The Power 5 Conferences took a big step in separating from Division I athletics last week when the conference commissioners and Notre Dame voted for autonomy. The vote passed, and for now, this gives the members of the Power 5 conferences more power to do what they want. At this point, some of the biggest changes would benefit student-athletes.
The Power 5 conferences want to give players more benefits: bigger scholarships, better health insurance, and possibly stipends that would essentially be paychecks for players. This has been tabbed as “the death of college athletics” by some, but what could this vote mean for the individual school in the near future?
Paying athletes: Paying athletes a stipend would likely be the first measure passed. Although not every athletic director is in favor of paying athletes, the majority likely would vote for this. But paying athletes is unprecendented, and there are plenty of problems that may arise: for example, how much athletes are being paid? Does that amount vary from school to school? If the amount is not uniform, that would create problems—maybe a recruit decides to go to one school over another because one school can offer a couple thousand dollars more than another, which creates an unfair playing field in favor of wealthier athletic programs.
This could also turn the public against college athletics. Fans may not think it is not right to flat-out pay athletes, believing that an athletic scholarship is enough. Others may think it compromises the game. Long-term, if drastic, ramifications could lead to a drop in TV ratings—and eventually to a drop in TV rights, and then to a loss in funds to the conferences and the schools.
Football scheduling changes: We have already seen the ACC and other conferences implement rules saying schools must schedule at least one non-conference game with another Power 5 conference school. For example, Syracuse fills this requirement this year with the Maryland game. In an ESPN survey, 30 of the 65 coaches of Power 5 conference schools are in favor of scheduling only within Power 5 conferences. Scott Shafer is listed as an undecided in the poll. Such a move would be a much-welcomed by fans, since many non-conference games around the country are boring and uncompetitive.
Loss of sports not named football and men’s basketball: Simply put, football and men’s basketball are the money-making sports for most universities. Although women’s basketball gets a good amount of exposure on TV, it does not generate nearly enough interest or revenue to power an athletic department. With football and men’s basketball potentially requiring more money due to paying players, there is not as much money to fund other sports, especially Olympic teams. With no set guidelines, could these sports be cut to fund the revenue-generating programs?
Which athletes get paid?: Obviously football and men’s basketball players would get paid because they make the money. But what other athletes could get paid? Do all athletes need to get a stipend? Do they all get the same amount of money? If not all athletes are being paid, this could play into public perception of disgust for the NCAA. It could also create problems with Tittle IX, that says there need to be equal opportunities in athletics for men and women. .
What really matters in Syracuse?: Overall, these changes could wind up having no effect on the Syracuse football program. But they will almost definitely cause a ripple effect across the rest of the Syracuse athletic department. There is simply not enough income to pay every athlete at Syracuse. Every program outside of football and men’s basketball loses money over the course of a season. So football and men’s basketball would need to finance the travel and costs of the other teams, and they would also need to pay every other athlete as well.
The biggest difference that Syracuse football fans will see is the quality of opponent both on the road and coming to the Dome. But we have already begun to see this change. Look at last year, when the Orange played both Penn State and Northwestern. This year SU plays Maryland and Notre Dame. Next year Syracuse and LSU start a home-and-home series. If the Power 5 conference coaches’ wishes come true, fans can expect to at least see better games on a more regularly.
Posted by: Seth Goldberg