Currently the NCAA is made up of three divisions: I (which generates the most revenue and offers the highest number of athletic scholarships), II (which distributes scholarships but not at the level of Division I) and III (no athletic scholarships).
And in the eyes of NCAA president Dr. Mark Emmert a fourth division, which would be inhabited by the largest schools, could be accommodated by the NCAA.
That’s what he told Big 12 leaders during the conference’s meetings in Irving, Texas on Thursday according to the Houston Chronicle.
One of the issues discussed when conference realignment was most active was the possibility of the most powerful schools forming four superconferences and eventually splitting from the NCAA.
How realistic was that talk? That’s anyone’s guess, and with ACC members signing a Grant of Rights agreement many believe that major conference realignment will calm down for the foreseeable future.
But the possibility (realistic or not) of losing the “cash cows” of collegiate athletics could impacted Emmert’s words.
The idea of a breakaway subdivision of the NCAA’s largest schools — or even a move by those schools away from the NCAA altogether — has been broached before. USA Today reported last month that during the conference realignment frenzy of 2011, Emmert was asked by an athletic director whether it was time for the top conferences to split from the FBS.
A source told USA Today that while Emmert’s response then was “a little political,” he also “didn’t back away from it.”
As Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby notes in the Houston Chronicle story, while there are issues that schools would like to see addressed, there remains a commitment to the NCAA.
“It’s been bantered around a little bit, but I just don’t hear much talk about the major programs taking their ball and pursuing some other option,” Bowlsby said according to Tim Griffin of the Chronicle.
“People are committed to the NCAA and making the amendments and changes that are going to be required.”
With issues such as stipends for student-athletes being debated on a regular basis there’s the potential for major changes in the coming months and years. But it’s interesting that Dr. Emmert would bring up the possibility of a fourth subdivision, especially with major conference realignment being finished (for now) in the eyes of many.
Could the day when the biggest college programs decide that they should only share the pot with likeminded schools eventually come? Sure.
And given the increase in revenue in the last three decades, the only variable may be time.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.