Fri. Nov 26th, 2021

College football has always been a class war: public vs. private, Power Five vs. Group of Five, SEC vs. the world. Membership has always had its privileges. Those 65 Power Fives schools annually split 78% of the half-billion annual take from the College Football Playoff.

There is a growing thought among those power schools, which are wondering whether they should share at all. What has emerged quietly in recent months is perhaps the biggest class war in decades.

“Membership” is the buzzword as the NCAA rewrites its constitution. It would involve a further divide among the 130 schools playing major-college football. Division I-A, now called the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), was created in 1978. That was the last big carving of haves and have nots.

Essentially, a parting from the lowest-resourced programs in the FBS could occur. The reasons would be same as they were 43 years ago: The smallest programs have too much of an influence — voting and otherwise — on how a group of 80 or so schools would like big-time football to look.

“I think that discussion is going to happen,” a current Power Five athletic director told CBS Sports. “In FBS, yes. The discrepancies in terms of revenue, just among FBS, is already huge. But from the Big Ten to the SEC to the smallest conferences in Division I, it’s not even apples and oranges.

“For lack of a better term, we have a football problem.”

The problem is that schools emphasize football on different levels. As it stands, there is little similarity between the resources (recruiting, salaries, TV contracts) of a Georgia and a Georgia Southern. Yet, they play under the same FBS banner.

“I think you’ll see a stratification of it or a significant changing of it,” said Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock. “It’s just a lot of work in a short period of time.”

A convergence of concerns is forcing the issue. The game’s power brokers must figure how to split an unprecedented forthcoming influx of money. Coffers will be fuller than ever once the College Football Playoff expands and multiple conference TV deals get renegotiated.

Many administrators believe it’s inevitable that athletes — particularly football and basketball players — will eventually become employees of schools.

“How can the Power Five legally give more money to their athletes? [That’s] what the next step is,” the Power Five AD said.

A culling of the FBS herd has come into clearer focus since the NCAA decided to rewrite its constitution in August. The resulting Constitutional Convention concluded Monday with broad concepts that are expected to added at the NCAA Convention in January. The constitutional changes are expected to be fully in place by August 2022.

Implementation is another issue. The 20-person Transformation Committee to come out of that convention is responsible for addressing the details of how the NCAA steps aside and lets the divisions and conferences make their own decisions. Essentially, it will allow them to run college sports their way.

The elephant in the room in is a potential further division of the FBS. Which schools are going to make the cut, and which will be relegated to what has long been referred to as “Division IV”? While a splitting of FBS is not a certainty, it is more likely now than at any time since that last big division in 1978.

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