In less than two months, the five power conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12) will present their demands to the NCAA, calling for the autonomy to run their sports programs the way they see fit. It's been a long time coming. There were calls for the top 60 football schools to break away back in the 1990s so the idea isn't anything new. Because they play in bigger stadiums, operate with larger budgets and field more athletic teams, the schools in the power five conferences should have a greater say in their own destiny and they shouldn't be subjected to rules committees whose makeup includes athletic directors from non-football playing or Division II and III schools.
The 65 schools in the power conferences have the clout to make whatever demands they want and if they don't get their way they can form their own division within the NCAA or break away completely. But is that in the best interests of college sports?
Change is necessary, and the model that the NCAA is operating under right now is broken and is teetering on the verge of collapse. The bureaucracy at the NCAA is so bloated that it's hard to imagine any way of fixing the system within the current framework, so a fresh start is definitely needed but at what price will change come?
The model the power conferences are working on will squeeze out the little guys completely because the television money is going to be enormous. Under the proposals being made by the power conferences, there will be plenty for the big guys and just a few crumbs for the other 60 or so schools in Division I. If the power conferences were to go along with Nick Saban's idea that the power schools only play power schools, then you would probably see a lot of schools in the lower ranks of Division I and a good many in Division IAA abandoning football altogether because they would be cut off from a necessary source of revenue – those I'll take a beating for a paycheck games.
Now, there are some Division I schools that have no business trying to play with the big boys but then you have schools like UCF, which has more than 60,000 students, the location, the weather and the potential to be a true athletic powerhouse. Under the models being proposed, UCF will be left in the dark with no hope of moving upward.
Change is indeed a necessity but at what price? Somehow, it seems that the power schools need to come up with a plan to accommodate schools that have the wherewithal to move on up.
The final five:
5. Emmitt Smith, running back (1987-89): What Emmitt didn't realize is that with Steve Spurrier's offensive scheme spreading the field and taking away the eight and nine in the box that he'd seen the first three years, he might have won the Heisman Trophy in 1990. As it is, he ran for 3,928 yards and 36 touchdowns in three seasons. Just think what he might have done his sophomore year if the brilliant Lynn (the Amedeeville Horror) Amedee hadn't decided that Emmitt would be best used as a decoy. I'm not making that up. Emmitt elected to leave before his senior season. His draft stock dropped to the point that he got picked by the Cowboys with the 16th pick in the first round. It worked out just fine. He's in the College Football and Pro Football halls of fame.
4. Steve Spurrier, quarterback (1964-66): The University of Florida officially became a major player in college football the day that Stephen Orr Spurrier stepped on the field for his first varsity game against SMU in 1964. The numbers – 4,848 passing yards and 36 touchdown passes – were considered the kind you get with a wide open offense in that day and time. He won the Heisman in 1966, taking the Gators to a 9-2 record that included an Orange Bowl victory over Georgia Tech. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
3. Wilber Marshall, linebacker (1980-83): He came to Florida as a tight end. He showed up at Charley Pell's house at midnight the night Charley told him he was being switched to linebacker. He spent the next three hours telling Ward Pell that life as he knew it had come to an end. Ward talked him off the ledge and as a result Sean Salisbury still hears the footsteps. His game against Southern Cal in 1982 is one of the great games ever by a defensive player in the SEC. A three-time All-SEC and two-time All-America selection, Wilber was the national defensive player of the year in 1983. He finished his career with 343 tackles including 58 for a loss and 23 sacks along with too many decleatings to count. He's a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
2. Danny Wuerffel, quarterback (1992-96): Following Danny Wuerffel's first game in The Swamp, he sang "Amazing Grace" in the locker room and there weren't many dry eyes when he finished. That was the 1991 state championship game when he led Fort Walton Beach to a blowout win over heavily favored St. Thomas Aquinas. After a redshirt in 1992, Wuerffel helped the Gators win four consecutive SEC championships, play for the national title in 1995 and then win Florida's first national championship with a 52-20 blowout win over Florida State in the 1996 Sugar Bowl. Along the way, Wuerffel threw for 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns. He was the Heisman runner-up in 1995, then won it in 1996. He is one of only two Heisman Trophy winners to ever receive the Draddy Trophy as the nation's top scholar-athlete. A first team All-America selection in 1995-96, Wuerffel is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
1. Tim Tebow, quarterback (2006-09): Tebow was already a legend by the time he arrived at Florida. When he announced for the Gators in December of 2005, the battery in Urban Meyer's phone went dead so the Florida head coach had to find out like everyone else at the press conference that Tebow had picked the Gators over Alabama. As a freshman, he threw for five touchdowns and ran for eight as Chris Leak's backup while helping the Gators win the 2006 national championship. He won the Heisman as a sophomore when he passed for 32 touchdowns and ran for 23, and should have won it as a junior when he led the Gators to the 2008 national championship over Oklahoma. Tebow was Florida's third Heisman winner and kept the tradition alive – all three Florida Heisman winners were the sons of preachers. He made All-SEC three times, first team All-America twice, second team All-America once, won the Maxwell Award twice and finished top five in the Heisman voting in 2008 and 2009. For his career, Tebow threw for 9,286 yards and 88 touchdowns and ran for 2,947 yards and 57 touchdowns.
