Report: Power 5 conference leaders considering holding own championships separate from NCAA
A big change could be coming to college sports. A new report from Ross Dellenger and Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated reveals that Power 5 leaders are “exploring” the possibility of holding their own championships if the NCAA elects to cancel the official championships.
Under the current arrangement, FBS college football operates its postseason (bowl games) and championship (College Football Playoff) outside the NCAA structure. The NCAA structure is used for championships in basketball (March Madness), baseball (College World Series) and other non-football varsity sports.
Even though the FBS-level college football championship would not be directly impacted by the decision, FBS-level college football looms large in these exploratory discussions according to the SI report:
Multiple sources said part of the motivation for the Power 5 considering hosting its own fall Olympic sports seasons is to justify playing football, the revenue-driving sport for all athletic departments at that level. If all the other sports are canceled but football perseveres on its own, the optics would open up the schools to severe criticism. Thus, playing all fall sports would allow those schools to say that they are not uniquely subjecting football players to any risk.
Sources described the discussions about breakaway championships as preliminary in nature, the first steps in gauging both interest and feasibility. An Atlantic Coast Conference administrator said the concept is “hypothetical” in nature and not mature yet, but “if the NCAA does something, it could shift it from neutral to first gear.”
The SI report comes days ahead of an NCAA Board of Governors meeting on Tuesday. The Board, “comprised primarily of university presidents and chancellors from all levels of the NCAA,” is expected to announce its decision on non-FBS fall sports championships for the 2020 season after the meeting.
If the coronavirus-related championship cancelations lead to the Power 5 breaking from the NCAA, college sports may never be the same. A Power 5 athletic director is quoted in the SI article as saying, “If I were (NCAA president Mark) Emmert, I’d be really worried about it. He’s got to keep the Power 5 together.”