College Football Super-Division, Penn State and O’Bannon

Legal

I wanted to provide some brief thoughts on several hot topics in college sports today, so here we go:

College Football Super-Division

Back in February, I provided some analysis and predictions about the future of the NCAA.  Specifically I discussed the idea of four BCS super- conferences, the possible separation of those schools from the NCAA, and the possible creation of a new football division for the BCS schools.  The jury is still out on super-conferences (though things have stabilized for now with all but the SEC schools granting their television rights to their conferences), and defecting from the NCAA still doesn’t seem to have much momentum.  However the idea of a new football division is picking up steam.

The BCS schools, through the voice of their conference commissioners, are saying enough.  Their aggravated tone and sense of urgency leaps off the page.  No longer will they allow the simple majority of the “have-nots” to out vote them at every turn, on every initiative, and on anything they can’t or don’t want to pay for (stipends anyone?).  A fourth division is coming to an NCAA school near you, and it could be sooner rather than later.  Even the college athletics watchdog Knight Commission came out over the summer with a recommendation that the division be considered.

What does a fourth division mean?  Well, it depends.  Most importantly in my view, it restores some sanity to all Division I football programs and athletic departments.  The idea that schools in the Sun Belt or MAC are on playing the same game as those in the SEC or Pac-12 is ridiculous.  What’s worse, pressuring those schools, administrators, donors/alumni, coaches and athletes to compete with BCS level schools both on the field and in the financial arms race is unrealistic and harmful.

Penn State

The NCAA did something right this week by granting back some of Penn State’s scholarships taken away in the wake of the Sandusky debacle.  It simply had no business wading into criminal matters that it does not legislate; and while this certainly doesn’t make what it did to Penn State right, it provides hope there is at least some clear thinking going on today in Indianapolis.

O’Bannon

As I’m writing this post, news is breaking that the O’Bannon plaintiffs have settled their dispute with two of the three defendants in the case, EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC).  It appears EA Sports will no longer produce its college football game, though the terms of the settlement were not yet disclosed.  This of course still leaves the NCAA as the lone defendant, and the case against it will presumably continue.

Those of you who have been following the Ed O’Bannon case probably know we’ve been waiting for the big ruling regarding whether or not the plaintiffs will be certified as a class (dramatically upping the stakes).  The hearing on this issue occurred in June, and since then we’ve seen several procedural tactics but nothing too critical to the ultimate outcome of the case.

This week we’ve also seen the NCAA beef up its legal team, as well comment they are prepared to go all the way to the Supreme Court.  This isn’t too surprising at this point in the proceedings; and it will be interesting to see if the tough talk continues if/when the plaintiffs are certified as a class.

Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielHare and at collegesportsbriefs.com.

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