The first, detailed proposal of a so-called 'Division 4' within the NCAA has been proposed by the Division I-A Faculty Athletics Representatives (FAR).
Responding to an NCAA request for input, the FAR board earlier this month proposed that the highest level of college football -- Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) -- "become a new and separate division" with its own board of directors. FBS (formerly named Division I-A) is within the Division I structure of approximately 350 schools.
FBS includes 126 football-playing schools that encompass 10 conferences (SEC, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt, MAC, and American Athletic Conference).
The FAR idea is to have more autonomy for the largest revenue-producing schools in NCAA governance. Commissioners and ADs at FBS schools have been outspoken about their lack of input in the current NCAA structure. Some BCS commissioners began hinting at the establishment of a possible Division 4 during media days in July.
This FAR proposal does not call for a "breakaway" of those FBS schools. They would still be NCAA members. Currently, NCAA athletics is split into three divisions -- Division I, II and III. Division I is subdivided into FBS and FCS. This proposal would break out FBS as its own 'fourth' division.
The FAR board supports a new division, "more closely aligned in resources dedicated to athletics programs and in types of issues faced," according to FAR president Brian Shannon, a Texas Tech law professor.
"There is wide consensus that the current Division I governance model is not working," said Jo Potuto, Nebraska constitutional law professor and past president of the I-A FAR. "A separate FBS division offers more streamlined governance among schools with comparable revenue streams."
The proposal resembles a so-called 'federated' structure, an idea that is making the rounds among some administrators. Either divisions or sports -- or both -- would be aligned more among common interests. For example, one idea is to have major-college football run by a board of directors with an overall chairman or commissioner.
That essentially is what the FAR is proposing. The FBS board of directors would include one CEO from each of the 10 leagues. The voting powers of those 10 may or may not be weighted toward the BCS leagues (Pac-12, Big 12, SEC, ACC, Big Ten).
A separate management council of FBS would be populated by one AD and one FAR from each FBS conference. The idea is for college athletics' main stakeholders to take a leadership role and to streamline a bogged-down NCAA process.
"We recommend less (or no) reliance on working groups and task forces outside the structure," the proposal stated.
That seems to be a direct reference to the time-worn habit of establishing committees under NCAA CEOs (not just Mark Emmert) to address emerging issues.
"FBS must be a master of its own fate," the proposal states, "particularly with regard to matters of enhancement of the student-athlete experience that depend on increased revenue allocation."
The FARs are a professional organization similar to the Division I ADs. It has no voting power within the NCAA structure. Here is a detailed Power Point presentation of their proposal.