Bohls: On the heels of a blockbuster SEC move, NCAA is facing own drastic change
- NCAA follows SEC move, plans to rewrite entire constitution in January convention.
- Four superconferences could also emerge from latest summer expansion realignment.
- NCAA could do any number of options to better college athletics.
This just in:
The NCAA announced late Friday afternoon that it's planning to rewrite its entire constitution basically over the Christmas break.
Film at 11.
Sure, why not? What’s next in this wild summer of 2021?
Football fields stretching to 120 yards? Basketball rims rising to 15 feet? Twelve-inning games for baseball? A 64-team football playoff, as Mike Leach once suggested?
What a wild ride for college athletics, which will obviously never be the same. When an Alabama quarterback who has never started a game might clear a cool million bucks in endorsements, thanks to revolutionary rules that went into effect as far back as, oh yeah, July 1, you know we’ve all entered a time machine as we rocket forward to the future.
Or, as SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey put it Friday: “A transformational time. It’s a significant day.”
Oh, and Texas and Oklahoma joined the SEC, effective July 2025 (or much earlier). Maybe you heard about it.
Not since they legalized the forward pass in 1906 have we seen college sports advance as quickly as it has the past three months, when the Longhorns and Sooners practiced their own version of name, image and likeness and traded in big time on their powerful brands. They one-upped Bijan Robinson and Spencer Rattler and came up with their own deals.
Now the NCAA has to step up its game, if it’s not already too late.
When it failed to enact suitable NIL legislation a decade after it was sued and begged Congress to step in, it triggered an avalanche of state laws that awarded NIL rights to college athletes.
It might well be too late for the NCAA to save itself. But truth be told, the NCAA could try to push through any number of things to help itself.
Hire a college football commissioner, even though it technically doesn’t govern that sport. Finish enforcement investigations in a year. Use common sense. Quit nitpicking over silly recruiting rules. Stop replay reviews that last longer than a Tarantino film. Give baseball enough scholarships to field a team.
This is just for starters.
Friday’s NCAA announcement might be just one offshoot of the SEC blockbuster move.
This is the brave new world of college athletics.
What might come out of NCAA conference realignment
Given the current climate and the sea change of athlete empowerment with the transfer portal and immediate eligibility and now the revolutionary passage of NIL rights, anything goes.
It won’t surprise at all if we do wind up with four megaconferences.
Or if those leagues break off and form their own version of a modern-day NCAA.
Or if they then increased football scholarships and maybe scholarships for other sports.
Or if they raise staff limits, increase football schedules to 13-game seasons starting in mid-August, or if they get rid of law enforcement altogether since some think the NCAA has basically legalized a different form of “cheating.”
Who knows what radical changes will result?
But the Longhorns and Sooners are in the club.
Where they belong.
Where they should have been decades ago.
It was overdue.
Even though Texas and OU were once on the brink of joining the Pac-12 10 years ago and making that the first superconference, this seems to be the right time.
Former UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds said on our “On Second Thought” podcast in June that he had leaned toward membership in the ACC over the Pac-12 back in 2011.
“I preferred to go east instead of west,” Dodds said when asked about the ACC. “And today, it seems the West Coast is lagging a bit in sports and wins/losses and championships. They don’t seem to have the burn they do in the South and the East.”
Dodds couldn’t be reached for comment this weekend. He got the going east right.
But exactly 10 years ago, he and Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione told me the following after they had rebuffed the Pac-12's overtures, even though the Sooners had tried and failed to get that conference to take just OU and Oklahoma State.
"I don't think anything is off the table," Castiglione told me in October 2011. "But as soon as everything morphs to superconferences, it could be five, six years before everybody says they liked it better when we were at nine or 10 teams.”
Dodds and Castiglione were warming to the idea that 10-team leagues might be the coming thing, even more than superconferences back then.
"I think 16 is unmanageable," Dodds said then. "I can see going to 50 or 60 (FBS) teams eventually with all 10-team conferences. When the system breaks down, I think they may remodel it with 10-team leagues.”
Dodds might be right if the eventual model of about 60 teams emerges after the dust settles.
How far will the SEC go?
In all likelihood, this SEC move will shake up college football and alter the landscape of college sports forever. Maybe it will trigger massive conference realignment. Perhaps we’ll see four superconferences of 16 schools each, which would be appropriate and logical.
Heck, maybe the SEC won’t stop until it has every FBS school in its league. There was speculation that it could kick the tires on an ACC pair from the likes of North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia and Virginia Tech as potential members if it wanted to grow to 20 schools, but a well-connected SEC source shot down that talk.
Still, a 130-member SEC would be impressive.
That said, the shocking turn of events the past two weeks could set in motion all kinds of upheaval in college sports. On Friday the NCAA Board of Governors took a historic step and announced it will hold a special constitutional convention in November, with action expected to be taken at the NCAA's scheduled convention in January.
That body has clearly gotten the message that the current system is broken as the NCAA works to react more quickly than the glacial speed it has shown for decades and proposes what it calls “dramatic changes to the NCAA Constitution.”
The redrafting will come from a 22-person review committee composed of presidents; commissioners; athletic directors; students from Divisions I, II and III; and independent members of the NCAA Board of Governors.
Late to the party, but we’ll see what they come up with.
Perhaps this could be the beginning of the end for the slow-moving NCAA, which loses more than the old Washington Generals. Wouldn’t be at all surprising. Sounds as if it wants to get out of rule enforcement and leave that up to the individual conferences.
Could it be replaced by a slimmed-down version that simply puts even more power in the hands of the elite college programs? Possible. Them with the gold make the rules.
Would a players union in the near future surprise anyone, given that athletes are finally realizing the clout they hold?
Is there a chance Texas and OU might have stayed put had they known a 12-team College Football Playoff might be on the way by 2023 with better chances of qualifying in the less potent Big 12? Very unlikely.
Will the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 be compelled to beef up their membership rolls now? Wasn’t all that long ago when they surprisingly invited Rutgers and Maryland.
Are the Longhorn Network’s days numbered? Probably so.
Change is certainly in the air.
And we haven’t even made it through August yet.