Several sources have said that part of the motivation for the Power 5 considering hosting its own fall Olympic sports seasons is to justify football, the revenue-generating sport for all sports departments at that level. If all other sports are canceled but football perseveres on its own, the optics would open schools to severe criticism. So practicing all the fall sports would allow these schools to say that they pose no risk to football players.
Sources described the breakaway championship discussions as preliminary in nature, the first steps in assessing both interest and feasibility. An Atlantic Coast Conference administrator said the concept is “hypothetical” in nature and is not yet mature, but “if the NCAA does something it could move it from neutral to first report.”
Given the P5’s incentive to justify football, the decision – and the justification – of the Board of Governors will be essential. If it decides to cancel the fall athletic championships for COVID-19 health and safety concerns, it would be difficult for the Power 5 to justify going its own way without a plan to permanently protect its athletes. But if the board says the cost of driving safely to championships is prohibitive, the Power 5 might have a way to play all of its fall sports, including soccer.
“We’re all trying to think, hey, what can we do for our kids, so that they have a season and a chance to compete for a championship,” said a sports director from Power 5. “And, frankly, how can we justify playing football? “
The cost of trying to create some sort of bubble at NCAA championship events like the volleyball tournament, with regional and a Final Four would be considerable. With rapid testing for all participants, secure accommodation and transportation, sterilization of the event and practice locations, the bills would add up. Multiply that across eight sports and three different levels of NCAA participation, and it would easily be the association’s most expensive fall championship series – and it comes after the NCAA just took a huge financial hit with it. the cancellation of the 2020 basketball tournaments.
This is where the Power 5 could step in and collectively foot the bill for their own fall championships, which would be a third or less of the total NCAA cost. A source within the Olympic sports community said it would be “very easy” for P5 conferences to outsource to established event management companies to organize their own championships.
The Board of Governors could make separate decisions for Divisions II and III, where a number of leagues have already postponed or canceled fall sports. Several Division I schools of FCS conferences, such as the Ivy League and the Patriot League, have also postponed fall sports. Sources told SI that they expected a cancellation or postponement at the DII and DIII levels, but were unsure what would happen at the ID level.
If the NCAA board of directors delays action again, it could further inflame a member who has a growing need for certainty about the seasons ahead. One athletic director described limbo as “mentally unhealthy” for his fall sports athletes. Fall sports other than NCAA football are men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, field hockey, and men’s water polo.
For decades, the Power 5 Conferences – the Atlantic Coast, the Big 12, the Big Ten, the Pacific-12, and the Southeast – continued to accumulate power and income at a rate that separated them from the rest of the world. university athletics. This separation led these leagues to acquire their own autonomy at the legislative level of the NCAA, by developing rules adapted to their specific needs.
Football has been the driving force behind this, as media rights deals for these leagues have exploded over the past decade. The FBS group’s conferences of 5 – American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt – struggled to keep pace as the income gap widened.
Schools attending these conferences, as well as independent institutions, may want to try and join the proposed Fall Championships for Power 5, according to a theorized source. If the NCAA sees more than a third of its more than 350 Division I members fundamentally ignore a postponement or cancellation, the association’s weakening of power would be immense.
Already, the NCAA’s lack of influence at the Power 5 level has never been more glaring than in 2020. Since the cancellation of the Winter and Spring Championships last March, the NCAA has been largely in the spotlight. away by watching individual conferences grappling with the pandemic. He released return to sport guidelines in the spring and recently updated them, but behind the scenes college administrators have increasingly criticized Emmert and the entire NCAA for a perceived lack of leadership.
“It’s almost like they’re frozen,” said a sports director.
A veteran college administrator described the NCAA and Power 5 as having long been embroiled in an “existential crisis,” and wondered if this fall sports gambit could be “the crack in the armor” that leads to a possible split.
“Is this the last break?” The source asked. “You could have two championships: one from (Power 5) and potentially groups of 5 joining them, and a second for everyone in the spring. … It’s going to be really weird. “