June 7, 2014 in Sports

Smaller schools hope they don’t get left behind

Tim Dahlberg Associated Press
 

Boise State has proven that it can compete with the elite of college football. Schools like Butler and VCU have shown they can beat teams from the biggest conferences during March Madness. Officials at such schools are worried that we’ll never see those underdog stories again.

They worry that changes being proposed by the five major conferences could prevent them from competing head-to-head against power schools and create greater inequities between the largest athletic programs and those trying to keep up.

“I think the NCAA in some areas doesn’t need as much change as some people are thinking,” said Bruce Rasmussen, athletic director at Creighton University in Nebraska. “We don’t need to blow the system up.”

Prodded by the huge television money flowing into college athletics to give athletes more than just tuition and room and board, the five major conferences – which include 65 schools – are racing to give athletes more money, more security and more control over their college careers.

The schools that may get left behind in what could be a seismic shift in major college athletics aren’t sure what to make of it all.

If they match all or some of the extra benefits the 65 big schools may soon offer, the costs could stretch already thin athletic department budgets. If they don’t, they may risk becoming second-class athletic programs with teams that can’t compete at the highest levels.

“Do we start picking and choosing some of the things? Well, let’s go ahead and give the stipend but not give the travel for the parents. Let’s do unlimited meals and snacks, but not do this,” said Central Arkansas athletic director Brad Teague, whose school is a member of the Southland Conference. “Several in our conference might pick some, several may pick others, but it really boils down to what does the recruit want? Well, this school’s giving me this. What about you all?”

Among the proposals advanced by Pac-12 presidents that will likely be matched by smaller schools are liberalization of transfer rules, cutbacks in practice time and giving athletes a greater voice with conferences and the NCAA.

But others – such as guaranteed scholarships and stipends to more fully match the cost of going to school – could be budget-breakers for schools that don’t share in the millions of dollars in television revenues the big conferences get.

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