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Friday Follies: Full-cost plans could cost too much for non-BCS


Is it Friday again? Then it must be time for our Friday Follies. Here are five things nobody asked me but ...

1. The Big Ten scholarship discussion could change everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. On Wednesday the media boys and girls gathered as they normally do at the end of the Big Ten meetings. They expected Commissioner Jim Delany to give out a few platitudes and tidy up a few housekeeping items. And then he laid this bombshell on them: During the meetings Big Ten officials had a discussion about changing the value of an athletic scholarship to include "the full cost of attendance."

You will recall that in my first column back on April 4, I gave this one of the five changes that college football should make. This would give each athlete on scholarship an additional stipend that would cover the cost of incidental living expenses not covered in room, books, board, and tuition.

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Then Delany said this: "How do we get back more toward the collegiate model and regulatory system that is based more on student-athlete welfare than it is on a level playing field, where everything is about a cost issue and whether or not everybody can afford to do everything everybody else can do?"

Translation: We can afford to give the athletes some money and we are going to seriously think about doing so. If you can't, that's your problem.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive told me Thursday that this is something he would like to discuss. And I'll tell you this: If Slive and Delany want something to happen, there is a good chance it will.

That sound you just heard was the commissioners of the MAC, WAC, Mountain West, Conference USA and Sun Belt banging their collective heads on the table. Keeping up with the big boys is tough enough to do as it is. This would make it nearly impossible.

2. Slive is going to have to do some arm twisting on the subject of over-signing. Slive has a package of legislation concerning over-signing, grayshirting and other "roster management" issues that he will discuss with his athletic directors, coaches, and presidents during the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla. on May 31-June 3. When Slive and I talked Thursday he would not tip his hand on what's in the package but did say: "I have a view but not a vote. And I will certainly exercise my view. I like this legislation."

The presidents of the 12 SEC institutions will cast the final votes on this package. But if they defer to their head football coaches, I've got the vote at 7-5 against any kind of radical change to the status quo, where schools can sign as many as 28 players regardless of how many actual football scholarships they have available.

Steve Spurrier says over-signing is necessary for him because of academics in his state. (US Presswire)  
Steve Spurrier says over-signing is necessary for him because of academics in his state. (US Presswire)  
This is very unscientific but here is my best stab at it.

Status quo: The head coaches at Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, and Arkansas are all on record as believing the current system is appropriate and fair. Auburn and Mississippi State will go with their state rivals. South Carolina's Steve Spurrier says he needs to over-sign because of the academics in his state.

Change: Florida and Georgia have publicly come out against over-signing. Kentucky, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt will agree.

3. The DOJ could be putting together a paper trail: The Department of Justice got the predictable response when it asked the NCAA why there was no playoff in Division I-A football. In short, President Mark Emmert said: "Don't ask me. Ask the BCS. I got nothing to do with it."

While the DOJ appeared to be naïve in its request, there is an alternative theory as to why it wrote the letter. A couple of lawyers told me that before it sent the letter the DOJ already knew the answers to the questions, as any good lawyer does. But they have to formally ask the questions in order to create a paper trail to someday justify a possible intervention.

In short, if the DOJ believes the BCS violates anti-trust law and can document that there is nobody in charge of college football who can fix it, then the DOJ can use that as cause to get involved.

It's just something to think about.

4. Gene Marsh is a pro. Gene Marsh has seen every angle of the NCAA enforcement process. He was the faculty athletic rep at Alabama when the school got in some pretty tough spots on the compliance end of things. He was on the Committee on Infractions for nine years and served as chairman for two. He knows how the deal works. That is why Ohio State coach Jim Tressel has hired Marsh -- at his own expense we might add -- to represent him before the COI on August 12.

Marsh also has a great sense of humor. Many years ago I met him when we attended a seminar on the relationship of academics and athletics that was held at Vanderbilt. His job was to explain to the audience the role of being a faculty athletic representative at place like Alabama.

"Being a faculty athletic rep at a big Southern university," Marsh said, "is like working at a high school as the vice principal in charge of chastity. It's a tough job."

5. Lowder's exit marks the end of an era at Auburn: Bobby Lowder was once the most powerful booster in all of college sports. He was also the poster child of a booster with way too much power.

As a member of the Auburn Board of Trustees, Lowder used his money and influence to impact Auburn both athletically and academically. Some of it was good. Some of it hurt the school he professed to love.

In 2003 it was Lowder's plane that was used by Auburn officials for a clandestine meeting with Louisville's Bobby Petrino. When the meeting was exposed, Auburn was embarrassed on a national stage. Tommy Tuberville retained his job and went 13-0 the next season. Terry Bowden stepped down as coach in the middle of the 1998 season when he was told by Lowder that he would not be back as coach.

He built a banking empire and gave millions to Auburn. He then presided over the sixth largest bank failure in American history. The Feds now own his Colonial BancGroup.

After 28 years on the Auburn Board of Trustees, Lowder has chosen not to seek another term when it became evident some powerful forces were working against him.

The people I know who are closest to Auburn tell me he did more good than harm and that the school's athletics would not be where they are today without him. Like a lot of successful men, Bobby Lowder leaves a mixed legacy.

Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.

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