Athletic directors within the Football Bowl Subdivision aren't calling for a break from NCAA governance — as seemed likely amid recent chaotic changes to player rights and privileges — but they want NCAA governance to be streamlined.
LEAD1, an association of Football Bowl Subdivision ADs, convened 105 of its 131 members Wednesday for a meeting that focused mostly on how best to govern major college football.
As reported by Ralph Russo of The Associated Press, there has been some momentum in the past year to seriously explore breaking FBS away from the NCAA and creating another structure to run the biggest revenue-generator in college sports.
For now, though, the preference is for reform within the current structure.
“At the end of the day, it was very clear that the status quo is not acceptable,” said LEAD1 president and CEO Tom McMillen, the former Maryland basketball star and congressman. “And that there was a strong, very strong, preference for a model in the NCAA that is extremely streamlined and much less bureaucratic.
“And if that can’t be accomplished, move it to the outside.”
McMillen said LEAD1 planned to gather ideas cultivated at Wednesday's meeting and share them with NCAA officials in a letter.
"We're a facilitator. We’re not the decision-maker," McMillen said. “We recommend. That’s really the extent of what we can do.”
The NCAA's Division I Transformation Committee was formed last year and has been meeting regularly for months to discuss the way Division I is structured and governed. It is led by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and Ohio athletic director Julie Cromer, who is also a member of LEAD1.
“Certainly the debate today has been helpful,” Cromer said. “I think we’ll use this feedback in our transformation committee work.”
The Transformation Committee has already handed down proposals related to transfer rules and how NCAA enforcement operates as part of phase one of its work. A set of those proposals were approved last month.
Phase two is in progress, with membership requirements for schools, student-athlete benefits, access to championship events and revenue distribution at the core of the discussions.
“I think there exists some frustration with the lack of responsibility and the ability to be nimble and specific to our needs in football, within the current decision-making structure,” Cromer said of the FBS ADs.
As the NCAA's role in governance is deemphasized, and more power is handed down to conferences and schools, it seemed a perfect time for a re-assessment of how major college football operates to many athletic directors, Russo wrote.
The NCAA has limited involvement over FBS compared to the rest of Division I sports. The conferences run the College Football Playoff and share the hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue it generates with no NCAA involvement.
One of the concerns about moving away from the NCAA would be the need to create a new, similar organization.
McMillen said the NCAA spends about $65 million per year on administrative and insurance costs. “That does not include any kind of extraordinary costs or legal," McMillen said. ”As you know, the NCAA is the legal shield. They take a lot of the front load."
The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics proposed in 2020 that FBS football separate from the rest of NCAA sports.
Sankey has said he is adamantly against the Knight Commission's proposal, in large part because he doesn't like the idea of compartmentalizing one sport within an athletic department.
Sankey, who attended the LEAD1 meeting to give the ADs an update on the Transformation Committee's work, shared with the ADs his skepticism for the effectiveness of an FBS breakaway from the NCAA, Russo reported. He said he understands the desire for change. “And given the distinctions around football, there are those who view that as a relevant point of change,” Sankey said. “But then the why, the outcomes, those have to be much further developed.”