While it's hard to disagree with the argument that student-athletes need to get a better deal than simply a scholarship – long term health care for debilitating injuries and tuition to finish a degree after eligibility has expired are two needed reforms – Boise State president Bob Kustra says the power conferences have taken reform to the extreme. Talking to the Idaho Statesman, Kustra thinks the power conferences are piling on with the hope of squeezing out the smaller conferences.
The Statesman reports that Kustra said, "We're fighting those reforms, and the Mountain West is fighting those reforms because we think they're excessive. We think we treat our student-athletes well. But when you look at the cost of attendance jumping from its original $2,000 to $3,800 now – then there's the food addition (unlimited meals) – if you add all that up, that's millions of dollars for an athletic program.
"I have no doubt that the Big Ten and the SEC are designing these reforms to try to leave some people behind. This is about leaving the Boise States behind and making sure the Alabamas and the Tennessees and whoever they are can march right along."
Earlier in the week, Kustra sent out a letter to major media outlets that stated (according to CBS): "The NCAA cannot fall prey to phony arguments about student welfare when the real goal of some of these so-called reformers is create a plutocracy that serves no useful purpose in American higher education. You would think the long-held principles of amateur athletics would trump the drive toward commercialism and professionalism in the athletic department."
I have long held the belief that the have nots have too big a say in the affairs of the athletic programs of the successful programs and conferences in the NCAA, but Kustra does make legitimate points. Do we really want an NCAA (or other organization; I believe that an alternative to the NCAA is on the way) that squeezes out a smaller school that dares to dream big? Kustra has never argued that reform is necessary but he and the Mountain West (and probably other smaller conferences) seem to be digging in their heels and claiming that what the power conferences are asking for carries reform to an extreme that eliminates good programs that don't have the same access to resources. For example, if the money projections of the SEC Network hold true, there is a chance that every single SEC school will have a larger payout than entire conferences.
While Kustra's warnings should be taken into account, do we really want schools like Eastern Michigan that can't fill 20,000 seats in their stadiums and struggle to balance a $30 million budget having a say in how schools whose budgets are three or four or five times larger spend their money?
At some point, a balance must be struck and a bit more time spent to make certain that in "improving student-athlete welfare" the ability for a smaller school to rise above its circumstances isn't crushed completely.
In August the five power conferences intend to present a unified proposal to the NCAA that will grant them autonomy to essentially govern themselves as a separate division with its own set of rules. Before they can get to their proposal to the NCAA, however, each conference will be discussing autonomy and no doubt, coming up with their own set of guidelines. The SEC will hold its meetings in Destin this week where autonomy is likely to take up as much as 90% of the agenda. Unions will also take up a portion of the discussions.
All the conferences will be discussing cost of attendance scholarships, ongoing medical insurance or assistance for debilitating injuries, paying for school beyond eligibility, come up with a proposal to deal with one-and-done in basketball, travel assistance for parents, giving athletes a say in rules that affect them and liberalizing the transfer rules. It's difficult to imagine a more difficult question to tackle than cost of attendance scholarships. This could turn into a real dilemma. For example, let's speculate that the conferences agree on a $3,000 supplement to the scholarship, or $250 per month for 12 months. That $250 a month will go a long, long way in a place like Auburn, not so far in Los Angeles. A smart kid who has offers from Auburn and Southern Cal might take a look into the cost of living index and decide that Auburn is the better deal. If the conferences elect to take cost of living into consideration and supplement on a sliding scale, maybe Southern Cal gets a $4,000 supplement while that kid in the SEC gets $3,000. Could that extra $1,000 be used as a recruiting lure?
Current transfer rules aren't working and something better has to be put in place, but how do you liberalize the transfer system without creating chaos with wholesale departures?
Unions are going to be a nightmare for everyone. Right now, scholarships are one-year contracts, renewable at the discretion of the coach every year. There is a movement to make scholarships four-year contracts, but with unions, players are employees and shouldn't a head coach be given the right to hire and fire based on performance? And should the coach at a wealthy school be able to give bonuses for outstanding performances by his players?
