As conferences and their respective commissioners continue to debate and attempt to wrap their heads around autonomy for the Power Five conferences, one of the most powerful men in the sport of college football has once again warned what could/would happen if that initiative fails.
Speaking at the end of the SEC’s spring meetings Friday, commissioner Mike Slive was asked what would happen if autonomy for his conference, along with the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12, didn’t pass muster and stalled in committee this August. In response, Slive sang a very familiar refrain.
“I think if it doesn’t pass, I think the next move is to go to a Division IV,” Slive said. “It’s not something that we want to do.
“From day one, we said want to stay in Division 1, with the access to championships and a revenue distribution that won’t change. But within that structure, we want the ability to have autonomy in areas that has the nexus to the well-being of student-athletes.”
While Slive did allow that he’s “optimistic we’re not going to the Division IV” model, this is far from the first time a man of power has dropped the “D-IV” hammer in a public forum.
In December, Slive himself mentioned a potential split from the other FBS schools — and perhaps from the NCAA entirely — if the Power Five leagues couldn’t get a meaningful structural change to the current model. The “D-IV” talk stretches to last October and even further back.
In the same month Slive implored those with the power to make significant changes to the current system, his counterpart in the Big Ten, Jim Delany, got off a “Division IV” blast as well.
“Division IV concepts are out there,” Delany said in what amounted to a very thinly-veiled threat. “There was a lot of chum in the water about the sustainability of the NCAA.”
In order to reach Slive and Delany’s goal of autonomy, 66 percent of the 65 members of the Power Five conferences (43 schools) AND four of the five conferences have to vote in the affirmative. During his speech today, Slive stated that he would like to see that threshold lowered to 60 percent (39 schools) and three of the five leagues; that appears unlikely to happen.
The next step in the process is a little more than two months down the road.
Based on the recommendation from the NCAA steering committee, the Board of Directors could vote this August on forwarding the autonomy initiative for a vote of the full membership next January. Deeply intertwined with autonomy, however, are issues such as the O’Bannon lawsuit and Northwestern’s attempts to unionize that could forever change the face of college football.
Sadly it appears that, as it was with expansion, this upcoming season is going to be more about what’s going on off the field than on it… and in the first year of the College Football Playoff no less.