An NCAA task force is proposing sweeping changes to the postseason college football structure that would turn over the majority of oversight of bowls to conferences themselves. Documents obtained by CBSSports.com show that the NCAA Postseason Task Force would essentially transfer the legal responsibility of running the postseason to the commissioners and their leagues.
That means the power to decide the number of bowls – currently capped at 35 – and minimum qualification standards would rest with those conferences.
That possibility has produced buzz and division among college football stakeholders who are still trying to figure out what it all means following a memo sent out Friday by NCAA general counsel Donald Remy. It should be noted that the issue has little impact on and is basically not related to the current discussions among FBS commissioners to restructure college football's postseason beginning in 2014.
In that memo to the Football Bowl Association dated March 30 Remy summarized the task force's proposals: “The NCAA should discontinue its current detailed licensing system and should embrace and develop a certification system that provides assurance that minimum standards of governance and operation are in place.”
The NCAA board of directors will consider the proposals at its April 26 meeting.
The task force prefers that the NCAA – basically president Mark Emmert -- retain oversight over approving title sponsors. More than one source mentioned NCAA concern over the image projected by title sponsor GoDaddy.com aligned with the Mobile, Ala.-based bowl.
“Do we really want the NCAA to be the moral police?” one FBS (Division I-A football) source said.
The website sells domain names. But it has promoted itself with what some might consider risqué TV commercials featuring race car driver Danica Patrick. GoDaddy.com Bowl executive director Frank Modarelli was not able to return calls seeking comment according to a spokesman.
“It's kind of trying to be halfway pregnant,” one college source said of the proposals. “The NCAA either has to take it over [bowl business] and say ‘We're in charge,' or say, ‘We're out of postseason football and the commissioners run it.'
“What's in there is that Emmert is going to be judge or jury whether a sponsor [is worthy]. Emmert is going to come behind and say, ‘That's not good enough.' “
ESPN and ABC broadcast 33 of the 35 bowl games. Las Vegas Bowl executive director Tina Kunzer-Murphy is also chairman of the Football Bowl Association, the industry's non-profit group that represents the bowls. In addition, she is an ESPN employee. The company owns seven for-profit bowls.
Speaking as head of the FBA she said: “We don't understand exactly how it's going to play out. To think one person is going to have oversight of a title sponsor is a concern to some of our folks.”
The proposals mean that the commissioners and conferences would decide such issues as bowl eligibility (7-5 or 6-6). That decision alone would decide whic bowls survive. In January, CBSSports.com reported there was “growing support” to require bowl teams to have a winning record when the new bowl cycle begins in 2014.
In the past two seasons, 27 of the 140 bowl teams (19.2 percent of the bowl field) were 6-6. Overall since 2006, 59 of the 404 bowl teams (14.6 percent) did not have a winning record.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy the 6-6 requirement is “not all positive,” while Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said he's “concerned” it “dilutes the equity and specialness of being in a bowl.”
CBSSports.com spoke to the FBS commissioners and there isn't much support for keeping bowl eligibility at 6-6.
“I hear more support for going back to [a winning record] than I've heard in years,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said. “It's a legit point of discussion right now.”
If bowl eligibility increased from six to seven wins, there would not be enough teams to fill the 35 bowls, meaning some bowls would be discontinued. In October, the task force reported: “[It] recognizes that if a planned bowl game ‘goes dark' because of the absence of sufficient eligible teams, there will be considerable disappointment within the community affected. There is, however, no effective way in which the NCAA can assure there always will be teams available …”
There is one significant alternative proposed by the task force in case there weren't enough bowl-eligible teams: A list of five teams would be provided ranked by that team's four-year average APR. The Academic Progress Rate is a tool the NCAA uses to measure classroom achievement team-by-team. There is pending legislation to use team APR as a qualifier for postseason participation.
The task force alternative means the smartest 5-7 team – based on the 6-6 cutoff – would have first and best access in the event there aren't enough bowl-eligible teams.
Prior NCAA documents specifically cite two legal proceedings involving the NCAA and bowls. In 2004, the old Aloha Bowl took the NCAA to court over the bowl's de-certification because of financial issues. The Hawaii state court found in favor of the NCAA.
Last year the NCAA postseason licensing subcommittee found itself in the perhaps uncomfortable position of certifying the Fiesta Bowl after the bowl's wide-ranging scandal. It may have been uncomfortable ruling on a longtime bowl partner of some of those sitting in judgment but the subcommittee was also put in a powerful and significant position. Two sources told CBSSports.com that they considered that 11-member licensing subcommittee now to be disbanded.
An NCAA spokesman told CBSSports.com: “The subcommittee does still exist. However, the proposed action that was taken … it moves much of the responsibility to the actual bowls and conferences.”
In the wake of that Fiesta Bowl scandal, Emmert called for the task force that was headed by Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman and American Express CEO Ken Chenault. Emmert wrote in a report that the results of the task force's study, “will be a better defined role, structure and accountability for the NCAA Postseason Licensing Subcommittee.”
“If there are not enough teams to participate in those bowls that is a consequence of having too many bowls, then the commissioners and conferences themselves will have to [deal with that],” Remy told CBSSports.com
Also in that March 30 memo, Remy also told college football leaders, “We had many conversations and/or meetings with various constituent groups and have developed a plan that we have discussed with some of you formally and informally.”
The deciphering of the proposals continue. Can conferences can now go out and sign any bowl deal it wants without much NCAA oversight? Last year, the NCAA applied a three-year moratorium to the addition of any further bowls. The system is largely regarded to be at its limit with the current 35 bowls (70 teams). Studies by the licensing subcommittee determined that 70 teams was at, or near, the average of bowl eligible teams each season.
One NCAA source not involved in this issue considered the proposals and called the future bowl landscape “the mild, wild West.”
--Brett McMurphy contributed to this blog