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NCAA Wields Hammer Down... On "The Rivalry"?

The NCAA, you have to admit, has not had a very good month.  After all, they were strangely invisible when the Big Ten - via Fox Media - was threatening to tear Football Championship Subdivision asunder with a proposal to expand by as many as five schools.

Unfortunately, last Friday we found out exactly what the NCAA was doing all this time when the Big XII was threatening to implode and we very nearly found ourselves with a Pac-16.

The NCAA, via a Friday press release, was letting us know that FCS football had an expense problem. So much so, in fact, that they spent the last month reinterpreting a rule that will affect - yes - "The Rivalry" if it indeed comes to pass. (more)

You'd be forgiven if you hadn't noticed it.  Under the heading "Championships Cabinet approves format change for women's soccer", the release actually detailed some important proposals that affect FCS football:

Other highlights
In other items on the agenda:
  • The cabinet forwarded two recommendations related to its review of Bylaws 17 and 31 to reduce costs related to administration of championships and playing and practice seasons. The cabinet supports prohibiting institutions from providing accommodations to their student-athletes on the night before home contests in FCS football. 
  • Cabinet members sponsored legislation for the 2010-11 legislative cycle to increase the number of student-athletes allowed to practice before an institution’s first day of class to 95 in FCS football starting in 2011. Currently, FCS football teams may have a maximum of 90 participants.
"So, an increase in squad size in the summer, five more freshmen allowed.  Huh?  Wait.  Whu?  What was that first thing?"

On the surface, it seems to perhaps make sense that a school shouldn't use school dollars to put up the football team in a hotel the night before a home game.  Mandating FCS schools to not spend their money in this way seems a bit Big Brother-ish, but at least the thought might be to save the athletic departments money.  It might be a very small amount of money... but money nonetheless.

Based on this cover sheet, the justification for the overall recommendation of these changes are identifications for "possible cost reduction.  Curiously, though, the recommendation for removing this item was listed under a heading under "student-athlete's welfare", not "costs".  (And - curiously - there is no provision in Bylaws 17 and 31 talking about "student-athlete welfare" for any reason.  Trust me, I checked.)

What might this mean for FCS schools?  For Lehigh and Lafayette, the impact could be large.

During the weekend of "The Rivalry" ,Lehigh and Lafayette check their student-athletes into hotels, even if they're the "home team".  Why?  Mostly to keep them focused on football and academics during a week when most of those students are engaging in binge drinking and who knows what else.  The coaches have called the lead-up to Rivalry Week a major "distraction", and checking them into hotels is a tool to help the teams minimize "distractions".

That's not just a concept, either.  As one Lafayette poster on Any Given Saturday opined,  "Try getting sleep in a dorm or frat house the night before the Lafayette-Lehigh game! I don't see what this accomplishes."

Ironically, an act that Lehigh and Lafayette coaches did for the welfare of their student-athletes is now suggested to be discontinued - for the "student-athlete's welfare."  Having the kids stay in the center of campus during "Rivalry" weekend will decidedly not improve student-athlete welfare.

And for what?  A mid-range hotel room for two adults in Bethlehem costs about $120 a night.  Multiply that times 100 (so, 200 people for one night, which is much larger than the actual size of the football team), and taxes and other expenses, and you have a maximum expense of $15,000 for the whole athletic department.

Yeah, NCAA- that one-time expense is going to balance the athletics budget at all these schools.  Sure.

In related news, the entire budget for Lehigh athletics per their EADA reports was $20 million.  For those of you that still pay attention to math, that's less than 1% of the overall budget for the year.

That it doesn't help student-athletes or save schools a significant amount of money is bad enough.  But what makes it worse is that the recommendation only applies to FCS football - not the Penn State's or USCs of the world.

That means if Penn State plays at Pitt, head coach Dave Wannstedt (for example) can put his kids in a hotel even though he's playing at home.  For any FBS school, it's just another expense, unregulated by the NCAA.

For Columbia, whose football stadium is almost a hundred blocks uptown and has nowhere to practice on-campus?  Sorry.  No athletics department money for you.

The more you think about it, the senselessness of the suggested rule change really becomes apparent.  I could somewhat understand it if FBS teams were abusing the privilege, and the NCAA was trying to stop a widespread shady practice.  But it's not a shady practice, and FBS is unaffected by the change.  What positive change will this recommendation bring?  Can you think of any?


LehighMtnHawk said…
Having spent six years as chief of staff at a large DI-FCS univeristy that made the transition from DII, I can tell you first hand (intercollegiate athletics dotted line reported to the President through me) that absolutely nothing about the NCAA makes logical sense other than to follow (a) the money of the big DI schools and (b) political correctness regarding issues of gender, sexual orientation, race, and other perceived protected classes.

That said, recruiting often plays into rule making proposals. If I had to profer a guess, some "have not" schools who do not provide off campus housing to their athletes the night before a home game were having that fact used against them by coaches of their opponents. Coaches will pull out any and all advantages to impress a young 16-17 year old kid and his parents....and yes the fact that a school that is too frugal to spring for the hotel room will be brought up, as will the point you make about the distractions of remaining on campus those evenings as opposed to having a coaches imposed lock down somewhere of site. Sad but true...coaches are skilled at painting a very negative picture of opposing schools any way they can...One need only see the damage done to recruiting efforts by the NCAA's insane rule that an institution is ineligible for its conference championship as well as any NCAA championship competition for the entirety of your four year transition period from DII to DI. Don't you think opposing coaches make hay out of that one? Might as well right off four years of competitive sports. Better yet, the reason given is to disuade schools from moving up to DI for financial reasons....duh, for most if not all that move is a negative financial proposition, to that could easily be addressed by having the transiting schools agreeing to forefeit any conference championship or NCAA championship revenues during that transition period (if it were truly about money). But no, it is the student athletes who suffer because of a marked falloff in ability to recruit and therefore overall competititveness of the teams and that in turn results in less fan attendance, student support, etc. The NCAA... backasswards as always. I am just shocked they went after USC and Reggie Bush...I had just assumed the money and the fix was in. The arrogance of USC's Athletic Director Mike Garrett must have finally pissed somebody off.
ngineer said…
Good article. Back in "the day" the team slept on cots in the Varsity House to get 'us' away from the distractions of "The Hill". That was for every home game. I think the team, or at least50-60, are bunked in a hotel for every home game, not just Laugheyette.

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