SBD/July 23, 2014/Colleges

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  • MWC's Thompson: Smaller Conferences Can "Coexist Peacefully" With Power Five

    Thompson (r) believes the CFP eventually will expand to more than four teams

    Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson yesterday admitted that his league "has no leverage in stopping" the Power Five conferences "from doing as they please, but doesn't foresee any problems as long as any changes don't include increasing scholarship limits, allowing penalty-free transfers or cutting off smaller conferences altogether from scheduling," according to Brent Briggeman of the Colorado Springs GAZETTE. Thompson said that budget disparities "have always existed and likely always will." But he added that as long as the MWC "doesn't lose its chance for on-field competition with those five conferences or have its players poached by bigger schools then all can continue to coexist peacefully." Meanwhile, Thompson said that MWC schools "have not formulated plans to fund more meals and snacks, nor would they currently be able to meet increases in cost-of-attendance stipends that may soon accompany athletic scholarships." Many of those issues "will likely be handled on a school-by-school basis, which could further increase the gap between the haves and have nots." As for the new CFP, Thompson believes that it "will expand beyond four teams before the end of its 12-year deal" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 7/23). Thompson said, "We're not at a tipping point, but we're in a very precarious situation because of the unknowns." He added that it is "not only the lower-level conferences that would struggle with the extra financial demands." Thompson: "I'm not sure those 65 schools can afford to do that in those five higher-resourced conferences. It's going to be very interesting. The fight is going to be as much within the five higher resources as it is the other five [FBS] conferences because we're all facing budget challenges" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 7/23). Thompson said that MWC schools always are "looking at ways to increase revenue, but without the type of lucrative television contract that the Power 5 conferences have, there's not enough money to fully support cost of attendance budget increase" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 7/23). 

    THE SUN WILL COME OUT TOMORROW: Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson yesterday "expressed optimism" that the Power Five would "not insist on new rules which would unduly marginalize" the other five FBS conferences. Benson said, "We've shown that the competitive gap is not as great as the economic gap. We want to make sure that gap isn't widened." He said that he "supports" the full cost of attendance stipend, but "to a point." Benson: "Will there be greater additional costs? More than likely. ... But Sun Belt universities have invested too much not to be a part of major college football in the future" (AP, 7/22).

    WHAT ABOUT BOB'S COMMENTS? Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby's comments about the future of college sports continue to reverberate around the industry, with ESPN's Rod Gilmore saying, "I don’t buy the doomsday impact that he says is coming with all the changes in college athletics." Gilmore said if the power conferences "take some of the power away from the NCAA in terms of the financial aspect, in terms of telling them whether they can or cannot pay players," then the "anti-trust aspect of it starts to go away a little bit." Gilmore: "The more control the conferences have, the less of a time that they'll have with the issue on the anti-trust front. I think they need that and that's the right way to go." ESPN's Joe Schad said Bowlsby was "calculating" in his remarks about cheating and other issues affecting college sports. Schad said conference commissioners are "wielding all the power" and they have an "ability to create change that for too long has occurred at a glacial pace causing all these problems that the NCAA faces now" ("OTL," ESPN2, 7/22). ESPN's Brett McMurphy said college athletics in the next 20 years "will look really different, and I don't think it’s going to be for the better." But Gilmore said, "The doomsday scenario they are painting is there to scare the public. We've heard this for 30, 35 years that it's going to end if we have to share money. It's never happened" ("College Football Live," ESPN, 7/22).

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