move for college football's elite football programs.
Leave the NCAA.
Just ditch it. They don't need college sports' governing body anymore. They've outgrown the NCAA's archaic system and rules.
Not all programs mind you, but only the crème de la crème – the top 60 or 70 college football programs that really, truly matter. The ones that have been or would be willing to make a serious commitment, the ones that spend the big bucks on their pigskin programs: the so-called football factories.
The programs that realize having successful, multi-million dollar head coaches prowling the sideline in front of a sold-out stadium each Saturday is much more important than some silly APR ranking or team GPA. Student-athletes? Shmudent-athletes!
These programs have already been compared to the minor leagues of the NFL. What's wrong with that? Embrace it. Let the schools not willing -- or without the resources -- to be a serious player in college football remain in the NCAA. The best programs can start up a new organization, for lack of a better name, called the NCFL: National Collegiate Football League.
With the NCFL, they won't have to worry anymore about a senator or attorney general threatening some frivolous lawsuit. The NCFL will create its own rules: no limits on the number of assistant coaches or practice time, give the players stipends or let the players sign early with agents, it doesn't matter. Remember, the No.1 reason they're at an NCFL school is football. If they want to go to class and get a degree, that's fine. Just don't miss practice.
The creation of the NCFL would also stop the current trend of conferences attempting to absorb other conferences like a scene from "The Blob." What is the main reason the Mountain West Conference appears to be trying to swallow the Western Athletic Conference in one bite? To keep BYU from going independent and therefore the MWC can keep alive its longshot chances to earn an automatic BCS bowl berth.
C'mon, who is the MWC kidding? The MWC doesn't deserve an automatic BCS bowl berth. Neither does the WAC, MAC, Conference USA or the Sun Belt. Let's stop pretending that the non-automatic qualifying BCS teams can or should compete with the automatic BCS teams.
Last year, Mark Shurtleff, Utah's attorney general, said that "from the very first kickoff of the college football season, the BCS uses its monopoly powers to put more than half of the schools at a disadvantage."
Schurtleff has it all wrong.
Those schools already are at a disadvantage because they don't (or can't) make the financial commitment or have the resources that the big boys do. In the college football arms race, those smaller conference schools, are France.
Sure, a smaller conference school such as Boise State can pull off the occasional upset. But would Boise State, with a football budget that ranks about 85th out of the current 120 teams in the NCAA's upper division, deserve a spot or be able to compete in the NCFL? Doubtful.
However, in the current BCS format, all the Broncos need to do is win two tough games against Virginia Tech and Oregon State and then put it on cruise control through a patsy league schedule – which, Bronco fans, is why I picked them to win the national title this year. But even the biggest Bronco fan would admit they wouldn't sniff an unbeaten season if they played an SEC or Big Ten caliber conference schedule.
Not all of the big conference teams -- the current 67 teams from the six power leagues (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 with Utah, Big East and Notre Dame) -- would automatically get a free pass into the NCFL.
Unless they increase their commitment to football, some current automatic qualifying BCS programs -- and I'm talking about you Ole Miss, Baylor, Washington State, South Florida and Minnesota -- don't deserve to be in the NCFL. Why should they? They don't spend even one-third of what Ohio State does on its football program. You're either all in or you're not.
Probably the majority of the current non-automatic qualifying BCS conference teams, with the exception of TCU and maybe BYU, would need to remain in the NCAA -- not that there's anything wrong with it.
If schools remained in the NCAA, it just means those schools have different priorities than the NCFL schools. The NCAA teams will be able to compete on a more level playing field with their own kind -- the majority of the current C-USA, Mountain West, WAC, MAC and Sun Belt teams. Maybe even some FCS teams could move up to the NCAA's FBS division.
The teams in the NCFL would be determined by several factors, including their financial commitment to football, their economic worth, tradition and even their television Q rating. And forget about the conference names of years past like the SEC, ACC and Big 12. The NCFL would have conferences named after corporate sponsors, such as Nike, Under Armour, FedEx and Pacific Life. Perhaps only the Big Ten would hold out, settling for the AT&T Big Ten Conference.
A buddy of mine, Jack, who's been involved in college athletics for three decades, said it's only a matter of time before conferences are named after sponsors. "It would be like NASCAR," Jack said. "It's nothing really new to the sports world, but great value for branding."
Instead of four 16-team superconferences in the NCFL, I actually think the NCFL would work better divided into six conferences featuring 10-12 schools. Teams would play eight conference games. The four non-conference games would be automatically determined by their conference finish in the previous seasons (similar to the NFL model), so each team would have six home and six road games a year.
This would eliminate any scheduling problems, million-dollar game guarantees and, who knows, might even make athletic directors obsolete. NCFL schools would have the option to schedule a 13th game, which would be against an NCAA team, similar to what every school does now by scheduling a FCS cupcake for another home game payday.
What role would the bowls play? Let the bowls determine which ones want to pay out the megabucks required to be part of the NCFL. I'm guessing they would. The remaining NCAA bowls can continue to reward their student-athletes in the fine communities of Albuquerque, Mobile and Detroit.
The NCFL, meanwhile, can determine if it wants the top two teams to play for the NCFL championship (the week before the Super Bowl?), or hold a plus-one format or four-team tournament.
The NCFL can do whatever it wants. It's earned the right. It can create as many or as few rules as needed. If the coaches are tired of the 85-scholarship limit, then allow NCFL schools to have 100 players on scholarship – or even 120. No longer are they restricted by the NCAA. The only limit is their imagination.
Contact FanHouse senior writer Brett McMurphy at firstname.lastname@example.org or please follow on Twitter @BrettmcmurphY