With the landscape of college athletics changing so rapidly, schools have found themselves in an “arms race” of sorts. The Power 5 is made up of the schools that are part of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten, Big 12, Southeastern Conference (SEC), and Pac-12. Schools like LSU, Alabama, Southern California, and Texas are able to pour enormous amounts of money into their facilities, equipment, coaching staffs, and academic support centers. With the recent vote that will allow the Power 5 schools to have autonomy, this gap will continue to increase. Schools will now be able to cover the full cost of attendance, which will require schools to pay their student-athletes a stipend to cover expenses outside of the costs covered by their scholarships. Also, coaches will no longer be allowed to pull a student-athlete’s scholarship for athletic purposes. These two changes will cause many schools to examine whether investing in athletics programs is worthwhile.
Even though LSU and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are both Division I schools, the contrast between the two is apparent. However, even comparing LSU to a larger Division I school, like the University of Pittsburgh, shows a contrast. Elite schools like LSU will continue to dump more money into their athletics programs in order to stay ahead of the curve, which will create an even larger gap between Division I programs. While the Power 5 schools gain more and more leverage and power, the smaller schools will be phased out or forced to drop to the lower divisions within the NCAA. For example, the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently cut their football program despite going 6-6 and being bowl eligible this past year. Even though the move will affect the school’s membership in Conference USA, a non-Power 5 conference, the administrators determined that the move was better for the University’s finances.
Not only will the autonomy inhibit parity in college sports, it will also raise the question of “How much money does each player get per month?”. With athletes receiving “cost of attendance” stipends, the schools or NCAA must determine an allowable amount. Does the backup kicker receive the same amount of money as the starting quarterback? Does the starting goalie on the women’s soccer team receive the same amount of money as the starting point guard on the men’s basketball team? Therefore, schools must tread very carefully when determining the amount that each athlete will make or they will else face issues dealing with Title IX. Also, bigger schools will be able to offer their athletes more money to cover the full cost of attendance, which will provide them with yet another advantage over smaller schools.
Most of the Power 5 schools have become like a “farm system” for the various professional sports leagues, which allows them to attract the top prospects in each sport. However, the student-athletes are being “advised” to take useless classes and earn degrees that are inadequate upon graduation, if they graduate at all. As the NCAA and schools continue to bring in exorbitant amounts of money from television and advertising, the title of “student-athletes” will continue to mean less and less. Gone are the days when a high school student accepts an athletic scholarship and uses it as a means to earn an education. Nowadays, athletic scholarships are used to make it to the pros, which put the academic part of the college experience on the backburner. Although some good will arise from the new rules, the main takeaway is that the gap between “big” programs and “small” programs will continue to spread.
Grad Student, MBA
Student Advisory Board