What Would Happen If Member Schools Left the NCAA?

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterFebruary 19, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 23: NCAA president Mark Emmert (R) speaks as Ed Ray, chairman of the NCAA's executive committee and Oregon State president looks on, during a press conference at the NCAA's headquarters to announce sanctions against Penn State University's football program on July 23, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The sanctions are a result of a report that the university concealed allegations of child sexual abuse made against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts related to sexual abuse of boys over a 15-year period. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

With the revelation of the Miami news and the extent of the mismanagement, folks from all over are calling for Mark Emmert's head and for the NCAA to step off from Coral Gables. Our own Adam Kramer wrote about the Emmert problem here at Your Best 11. Dana O'Neill, from ESPN.com, did the same as she pointed out how Emmert's response to the problem was eerily similar to coaches saying they knew nothing of the improprieties. 

Clearly, people are hoping to see Emmert go down. But, for some, just the NCAA President going down is not enough. They want more blood following the latest of the missteps from the gang in Indianapolis. They want to see the foundation of the NCAA crumble.

That means a push to disband the NCAA, or for the bigger schools to push themselves back from the crushing grips of arbitrary amateurism and do their own thing. John Infante, from The Bylaw Blog, talks about how the federal government could cut out the NCAA in an effort to beef up enforcement.

However, that's not the what folks are truly dreaming about. No, people are looking for a more Wild Wild West approach to the elite level of collegiate sports.

There are two separate ways in which people expect, or hope, this would happen: football doing its own thing or the top-tier schools breaking off completely.

Under the first plan, the NCAA would still run the College World Series, the Women's College World Series and the rest of the postseasons across the board. Schools that were not "invited" to break apart from the NCAA for football would make up the depleted FBS rankings and would likely be forced into a merger of FCS-leftover FBS schools.

For the big boys playing football, the only truly different aspect would be getting to make their own rules without having to tilt competitive balance towards the have nots. That means scholarships could be worth more; more scholarships could be given; recruiting rules could be changed and self-policed. And, as long as it's all under the shroud of amateurism, the new football governing body would likely enjoy the same benefits as the NCAA.

As for the big plan, where schools break entirely off in every facet of sport, the impact would be wholly crippling to the NCAA, from the top to the bottom. The bulk of the revenue generated by the NCAA, which is then distributed through all their member schools, divisions and conferences, comes through the NCAA Basketball Tournament. If the schools stepped wholly away, that would be the end of the current March Madness spectacle.

The big schools could start their own major basketball tournament. Sure, they'd lose the first weekend upsets where teams from Nowhere State might beat a big name, but in the end, the sport's strongest brands would be in the "haves" category helping draw eyeballs to the new tournament. No, it wouldn't be the spectacle, but you would have Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina and UCLA, plus the Ohio State, Texas and Florida types of the world there to do numbers.

Combine that basketball cash engine with the football arm that clearly has found the best way to profit, and you've got a money machine. One that could make rules that allow for the acceptance of certain benefits the NCAA would never allow. One that could appease, not just the lowest in the way of have nots, but work to protect the desires of all of the haves.

These are lofty ideas, but there is so much in the way of minutia that muddy the water. Would this new organization still maintain that tax exempt status that affords so much of the financial freedom that schools and the NCAA possess? Would it be any different, outside of some new rules or the repeal of old rules?

Ultimately, the real question is not what would happen if, but rather would it be better to do so. Better, as in, for the players and those participating in the dangerous act that is college football. Fans and schools may love it, but wouldn't this just be trading out the NCAA for a different master? Using the same term "student-athlete" that Tyler Branch pointed out as fraudulent in The Atlantic back in 2011:

The long saga vindicated power of the NCAA’s “student-athlete” formulation as a shield, and the organization continues to invoke it as both a legalistic defense and a noble ideal. Indeed, such is the term’s rhetorical power that it is increasingly used as a sort of reflexive mantra against charges of rabid hypocrisy.

NCAA or not, this view and the hard line it embodies is not likely to change.