News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 24, 2013

FROM THE PRESS BOX: Change is coming to college sports ... is ISU ready?

Todd Golden
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Most of the major football conferences are holding their football media days this week. Usually the dominant sound coming out of media days is relentless coachspeak and endless platitudes about players who are finally going to make it X-team’s season.

This year? The war drums are beating.

Conference commissioners from the Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 Conference have all used their forum with the media to express their dissatisfaction with NCAA governance and raise the trial balloon of a fourth division that would be the exclusive domain of the five power conferences.

Expect more when the Big Ten has its media days starting today. The Pac-12 Conference gets its turn starting Friday.

Side note: Take shelter as the chutzpah that will fall from the sky if Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany speaks on the topic will be such that it would’ve wiped out the dinosaurs in a bygone age. Delany, of course, filed a declaration in Ed O’Bannon’s trial against the NCAA that suggests the Big Ten would move down to a Division III model if made to share revenue.

The unification among the power conference commissioners is no coincidence. The commissioners of the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big 10 and Pac-12 met six weeks ago to build consensus on NCAA change. They want it all.

They want rules — such as paying players — that suit their institutional needs. They want independence from comparatively financially strapped universities that have blocked what they believe is their right to run their business the way they see fit. They also want to get rid of the riff-raff — i.e. Mid-American Conference, Sun Belt Conference, etc. — that they feel dilutes the brand names of the schools that have a national following.

“There are programs that have $3-million budgets and programs that have $160-million budgets. How do you begin to try and do things that are good for one that are also good for the other?” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “I don’t know how you go about solving problems other than get like-minded people together and trying to come up with a solution.”

Some of the ideas are sound — to the point that Northern Iowa Director of Athletics Troy Dannen tweeted his approval of Bowlsby’s remarks on Tuesday. Bowlsby is a former Northern Iowa AD.

Some aren’t, and some of what the power conferences want would be subject to legal and likely Congressional scrutiny from the regions left out (i.e. Mountain West Conference), but it really doesn’t matter.

The power conferences hold the cards and the leverage. The NCAA’s impotence and incompetence in recent years in their minds has only served to stir the pot of disenchantment and has unified them to the point where they will seek, and will likely get, an added division to the NCAA’s structure in January.

So far, the changes discussed by the power conferences only affect football, but let’s be real. If a fourth division for football works, a fourth division for other sports could follow.

To quote Walter White from the great TV show Breaking Bad, the power conferences, “are the ones who knock.”

What does this mean for Indiana State’s athletics? It might be an opportunity if its plays its cards right, but it must be prepared.

Dannen’s approval of Bowlsby’s comments likely stem from the fact that many Missouri Valley Football Conference athletic directors believe the conference is well placed to move into a football division that would include the also-rans of the current Football Bowl Subdivision. 

The Mountain West, American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC and Sun Belt would theoretically form a second division and could be joined by the MVFC and other current Football Championship Subdivision conferences. The MVFC, which has been the best conference at the FCS level for the last two years, is indeed well placed to join that group.

In a story I wrote on the future of FCS on April 21, MVFC commissioner Patty Viverito gave voice to this.

“Whether it’s at the current FCS umbrella or whether it’s the bottom quartile of the current FBS joining the top quartile of FCS. What model is, whatever amount of scholarships it takes, that’s where we want to be,” Viverito said.

There’s the rub for the Sycamores — the amount of scholarships.

Sure, it’s possible that in an effort to contain costs that current FBS schools that are left out of the super conference division could reduce scholarships to the 63 that are currently the maximum in FCS. If the power conferences made a clean break and refused to play anyone outside of their private club, it could become a fiscal necessity.

More likely is that the MVFC would move up and have to duplicate the 85-scholarship model used in FBS and the resulting Title IX imbalance it would cause to its existing structure. It’ll cost more money … and as we all know ISU isn’t awash in cash.

I just hope ISU is prepared to be nimble on its feet and prepare itself for the changes to come. If it’s prepared, it could raise ISU to a different level where its on par with MAC schools like Ball State. If not, it could be a disaster.

The war drums are beating. I hope ISU is listening.

* Braun — I’m about to go on vacation, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t write a word or two about disgraced Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun.

Anyone who knows me is well aware that I wear my Brewers fandom on my sleeve. I was born and raised in Milwaukee and I’m proud of that. So how did I feel about Braun?

I was mad, but mostly, I was sad.

I’m mad for reasons most of you are — he deceived people. That bothers me far more than performance-enhancing drug use does. I never thought he was completely innocent, but then, to paraphrase Royce Waltman, Major League Baseball handled his situation with the deft touch of a 20-mule team, so who really knew? The window was there to believe him.

But I’m sad because he let my hometown down, he let my kids down who were fond of him, and he let the game down.

It wasn’t cool to have my Say It Ain’t So Joe moment with my own children on Monday. I just tried to use it as teaching moment to demonstrate that in lying you reap the wind and sow a whirlwind of karma. 

The knives out nationally for Braun are stark evidence to that as they’ve been long and sharp, but when he returns in 2014, those blades will be particularly pointed in Milwaukee.

He asked Brewers fans, my people, to trust him and he took them for a ride. Many will take it as a personal affront.

Braun will get booed in Milwaukee, perhaps more lustily than he will anywhere. Miller Park won’t be a very happy place in 2014.

That’s make me saddest of all. When you boil it all down, baseball is joy to me. I’ll be a Brewers fan until I shuffle off this mortal coil, but Braun’s duplicity takes some of the joy out of it. That’s unforgivable.

Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or todd.golden@tribstar.com. Follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.