At the heart of Ed O'Bannon vs. the NCAA is the notion that the NCAA acts as a cartel that fixes the price of scholarships and violates antitrust laws by paying northing for the rights to use athletes' images, jerseys, etc. while imposing rules that prohibit the athletes from profiting from the sales. That's a case the NCAA is going to lose in all probability even though the judge had some serious disagreement Monday with the Stanford economics professor who is the plaintiffs star witness. A couple of multi-million dollar settlements in related cases involving video game makers, O'Bannon and other plaintiffs seems to indicate that the NCAA is probably going to have to shell out millions of dollars when this trial ends.
If the final outcome doesn't turn out the way that O'Bannon and his fellow plaintiffs envisioned when this whole thing began, they might have to look no further than O'Bannon as the reason. In testimony Monday, O'Bannon said he attended UCLA strictly to play basketball and that he did the minimum in class to make sure he stayed eligible to play. Although he later went back to school to finish the requirements for his degree, O'Bannon left the school for the NBA seven credit hours shy of graduation. When the NCAA cross-examined, O'Bannon was forced to agree that he could have graduated on time if he had put a little more effort into academics but it was his choice not to invest the time.
In a 2011 deposition, O'Bannon said that athletes shouldn't get paid by their colleges and universities. He reversed his field in testimony Monday, claiming college athletes should be paid Then he went even further, saying that Little Leaguers should get paid and that high school athletes should also get paid if their sport is generating revenue.
Little League? High school? That's not exactly the kind of blockbuster testimony it's going to take to have a crippling effect on the NCAA.
Miami might be the only football playing school on the planet that would start an ad campaign urging fans to go to fewer games. Because they (a) want to sell out the FSU game and (b) get enough fans in the stadium for the North Carolina game that ESPN would put it in prime time, Miami has come up with this two-game mini-plan and it is being touted with a full page newspaper advertisement with the headline "Go to fewer games." The mini-plan also includes a brand spanking new Miami hat, claiming it's a $30 value. Yeah, right. In an attempt to ensure that fans will be gobbling up the mini-plan, Miami will not sell single game tickets to the FSU game to the general public. In other words, if you're not a season ticket holder and want to go to the FSU game, you've got to buy a ticket to see North Carolina play, too.
I'm not making this up.
Can you imagine the University of Florida having to resort to tactics like this for an SEC game?
Following denials that nothing wrong was going on by Roy Williams after former player Rashad McCants claimed he took a bunch of bogus classes to stay eligible to play basketball, the Raleigh News and Observer produced evidence that five players on North Carolina's 2005 national championship team had taken bogus courses in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. As if that wasn't enough of a dagger to the claims that Carolina was still doing things the Dean Smith way, the Indianapolis Star has found evidence that seven North Carolina players actually majored in African and Afro-American Studies.
UNC's first reaction was to fire whistleblower Mary Willingham and then try to discredit her, but with evidence mounting that there is something seriously wrong, the university has hired former U.S. attorney for national security Kenneth Wainstein to investigate all claims thoroughly. Willingham has one piece of advice for Wainstein:
"The evidence is in the transcripts, for God's sake," Willingham said.
The allegations about academic fraud at North Carolina are very serious. Do you think this is an isolated case or do you think there are schools that probably have far worse situations?
I saw Jimi Hendrix live twice and both times he performed "Little Wing" from his "Axis: Bold as Love" album, but even though Hendrix wrote the song, I have always thought that the best version ever was by the late Stevie Ray Vaughn, who is one of dozens of extraordinary guitarists who have taken on a Hendrix song. Jimi's live version lasted about six minutes, more than double the 2:24 studio version on "Axis." I found this Stevie Ray Vaughn performance of "Little Wing" that is a full 15 minutes.