The adverts explore options aimed at creating influence in the future restructuring of college football and basketball

Last month, the professional organization representing FBS sports directors issued what amounted to an ultimatum. The ‘vast majority’ of those announcements at the Lead1 League meeting in Washington, D.C. had a ‘strong preference’, the NCAA continues to run major college football if The assembly “could be more streamlined and less bureaucratic.”

Otherwise what?

The answer opened the door to perhaps not a break from major college football and basketball, but at least a shaping image of what the new structure would look like. A growing number of those ads believe they have a unique and powerful hammer as leverage if the NCAA doesn’t clean up their act.

If not, a Lead1 executive said. “We will explore other options.”

Among those implied options, CBS Sports has learned, is to benefit from schools’ participation in the NCAA tournament. While it’s unlikely that a separate basketball tournament will be held outside of the NCAA anytime soon, the ADs’ realization that they can create such an event provides a picture of how the two biggest NCAA sports will run in the future.

A break from football — likely more than one in basketball — has long been discussed as the NCAA’s strength wanes as membership demands a reorganization of the 117-year-old organization.

Nearly 80 FBS ads traveled to the Lead1 meeting in mid-September in person. Another 20 participated by default, attending 100 out of a total of 131. They saw two compelling presentations given by former NCAA executive director Oliver Luck in West Virginia, and North Carolina associate professor of athletic management, Irian Waite.

One of the presentations was a model with college football continuing to operate within the NCAA. The other showed that FBS had become “completely independent” of the NCAA, according to a source.

“It has been as unanimous as possible,” said Tom McMillan, CEO of Lead1, of his membership’s reaction to football governance. “It was like, ‘Fix it or we’ll seriously consider transportation options.'”

Basketball is involved in the discussion because the proceeds from the NCAA Championship are used by the association to operate major college football.

The NCAA does not sponsor the FBS Championship. Meanwhile, the championship is the mother’s milk for the same association that brings in nearly $800 million annually. Approximately 80% of that is due to members.

McMillan compared more oversight of sports in major colleges by its members to a “discharge petition”. In parliamentary procedure, such a law means that a bill is brought to the chamber for a vote without a report from a committee.

In this case, that “committee” represents the bureaucracy of the National Academic Accreditation and Assessment Authority.

“If the ads come together, they can get almost anything done,” McMillen said.

Lead1 is basically an advisory group when it comes to NCAA matters, but the change has to start somewhere.

Ohio State, AD Gene Smith raised eyebrows last summer when he suggested that ESPN take over the College Football Playoff FBS game. He was not alone. In December 2020, the reform-oriented Knight Committee suggested the same.

Lead1 and its members hope to gain more power over major college sports as the NCAA reshapes itself with a rewritten constitution that gives more power to schools.

To that end, Lead1 was encouraged to see its views take hold recently when the NCAA adopted seven of its eleven recommendations. Among those measures was the abolition of the much-criticized independent accountability dissolution process.

The future of basketball was not officially discussed last month. Several college officials walked out of this Lead1 meeting reasoning that there was no rights grant between Division One and NCAA schools that required them to play at March Madness. Granting rights is commonly known as the mark of document schools allocating their television rights to their conference. Lead1 executives and other announcements have confirmed to CBS Sports that there is no such binding document.

It’s not strict,” McMillen said. “That’s my quote. It’s not strict [that they participate]. “

When asked about the link linking these schools to the championship, Scott Burby, General Counsel of the NCAA, referred CBS Sports to Bylaw 31.2.1.1 which reads as follows: Eligible members of the sport… will participate [if selected] in the NCAA Championship or at any post-season in that sport.

“I don’t know the outcome, for example, if the team is eligible for an automatic giveaway to the conference, their selection [was] “I don’t know what that means,” Burby told CBS Sports.

Although there has been no public movement for Division I to organize its own basketball tournament, the National Basketball Coaches Association has stated that it would like to create a board of directors for the game but within the NCAA structure. (NABC President Craig Robinson provided no comment when contacted.)

Most importantly, for the first time during the Lead1 meeting, a price tag was placed on what it takes to run FBS: $65 million annually. The number was revealed during a slide presentation by Kathleen McNeely, the former NCAA financial director and now senior advisor. (McNeely has not commented but has given Lead1 official permission to describe her presentation in detail with CBS Sports.)

