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Dan Wolken: ‘Competition Is Still Going To Be The Same’

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(Credit: J. Meric/Getty Images)

(Credit: J. Meric/Getty Images)

If anyone thinks that the NCAA will disband or die following Thursday’s ruling – the Division I Board of Directors voted to give the Power 5 conferences the ability to initiate and pass their own legislation – here’s some advice: Slow down.

Whatever changes that are coming don’t figure to be all that drastic – not for fans, anyway.

“I don’t know that the changes are going to be all that radical to the fan who watches the game on Saturday; the competition is still going to be the same,” USA Today college football writer Dan Wolken said on The Morning Show. “What’s going to change is (that) the big schools are going to be allowed to spend on certain things. I think a lot of what they want to do makes sense.”

Need some examples? Here you go.

“The scholarship (format) has not changed in 50 years – even though the amount of money flowing into college sports has changed dramatically,” Wolken said. “There are still rules that maybe were well-intentioned at one point, but if you go on an official visit to a college, your family can’t get it paid for. If you’re a college basketball player and you’re in the Final Four – (which is a) very important moment in your life – a lot of kids (have families who) can’t afford to get a plane ticket to Indianapolis to come watch them.”

“Well, with the amount of money we’ve got now in college sports, I think that there’s enough room to pay for that kid’s family to travel to the Final Four.”

Wow, it seems like common sense is creeping into the conversation. But why limit this to the Power 5? Why can’t the MAC or A-10 institute similar measures?

“Well, any legislation that’s adopted by the Power 5 is permissive, which means any of the other conferences can do the same thing if they choose to,” Wolken said. “Now, the issue becomes can you afford it? The problem with the old model as it was is that any time (the Power 5 schools) tried to increase the amount of benefits and add to the scholarship, it got voted down. Because look, there’s 65 schools that make a ton of money out of college sports, and then there’s another probably 30 that have some resources, but they don’t have quite the same TV contract.”

Think the AAC and the Mountain West.

“And then there’s about 220 schools that are, frankly, very poor in terms of their athletic departments,” Wolken said. “And when they’re the big voting bloc, it makes it very hard to get anything done that increases athletic budgets. So those big schools are now going to dictate their own budgetary restrictions, and I think that makes a lot of sense.”

But will this affect competitive balance? Will this affect recruiting?

“Well, I think we’ve seen in college football that there’s a tremendous built-in historical advantage to the big schools anyway,” Wolken said. “Tell me how many kids choose to go to Rice instead of Texas. Hardly any. In fact, none, really. There are just built-in historical advantages that Texas has, and that’s where kids have always wanted to go. That’s not going to change.”

“I think that we sort of get caught up in making it a conflict between the haves and the have-nots,” Wolken continued, “but the reality is – especially since the BCS and the BCS era – there’s been a divide. You’re either in or you’re out. The schools that were not part of the BCS conferences were always up against it in recruiting, and I don’t see how the level of players that they are going to get in the future is really going to change that much.”

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