How and Why the Big 5 College Football Conferences Can Break from NCAA

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterJuly 23, 2013

Jul 22, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby (left) speaks with West Virginia Mountaineers mascot Jonathan Kimble (right) during the Big 12 media days at the Omni Dallas Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The world of college football is sitting at a crossroads, where scheduling, player compensation, recruiting restrictions and scholarship limits are pushing the sport's top schools away from the have-nots in the game.

Dislodging from the NCAA would be a major step. It's more likely the schools will force the NCAA to separate them from the rest of the pack. Dennis Dodd at CBS Sports ruminated on it this week, after Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 commissioner, took the NCAA to task during media days.

The separation of the divisions is a pressing issue and, as the sport's major players grow frustrated with the power structure, the split looms large.

And, as always, it comes down to money.

Money for the players is the first point of contention. The full-cost stipend, something that would provide financial relief to many athletes, is the biggest dividing line in the game at the moment. Schools outside the five power conferences are already working with budgets stretched to the max. The stipend would force them to overspend even more, or leave them at a true competitive disadvantage.

After all, why go to ECU or Marshall when you can go to UNC or Georgia and get extra cash, money that your parents do not have to send you?

That's why the smaller schools are voting against the full-cost move.

Were it to pass, however, bigger schools would continue to see the scales tip in their favor. They would be allowed to provide financial relief to their players, relief that many families would tremendously appreciate.

But it's not just about the players being compensated. Spending within college football programs has also led to plenty of animosity between the haves and have-nots. Although Urban Meyer at Ohio State and Mack Brown at Texas drew the headlines during the recruiting rules debate, the smaller schools were the ones pushing the fight.

Creating personnel departments within the football program would cost schools a lot of money. While Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Texas could afford to staff the new venture, Western Michigan and San Jose State certainly could not.

There is a reason schools are pushing to cap the size of coaching staffs and tabled the motion to restructure recruiting; the little guys do not want the big guys to run too far away from them.

The NCAA has recognized the issue. NCAA president Mark Emmert has made a point to try to push legislation that is more about fairness than equity. Unfortunately, there are more smaller schools voting than big schools flexing their muscles to get their way.

While the idea of leaving the NCAA is one that many fans like, the more likely solution is to divide the division into two subsets, where the big boys get to play and the little guys are forced to fend for themselves.

While the smaller subset would not have the stipend, those programs also risk losing the big revenue that comes with being allowed to play the sport's elite teams. The Big Ten is already out of the FCS business, and should the large schools move away from the rest of the FBS, the MAC and Sun Belt types could lose their revenue-boosting games as well.

The fight is real. The little guys will fight to remain a part of the sport's top tier. The big guys are going to fight to flex their financial muscles.

Something has to give and, as the Mike Slives and Bowlsbys of the world start to truly voice their complaints, that something certainly may be the division itself.