This past week Central Florida Head Football Coach George O’Leary compared the tactics being used by the SEC Conference to the created autonomy for them similar to “the south during the Civil War.” The SEC and some of the other five power conferences commissioners want the NCAA to allow them to set their own by-laws and enforce their own regulations in what some are calling a proposed Division IV. O’Leary feels that by allowing the SEC and the other five power conferences to govern themselves, it will increase the gap financially and talent wise between bigger FBS teams and smaller FBS teams. If the NCAA does not grant the SEC certain authority to govern their own conference, then they are threatening to leave the NCAA and go on their own, very similar to what many southern states said when they decided to form their own Confederate States. According to O’Leary’s, if things continue on this path then it will ultimately ruin college football as we know it.

Let’s stop right there. Would it be bad for college football to have a “civil war” and to have a restructuring of teams, conferences, and regulations? In my opinion, a “civil war” is exactly what we need in college football.

I can feel the anger coming from college football fans from around the country after reading the last sentence of the previous paragraph. Allow me to explain why this split is not only inevitable, but also necessary. Let’s start with the size of college athletics programs in the Power 5 Conferences (SEC, PAC12, Big 12, Big Ten, and ACC). When you look at the overall number of athletics staff employees, amount of revenue generated, and the size of the facilities many Power 5 Conferences have better facilities than most NFL and NBA teams. These programs generate millions and approaching billions of dollars of revenue on a yearly basis through ticket sales, donations, and numerous other athletic department sources of revenue. Just think where the revenue could be if you could actually start selling players jerseys with their names on the back?

The NFL and NBA are run by smaller league offices where the commissioners are hired by the owners to handle numerous tasks but mainly to enforce laws and develop additional revenue for the teams. The reality is that the NCAA is not doing a great job doing either. The NCAA has developed athletics regulations manual that has more rules than the IRS tax code and is completely unlearn able to the average student athlete. I remember every season as a player we had to sit in on a compliance meeting done by our school’s compliance officer where she would read the rules and regulations from the NCAA. Keep in mind I graduated with a 3.7 GPA in Secondary Math Education and I could not even understand all these rules. Often times the NCAA has little consistency on how they enforce rules and hand out penalties. I challenge you to find the rule in the NCAA rule book that says a player can be suspended for the first half of a first game against a meaningless opponent for supposedly selling his autograph for profit. We have also seen bizarre rulings such as when Boise State committed an NCAA violation because they let an incoming freshmen sleep on another player’s couch during summer workouts. The rules themselves are developed by the NCAA rules committee, which only has 3 FBS schools on it with none coming from a Power 5 Conference and where the FCS has as many representatives (3).

The reality is schools in the SEC are playing at whole different level of football both in talent and in revenue. The SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, and PAC 12 dominated the profits developed through television contracts and advertising. A lot of these schools are starting to look at the NCAA and say, “if they weren’t here, what would we lose?” In fact, they are more likely to gain more revenue by not having the NCAA involved. I think that the Power 5 Conferences should all leave the NCAA and hire a commissioner, similar to Roger Goodell, to oversee rule enforcement and to develop a national playoff system. Many colleges in smaller FBS Conferences such as the AAC, Conference USA, Sun Belt, MAC, and Mountain West really are not competitive with the Power 5 Conferences. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Boise State and what they have done over the past decade. I feel they should be able to play for the National Championship, but what has played out over time is that schools from these Conferences are never going to get a shot to play in that game regardless of who they schedule out of conference. The same question will be asked by pundits, “What is their competition on a week in and week out basis?” So schools from the AAC should not care if the Power 5 Conferences are now technically playing by a different set of rules, because they always were when came to Bowl games they could play in and revenue they could create. The tough question for some in the AAC is should they leave to join a Power 5 Conference so they can compete for a National Championship.

The FBS has grown over the past few years with many FCS teams leaving for the FBS for more money by playing more FBS opponents and by playing in Bowl Games. At last year’s CAA Media Day, CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager presented data that shows the schools that leave the FCS have a dramatically less winning percentage and never really compete at the National level except for the rare case of a Boise State. These institutions have made a decision not to win national championships but to increase their university’s visibility on a national stage through television, increase athletic revenue, and offer more scholarships. The Power 5 Conferences splitting from these schools shouldn’t matter to either party. The Power 5 Conferences will still need these schools and FCS schools to fill a schedule of 7 to 8 home games a year. The smaller FBS schools and FCS schools would still make revenue from playing FBS schools from the Power 5 Conferences, so there is no real loss financially. The idea that FBS Schools would be playing from an unleveled playing field would exist whether they were with NCAA or not. Just the profile of a Power 5 Conference School is a recruiting advantage over any small FBS or FCS school.

A College Football Civil War would be good for fans. If a true playoff system would be developed from the Power 5 Conferences, we could see a true National Championship instead of one that at times has been chosen by computers. If two or three SEC teams would be in a playoff for the National Championship, you will see better out of conference schedules. Some may argue that by not having a playoff system, you make every game important. I agree, but you also become careful about whom you play out of conference because one loss especially to teams in the ACC and Big 12 likely costs you a chance at playing for the National Championship. Ultimately teams splitting away from the NCAA will lead to athletes receiving compensation for playing collegiate sports, which is a story all unto itself.

The NCAA for a long time has prided themselves on helping Student Athletes, but at the same time developing record revenue for the past decade. The loss of the Power 5 Conferences in Football and ultimately basketball would dramatically reduce the NCAA’s revenue. Some argue that this loss in revenue would trickle down to smaller Division II and Division III sports and cause them not to have as many benefits when it came to the NCAA playoffs. I don’t buy this argument. In the end, I can’t see a college institution not picking up a bill for a college to compete in the NCAA playoffs. Given the rise in tuition across the country, no one should feel bad about a college’s bottom line. The reality is George O’Leary’s statement about the SEC speaking like the South in the Civil War should not shock any one, because there has always been a huge gap between the Power 5 Conferences and the rest of the NCAA, the SEC just wants to make this gap official. Bring it on the College Football Civil War; it will be the best thing that happened to college football.

Dan Evans

Beyond Sports Network (COO)

Catholic University of America Adjunct Professor of Sports Marketing

devans@beyondsportsllc.com

Follow @BSNDan