Candid Coaches: Will Power 5 in college hoops leave the NCAA?

Is a move for Power 5 conferences leaving the NCAA inevitable in hoops? (USATSI)

More College Basketball: Early Top 25 (And One) | Coaching changes college basketball writers Gary Parrish, Jeff Borzello and Matt Norlander spent the July recruiting period at various NCAA-sanctioned events, where they talked with coaches from all levels. They asked for honest opinions on prospects, players, coaches and issues. They'll be sharing those opinions over a three-week period.

1: Which eligible NCAA player would you take over all others next season?

2: Will a woman be a head coach of a D-I men's program in the next 25 years?

3: Which model best combines the interest for college basketball and the NBA?

4: Should the NCAA remove marijuana from its list of banned substances?

5: Which current high school prospect has the best chance at being an NBA superstar?


Of all the questions we asked for this year's Candid Coaches series, I think this one prompted the most opinion and elongated answers. No matter the level, college hoops coaches are very invested in this topic. And why shouldn't they be? We're talking about their jobs, and how coveted or money-making a lot them could become by 2018, 2022 or 2025. A lot of these guys are curious, some are worried, and a handful think we're never going back to the glory days of what the sport used to be.

The recent autonomy vote that allows the SEC, Pac-12, Big 12, ACC and Big Ten to essentially govern themselves under different guidelines from the rest of Division I conferences

For transparency's sake, know that this question was asked to some coaches well before the vote was passed, and some were asked within the past week. 

Do you believe the Power 5 will splinter off from the rest of the pack within the next 10 years, creating a Division 4-type structure?

  • Yes: 69 percent
  • No: 31 percent


“I think the split is coming sooner than people think.”

“I honestly don’t see how the non-Big Five will coexist with the new structure. You’re already labeling them below the power five now. Let’s be honest, Connecticut, Cincinnati, etc. are scrambling to get out of their current conference for a reason. They have to see the writing on the wall. Recruiting high-major kids will be very difficult for those teams that remain outside of power five.”

“They’re bluffing. They don’t want to break away, especially presidents.”

"Every decision the schools make is made with money in mind. So if they decide they can make more money by breaking away, they'll breakaway. And they can probably make more money by breaking away."

“I believe that's what they want. I think this is just the first step toward full autonomy to do what they want. I think there have been enough issues lately with the NCAA, that those schools could break off and the money (ESPN, FOX, etc.) would follow. Why wouldn't it? The only issue is how do you legitimize the schools that are going and the ones that don't? I mean, as it stands now, there are schools on the outside looking in right now, that technically should belong in that top 65 or whatever it is. You've got some good schools in some conferences that are ‘power’ players, so how do you pick and choose who gets to go? The ones hurt by this obviously are the AAC, MWC and Big East -- three very solid conferences who just can't, on a consistent basis, carry the load when it comes to money. It's going to be interesting, because it's going to shift everything that we currently know.”

“I believe that the biggest schools, especially with the new legistlation, will have to do something different. I think that will allow a few mid-major conferences to align with the majors, such as the Missouri Valley, etc. The mids and low-majors will then have their own division, so to speak. It will be similar to FBS and FCS, in my opinion.”

“I hate it, but I’m really scared is going to happen. My issue is the elites of the elites, the Izzos, Ks, Williams, getting together to make a rule to balance out something to help them, instead of what’s best for the game sometimes.”

“I believe that power conferences will break away, and no one without football will be able to compete with what they are providing their student athletes, they will need 20 basketball schools to have a tournament, so WCC, A10, Big East will survive and be included. Only three or four sports will survive. Football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and maybe volleyball. Everyone else will disappear.”

“I think the entertainment value that is created will cause University's to be more greedy year after year. I could see some of the bigger schools breaking away and creating their own platform for athletic performance that will always bring in the crowds to watch elite talent compete against each other.  NCAA should be feeling this pressure."

"You've heard how all of the Big East coaches are nervous about the new Big East? This is why. This is their fear."
“I think about it from a basketball perspective and think, Well, the tournament would so much luster if it didn’t have smaller schools involved. Then I remember football runs everything and there are only 50 schools that matter for that."


How about those quotes, huh? And I left out another five or six really good ones as well. A lot of coaches had some powerful things to say on this. Does the 69-percent yes vote surprise you? It did me. I expected this to be closer to 50/50.

One thing I have to note. There were plenty of coaches we talked to who think the split is coming, but it's only going to be for football. I'd say at least a quarter of the coaches we talked to think college hoops cares so much about the NCAA Tournament that it's going to remain as is. So "change" is coming, and by proxy it's going to have some side effects for hoops, but in terms of strict legislation and/or Power 5 leagues in college basketball distinctly separating themselves from NCAA governance, they don't think that's the case at all.

I think that's fair, and probably right. There are nuances to this discussion, and so it's hard to envelop everything under one idea. The NCAA and major-conference college basketball could be headed for some change, but it's probably not going to be as drastic as football, and with the kind of money the NCAA Tournament brings in now, do the powers-that-be really want to mess with that?

Consider the record-breaking contract the NCAA Tournament and CBS/Turner are in right now. Ratings have been solid-to-improving over the past five years. Schools are making a lot of money of college basketball in that regard now, and the bigger schools are still filling up their pockets by way of football revenue.

Would creating a different -- and smaller -- kind of NCAA Tournament (which would no longer be called the NCAA Tournament) bring more money and interest? I'm not sure, and coaches at small- mid- and high-major levels also have some doubt to that.

There are plenty of imbalances -- some natural, and that's OK -- within the Division I college basketball structure now. Despite that, the sport and its coaches are fairly happy and content with how things have evolved to be. (I said fairly.) Change is going to come, but I'm skeptical (and perhaps willingly callow-minded in this regard) that D-I hoops as we know it will drastically change so much to the point where Auburn or Colorado or Maryland basketball is playing in a different solar system than Belmont or San Diego State or Florida Gulf Coast.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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