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Big Ten eyes 'different organization, structure' one year from now

CHICAGO -- Look who's in the back of the room at Big Ten media days.

Julie Hermann, Rutgers AD.

Yes, that Julie Hermann, the lightning rod. The Julie Hermann who survived a scandal within a scandal at Rutgers. Been on the job 37 days. Her school will be in Big Ten next year.

The Julie Hermann who quietly pointed out concerns about what seems to be the all-but-done formation of an NCAA Division 4. She made me think. Her points should make you think, too. (Hermann was reluctant to be quoted as her school transitions into its new conference.)

"I think a year from now we'll have a different organization, a different structure,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said at the opening of his conference's media days.

That different structure essentially means paying players. That's the main point of the BCS commissioners getting their own division. Getting such legislation through the traditional NCAA route has fizzled. So if the big boys who run the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12, ACC and SEC run their own division that eliminates about 13,000 bureaucratic hurdles.

Their next meeting then begins this way: Pay the players? Done. When's happy hour?

Delany admitted we would see games in the future with paid players going against non-paid players. Kind of gives a new definition to BCS vs. non-BCS. Those players, based on Delany's calculations, could be paid between $3,000 to $5,000 per school year.

"I don't know if you're in five figures,” he said, "but ... three, four, five thousand is probably the range of the outside limit.”

Wait, five figures?

Sure, on some level, the players deserve it. Taking a quieter route than Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby to make his point, Delany also wants to address the NCAA-mandated 20-hour work limit. When everyone gets done winking at "voluntary" workouts, players can put in at least 40 hours a week with practice, film, practice, film, etc.

"I tried to put a slant on it that is appropriate for [the Big Ten],” Delany said.

But let's also -- as Hermann reminded a few of us who met her Wednesday -- be reminded of what that newfound money can buy.

Like a $500 pair of jeans. Perhaps a big-screen TV. Maybe a night out on the town.

And after that, where's dinner for the month?

Nobody said all these supremely talented kids are majoring in accounting -- or accountability. Put some money in the pocket of the average 20-year-old and he/she isn't going to buy Google stock.

Anyone paying attention to the Johnny Manziel Show lately?

This stuff is happening all the time. A Pell Grant is federal money that doesn't have to be repaid. It was worth a max of $5,500 per school year in 2012. Good cause, good money. It could also, in theory, go directly to a new set of rims. Even coaches don't sell that on the recruiting trail -- room, board, books and spinners.

Hermann reminded there is the Title IX issue. If you pay 85 football players and 13 men's basketball players $3,000 each, that's roughly $300,000 per year. Title IX mandates you must have the same monetary pool for women.

Let's say there are only 50 women's scholarships at a given school. Schools would have to find a way to either fund more women's scholarships or distribute $6,000 per player -- double the men.

That's the best news ever for women. So-called women's “equivalency” sports -- those with partial scholarships -- could suddenly be fully funded. But baseball, another equivalency sport played by men, wouldn't get Delany's version of the Division 4 stipend. He wants the money going only to full-scholarship athletes.

“I'm not thinking it's simple," the commissioner said.

I'm not just sure Delany and his peers have considered the totality of it all.

Sure, they don't want Miami (Ohio) voting on issues that affect Miami (Fla.). Sure these kids are overworked, undercompensated, indentured amateurs. But who would be these kids' financial advisers when they get this money? And it is a lot of money for the average college student.

Do they care? Should we care what they spend it on?

In their zeal to form a division of "high-resource institutions" (Delany's label), the commissioners may have enabled a separate class of frivolous spender. One that isn't going to represent the educational model that Division 4 is supposed to operate within.

"I think we [commissioners] could be trusted," Delany said. "I think we could figure out a way to do this. We've done more complicated things than this."

Yeah, that playoff thing did work out well -- worth $7.2 billion over the next 12 years beginning in 2014. Another indicator that the power-conference commissioners can do whatever they damn well please.

They have accountants. A portion of their work force could stand to learn how to balance a checkbook, and their lives.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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