It's still a long, long ways away before being put into practice. But if it is, a proposal currently being examined at the Big Ten's spring meetings could have seismic repercussions for major college football.
That proposal, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN's Brian Bennett, would increase the conference's full athletic scholarships to cover the "cost of full attendance"--not only tuition and room-and-board, but transportation, clothing, and other expenses. At approximately $3,000 per student-athlete per year, the additional cost for each league school would run into the hundreds of thousands.
But Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith says (and Delany clearly agrees with him) that at the highest level of collegiate athletics, it's feasible all the same:
"The reality is that schools can afford it more than you realize," ... Smith said. "Just look at some of the television contracts that have come out recently" ...Delany's comments made it clear that while there remains "a long way between the talk and the action" on the proposal, he's not intending to abandon it just because the smaller schools of Division I might not be able to afford it:
"There are some conferences and some institutions that have higher resources than others," Delany said.
"Forty years ago, you had a scholarship plus $15 a month laundry money," Delany said. "Today, you have the same scholarship, but not with the $15 laundry money.Delany (who has never exactly been shy about protecting his own conference's interests when they conflict with those of less affluent leagues) and Smith didn't shy away from the fact that the proposal's financial burden would be impossible for most conferences to carry. Assuming the Big Ten and their peers adopted it, the logical end result would be scholarships to BCS-level schools becoming some $15-20,000 more valuable over their four- or five-year duration than their non-BCS counterparts.
"How do we get back more toward the collegiate model and a regulatory system that is based more on student-athlete welfare than it is on a level playing field, where everything is about a cost issue and whether or not everybody can afford to do everything everybody else can do?"
Thus the division between the "haves" and "have-nots" would widen even further, potentially to the point of a divisional split between the BCS and non-BCS conferences; revolutionary an idea as that might be, Smith (a former A.D. at Eastern Michigan) called it a "logical thought."
Because of that issues, expect there to be a torrent of angry pushback from smaller leagues if and when the Big Ten decides to follow through on the proposal. But when it aims to provide better living conditions for student-athletes -- and has the support of NCAA president Mark Emmert, as reported -- how much push will the non-BCS leagues really be able to muster? We may find out over the next few years, and the fate of college footbal las we currently know it could hang in the balance.