The ’17 Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum kicked off this morning with the panel, “What’s Keeping You Up At Night,” featuring notable ADs discussing a variety of issues surrounding collegiate sports at this time. Moderator John Ourand posed an early question on the CFP and whether the selection of Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama was the best outcome for this football season. Georgetown AD Lee Reed noted there will always be a disappointed school in the current landscape, as the human element has to play a part in the selection. Penn State’s Sandy Barbour, whose school was left out of the '16 CFP despite winning the Big Ten, called this year’s selections “justifiable.” Barbour: “The question is are we set up to get it right over and over again. … Is it sustainable?” Barbour went on to say if schools had a more specific criteria from the CFP selection committee, it would help across the board. Barbour noted the criteria “changes every year.” Washington AD Jennifer Cohen, whose school did make the '16 CFP, cited the strength of schedule debate as a constant concern, as most schools schedule matchups sometimes as much as 10 years down the line. North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham made a point to stand up for UCF, which is the only undefeated FBS team yet was not given serious consideration for the CFP. Cunningham: “I believe in creating more opportunities. We have more money associated with intercollegiate athletics than we ever have before. When you’re not in a Power 5, having a chance to at least get there is important.”
CLEANING UP COLLEGE HOOPS: The panel was then asked for thoughts on the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption surrounding college basketball, with Reed saying there is currently a “vacuum relative to college players’ market value.” Barbour: “My biggest fear is nothing changes.“ She went on to say the NCAA cannot “waste this crisis.” Reed noted there will always be some negative elements around college basketball due to the high stakes nature of the industry, but it is up to the schools to better advise their student-athletes. Cunningham: “We’re still trying to figure out how the economy of college sports fits into this new world. Outside influences will require us to change.”
LOSE-LOSE SITUATION: Cunningham also addressed his own school’s years-long NCAA investigation. He said, “We didn’t win by any stretch. It wasn’t good for us or our industry. ... We have to earn back people’s trust.” Cunningham said the difficulty of an investigation such as the one he went through is that the eventual outcome is almost “distasteful and dissatisfying for everyone.”
LEARNING FROM ROCKY TOP: As for what has happened at Tennessee over the past couple weeks, Reed said ADs know that adversity will hit their athletic programs at some point or another. Reed: “The true test is what do you do about it.” Barbour acknowledged that stakeholders at all schools probably now feel “empowered” by what happened at UT, and that will only increase the outside pressure on officials making important decisions, including coaching hires. Barbour: “[ADs] have to know that. … It’s changed.” Cunningham cited a mentor early in his career who often told him, “Alumni don’t interrupt our business, alumni are our business.” Cohen: “Fans need to be heard. They deserve a voice, it’s just a matter of how you give that voice action.”
• Reed on esports: “What is it? Is it a varsity sport? Is it a student activity? ... Whichever one, it has the attention of the country.”
• Cunningham noted UNC had six concussions this year in volleyball. Reed: “I had six in sailing a couple years ago!”
• Both Cohen and Reed said their children are allowed to play football at this time, though Cohen noted the fact that “some mothers read one article and immediately rule it out” has to be concerning for the future of the sport.