Winnable games (6): Idaho, Eastern Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Eastern Kentucky
Losable games (4): at Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, at Florida State
Tossups (2): Missouri, Georgia (Jacksonville)
Winnable games (9): Texas A&M, East Carolina, at Vanderbilt, Missouri, at Kentucky, Furman, Tennessee, at Florida, South Alabama
Losable games (1): at Auburn
Tossups (2): Georgia, at Clemson
Winnable games (8): Troy, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Missouri, at Arkansas, at Kentucky, Charleston Southern, Georgia Tech
Losable games (0)
Tossups (4): Clemson, at South Carolina, Florida, Auburn
Winnable games (7): South Dakota State, at Toledo, Indiana, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, at Tennessee, Arkansas
Losable games (2): at South Carolina, Georgia,
Tossups (3): UCF, at Florida, at Texas A&M
Winnable games (2): Chattanooga, Kentucky
Losable games (9): Utah State, Arkansas State, at Oklahoma, at Georgia, Florida, at Ole Miss, Alabama, at South Carolina; Missouri.
Tossups (1): at Vanderbilt
Winnable games (4): Temple, Massachusetts, Charleston Southern, Old Dominion,
Losable games (6): at Ole Miss, South Carolina, at Georgia, at Missouri, Florida, at Mississippi State
Tossups (2): at Kentucky, Tennessee
Winnable games (3): UT-Martin, Ohio, Louisiana-Monroe
Losable games (7): at Florida, South Carolina, at LSU, Mississippi State, at Missouri, Georgia, Louisville
Tossups (2): Vanderbilt, Tennessee
Winnable games (12): West Virginia (Atlanta), Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss, Florida; at Ole Miss, at Arkansas, Texas A&M, Tennessee, at LSU, Mississippi State, Western Carolina, Auburn
Losable games (0)
Arkansas Winnable games (3): Nichols State, Northern Illinois, UAB
Losable games (8): Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia, at Mississippi State, LSU, Ole Miss, Missouri
Tossups (1): at Texas Tech,
Winnable games (8): Arkansas, San Jose State, at Kansas State, Louisiana Tech, LSU, at Ole Miss, Texas A&M, at Mississippi State, Samford
Losable games (1): at Alabama
Tossups (3): LSU, South Carolina, at Georgia, at Alabama
Winnable games (9): Sam Houston State, Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State, New Mexico State, at Florida, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M
Losable games (2): at Auburn, Alabama
Tossups (1): Wisconsin (Houston)
Winnable games (7): Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama, at Kentucky, Arkansas, UT-Martin, Vanderbilt
Losable games (3): at LSU, Auburn, at Alabama,
Tossups (2): Texas A&M, Ole Miss
Winnable games (7): at Vanderbilt, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, Tennessee, at LSU, Presbyterian, at Arkansas
Losable games (2): Alabama, Auburn,
Tossups (3): Boise State, at Texas A&M, Mississippi State
Winnable games (4): Lamar, Rice, at SMU, Arkansas,
s (4): at South Carolina, at Alabama, Louisiana-Monroe, at Auburn,
Tossups (4): at Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Missouri, LSU
ESPN's Mark Schalbach, writing about how an expanded playoff will trump the current bowl system, quipped, "But with 76 teams playing in 39 bowl games this coming season, the ‘bowl experience' isn't what it used to be. It's like beating Tennessee or Texas – everybody's doing it."
Who are the three best college football players you have ever seen whether in person or on television?
I have a growing appreciation for the music of Lake Street Dive, which I recently discovered. This is an interesting group that met while receiving classical training at the New England Conservatory of Music. They formed a band in 2004 to do country music and gravitated to blues, rock and jazz. They first got attention for a slow, bluesy version of the 1970s Jackson 5 hit "I Want You Back." They have since expanded their repertoire thanks to the range of vocalist Rachael Price, a Tennessee girl with one of the most unique voices you'll hear. This is "Go Down Smooth" from the February release of their CD "Bad Self Portraits."