Editorial: Dollars making change

Jul. 23, 2014 @ 10:41 PM

We’re nearing a half a century of endings to exciting games, championships among many and a model that was once heavily scrutinized in college athletics. It is about to change again.

Life’s consistency is change, and money changes lives. Our beloved college sports are included.

Hard to imagine March Madness and realize the NCAA Tournament was once the consolation invite if a team didn’t make the NIT. Check the college gridiron on fall Saturdays and imagine an era when 23 teams made up the Southern Conference. Among them were 10 current members of the Southeastern Conference and seven future charter members of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The NCAA was nothing like today. Amateurism had a place in competition, and not just college sports and the Olympics.

The NCAA’s 1973 adoption of a three divisions model was unknown territory. Another new era is about to launch, with benefits tied to status gained since the last change.

The five biggest conferences in the NCAA, accounting for 65 schools, are attempting to have more controlling interest without smaller institutions having an equal say in what they can and can’t do.

The NCAA legislates more than 1,200 schools, leagues and organizations. It is a non-profit generating nearly $900 million in revenue and $32 million profit.

Its president appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this month. Mark Emmert’s comments on reform buttered both sides of the NCAA’s bread, leading Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill to tell him she wasn’t sure if he was in charge or a minion.

Emmert made $1.7 million annually at last check. He’s kind of in charge. So are schools, until the new model passes.

Two divisions, named university and college, only lasted from 1956 until 1973. The current model is on life support. Former North Carolina football player Devon Ramsay, testifying beside Emmert, said schools are concerned with penalties and losses of scholarships while the NCAA makes decisions based on signage and profit margins.

The committee chairman said the hearing didn’t accomplish much and was more about self-protection. He and Ramsay were both right. And Emmert’s dodge out of the hearing on a freight elevator said plenty.

Money’s influence has a consistency, too. And the college athletics life is going to feel it make change.