The external entity that handles FBS will be less about affordability and more about responsibility. This $65 million represents 10% of current annual CFP payments ($600 million) and even less (about 4%) of projected annual return in an expanded 12-team CFP field.

However, the NCAA has long been a target practice for attorneys seeking revenge for clients who suffer catastrophic injuries. The association also spends millions annually to defend itself in lawsuits targeting the NCAA and conventions.

As mentioned, building a tournament outside of the NCAA structure would be a massive lift. And there is little sign that university presidents, who have the final say, are not satisfied enough to take such a dramatic step. However, acknowledging the fact that they can reflect some resentment.

“I won’t worry about the basketball championship collapsing yet,” a source at the meeting said. “I think there’s widespread acceptance of the tournament as the place to be if you’re a college basketball team.”

Football remains essential because its presence within the system was an important reason for the NCAA’s record-breaking $1.16 billion in revenue last season.

Division One is made up of 351 members, many of whom derive a significant portion of their budget from the NCAA’s revenue distribution, much of which comes from the tournament.

But as part of the ongoing massive NCAA reorganization, the Power Five Schools are hoping for more input into how the NCAA is run.

This is where the simplification of governance comes in. Regardless of the separation, football and basketball can be divided into different parts divided between the NCAA and the schools.

“If FBS Football said, ‘We don’t want to have an NCAA app,'” one of the people in the room said. We want to have our own app and whatever we’re going to force enlist, ‘this could be a model’.

One source suggested getting rid of the NCAA Football Monitoring Committee, which is responsible for bringing legislation to the NCAA Council. The composition of the committee is part of the problem for the Power Five administrators. Only five of the 18 members are from Power Five schools.

The new FBS board of directors for the entire sport could be half that size.

For example, NCAA and amateur eligibility are largely dead talking points. The rules of name, image, and similarity wiped out all the rest of the (amateur) university model. The primary eligibility for schools is largely left behind.

There is a movement within Lead1 that would mimic what Knight Commissioner proposed: create a board that would at least oversee the sport and answer what was called the commissioner or chief executive of major college football.

CBS Sports took a deep dive into a potential break with football in June.

The $65 million needed to make the move is believed to be the first time a number has been attached to FBS. This is where the conflict emerges. Over the years, Football Playoffs, the BCS and College Football Playoff, have been major college football stewards. The NCAA basically set the rules of play and practice and provided catastrophic insurance while overseeing the sport through its enforcement department.

As the NCAA has become less important and powerful in recent years, many have questioned why the association would oversee FBS at all.

For any entity to take over FBS, it inherits a legal liability estimated by McNeely of at least $10 million annually. She cautioned that this does not include any massive legal settlement that might affect the NCAA’s legal exposure in any given year.

The advantage of this arrangement is that the NCAA remains a “legal shield” against all incoming lawsuits.

“They’re the first line of defense,” McMillen said. “Whoever takes over this will not only have to pay the current legal bills of $10 million per year, but [McNeely said] You should have a large reserve – more than $20 million a year in case of settlements.”

There is also Health and Welfare, Insurance, Administrative Oversight and Rules involved in this $65 million. All this makes it unlikely that a third party will take over the entirety of FBS.

The Knight Committee continues to argue that FBS schools receive NCAA revenue and have a weighted voting advantage in governance despite it being a sport that, again, was not primarily sponsored by the association. The panel noted that the NCAA “received $0 in football revenue from FBS,” but it bears legal liability and catastrophic insurance costs.

“CFP wants to be seen as an event management company,” said Amy Berko, Executive Director of the Knight Committee. “That’s fine if that’s all there is to it. But the CFP by its actions is behaving like more than just an event management company because they put value on the schools and conferences that are part of their agreement. … If only you were the event manager you could transfer the money to the governing entity. To come up with how the revenue will be divided.”

Instead, the conferences themselves decide how to divide the CFP’s revenue, with 78% of it going to Power Five conferences.

“Only the sport in which the NCAA runs are valid for revenue distribution,” a Lead1 official said. “So, they make an exception for football. That’s part of the argument.”

In 2010, the NCAA signed a 14-year, $10.8 billion agreement with CBS and Turner to telecast the NCAA Championship. An eight-year extension was signed in 2016 that takes the contract through 2032. With the rapidly changing television landscape, critics said NCAA President Mark Emmert signed a deal that would ultimately be undervalued on the market.

The Big Ten alone signed the media rights deal in August for more than $8 billion over seven years.

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