Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Reactions to this weekend's seismic snub of Texas A&M by the SEC -- or it just a postponement until the legal wrangling is settled? -- have come from far and wide. But the one from former NCAA president Cedric Dempsey suggests that the proper reation is to assume nothing has changed where the BCS conferences' eventual destination is concerned.
The NCAA's head honcho from 1993 to 2002, Dempsey told the Birmingham News that "the handwriting is on the wall" when it comes to college athletics superconferences and the eventual split of those conferences from the rank-and-file of Division I.
The make-or-break issue, as you might expect, is the full cost of attendance scholarships that only the superconferences will be able to afford. "There's no doubt we're looking in the next three, four or five years -- at most -- of seeing conferences from 14 to 18 members," Dempsey said.
Those conferences would then either have a new set of NCAA rules rewritten for them, or -- in a move Dempsey characterizes as "less likely" -- simply withdraw from the NCAA entirely.
Keep in mind that this isn't some anonymous NCAA-hater who's been waiting with baited breath for the organization to finally lose its grip on the way college athletics is run. Quite the opposite: Dempsey has a vested interest in seeing the NCAA maintain something resembling the status quo. But even that isn't enough to make him optimistic major college football will be able to keep everyone on the same playing field.
Of course, with the advent of full cost scholarships, there's some positives to this development from Dempsey's perspective. (Dempsey noted the irony that when asked to provide a share of NCAA Tournament money to athletes during his tenure, the conference commissioners balked; now that that money could be used to provide an athletic advantage, those same commisioners are gung-ho.) But the bottom line remains the same: when even the NCAA's former biggest cheerleaders believe the current FBS model is doomed, the A&M-SEC flirtation looks more and more like an early fissure in an eventual college football earthquake.