Gathering in New York for the annual IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, the commissioners of the big money conferences once again hinted at exploring the idea of splitting from the NCAA if changes to the structure and system cannot be made to satisfy all parties involved. This is nothing new, but it has been a few months since the topic has been discussed so openly in a public forum like this, with the last opportunity to discuss it coming during the preseason media days for each conference.
On Wednesday, it was Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany who swung the first sword in suggesting the biggest problem now is convincing those in a position to yield more power to the power conferences for the good of the sport.
“What’s really hard in these kinds of things is for people to vote themselves less political authority,” Delany said Wednesday according to ESPN.com. “They don’t do that. That’s not a natural thing to do.”
Delany is not alone in speaking this sentiment of course. On Wednesday his statements were echoed by his equivalents from other conferences, including the SEC’s Mike Slive.
“There needs to be structural change,” Slive said according to USA Today. “We’re not talking about rearranging the chairs for the sake of having a different organization. We’re trying to create an organization that has a vision of how we take care of student-athletes in the future.”
The biggest concern for the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC has been the governing structure of the NCAA, which has had plenty of cracks opened for criticism from every angle over the past few years. It feels as though these conferences would prefer to remain a part of the NCAA without any division of powers, but these conferences are also fully capable of taking care of business on their own if the desire and need is there to do things differently than the NCAA will allow.
“If we can do that, I think we can stay together,” Delany said. “If we can’t do that, I think we have to honestly say, ‘Hey, we not only have external threats, we have internal threats.’ And the internal threats are that we can’t find a way to use the NCAA as a town hall for us to solve our problems.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert said he was optimistic the NCAA and the big conferences will be able to sort their issues out before any threat of a split of the system becomes more of a realistic situation. The threat is there, sitting in waiting, but for now the big power commissioners will wait to use it.