Conference Bids and existential threats

Good morning y’all,

So I’d like to think I’m at least a decent parent. I’m familiar with the concept of emotional labor. I’m at least trying to model to my two daughters that daddies can cook and clean and that we don’t need to be beholden to traditional gender norms about everything.

But man, my wife is out of town this week, and now that we’re on day four on parenting solo, I feel like I’m one more screw up from turning into a paint-by-the-numbers early 90s sitcom.

So, apologies in advance if a bit more typos snuck into this newsletter. We’re running on chicken nuggets here at Casa De Brown, and that probably isn’t good for the ol’ brain.

Let’s talk about existential threats

No, not like, real existential threats. If you want to read about climate change or institutional political collapse, let me direct you to oh, the rest of the internet.

Let’s talk about fake existential threats. Here’s NCAA president Mark Emmert, to CBS Sports:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With name, image and likeness rights becoming a boiling point for college sports, NCAA president Mark Emmert said Tuesday that granting athletes such rights would be an "existential threat" to the collegiate model.

Emmert on Tuesday, while speaking to a group of Division I athletic directors, called the current debate over name, image and likeness rights the "single biggest issue" in his almost-decade on the job

College football really has faced existential threats before. Concerns over violence near the turn of the century led many states to openly consider banning the sport (including football-mad places like Georgia), and no less than the President of the United States had to get involved. The integrity of the sport has been wracked by gambling scandals. We had a World War that led to multiple schools shuttering programs. There have been others.

This…this isn’t really it. And Emmert probably understands that himself. I mean, even in the same ding dong interview, here is he talking about what he thinks the marketplace for athlete rights actually looks like:

"My personal view is folks in general think that every student-athlete is going to be making hundreds of thousands of dollars," Emmert told CBS Sports. "One or two will be making some significant amount of money. Nobody else will."

My dude, if you only think like, three people are going to be making real money, how the hell is that an existential threat?

Fun Fact, btw. The idea of letting athletes control likeness rights isn’t new. No less than a former head of the NCAA endorsed it:

I intellectually understand why Emmert, or Ohio State president Michael Drake have to hold the line in public on this stuff. But that doesn’t mean anybody else has to take them seriously.

The acceptable bounds of what constitutes amateurism have changed quite a bit in college football history. Prior to 1950, the idea that a player might get an athletic scholarship, or hell, any kind of “subsidization” at all, was at best controversial, and at worst, a step towards crass professionalism. Then we all sort of realized that was fine. Same thing with Title IX (which the NCAA tried to stop), or cost of attendance awards, or a litany of other tweaks.

The threat here isn’t that a national organization couldn’t survive with multiple state-level labor laws (national corporations figure it out, and besides, the NCAA could just adopt a similar policy to California). The threat is better spelled out here by TCU AD Jeremiah Donati. Via the Star-Telegram:

“Some big pocket donors can say, ‘We’re going to pay our players $100,000 to promote Joe’s Taco Shack,’” Donati said. “Then we’re back in the funny business again. I’m really nervous about this. I don’t know how you regulate this.

“This could potentially destroy everything we know and love about college sports. I am absolutely a huge opponent of it.

”If this becomes the new world of college athletics, schools could be asking boosters to host parties for their athletes instead of buying suites at stadiums.

To Donati, that’s “unconscionable.”

The big threat is that Joe’s Taco Shack is going to give money to the player directly, instead of giving money to TCU, so they can try to attract the athlete via fringe benefits.

Maybe that’s an existential threat if you’re an administrator in athletics department. But for everybody else? I think they’ll manage.

New Mexico State would like a football home, and they may pay for help

Being a college football independent is not easy in 2019. If you’re the flagship institution for a large religion, you might be able to make it work. But if you’re a public school, like UConn, UMass or New Mexico State, it’s usually pretty hard to make it work over the long haul.

It might especially hard for New Mexico State. The Aggies have been near the dregs of FBS for decades, and must struggle with a tiny budget, geographic isolation, and no conference home.

The school is committed to staying in FBS. Here’s an interesting quote New Mexico State AD Mario Moccia gave during a Reddit AMA back in 2018:

With that said, for NM State university I thought FBS was the only viable option for us for several reasons. First, with the lack of institutions geographically close to us we judge ourselves against UNM and UTEP in virtually every category possible. I could not imagine having a non FBS classification when we are battling them both for general students for enrollment, prospective student-athletes, legislative dollars from the state of NM and corporate dollars from both communities.

Second, where we are in the world of FBS, one of our best selling points to recruits is that “they are an FBS caliber player” and they can have an opportunity to play in a bowl game. This is how we can get players from the state of Texas and others that might otherwise go to a top FCS program. A perfect example is Larry Rose III, who in his sophomore year was a Third-Team AP All-American (I know this is an extreme example but a good one). If we remove that, there would be limited reasons for Texas kids to leave their state to play for an FCS program when they could stay in-state and do it closer to home.

Third, as an alumni of NM State I think it is important for alumni nationwide to compete against the highest level of competition against schools that they recognize regardless of our success. Finally, the exposure of FBS is unparalleled. Scott Van Pelt featured NM State at the top of SportsCenter for 2:41 seconds when we qualified for Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl. Our uniforms were featured on “Gear Up” on ESPN, the Bear had us on several weeks in a row on College Game Day, Stanford Steve wore an Aggies shirt and wished us luck and one of our players earned a helmet sticker on ESPN’s post college football show just to name a few. This in my opinion is exposure for the entire university that could never be possible unless we were at the FBS level.

But staying independent is difficult financially and competitively. So the school might look at paying somebody to help them get into a conference. Via

New Mexico State athletic director Mario Moccia says the school may hire an outside consulting firm to help its football team join an athletic conference.

Moccia told reporters in Albuquerque last week the university is looking into hiring a firm to assist the university in putting together a robust package after the school tried to do it alone.

I don’t blame the school for trying. Next year, the Aggies have to play at Hawaii, at UMass, AND at UCLA and Florida. They have just five home games. And their basketball team, which is perennially very good, is stuck in the WAC. So sure, try whatever you can to find a better situation.

But how is paying a marketing or consulting firm going to change the situation? Right now, there’s really only two possible options. Either you join Conference USA, which would suck for most of that league (hey Marshall and Old Dominion. Would you like another conference game two time zones away?), or you join the Mountain West, who doesn’t want you. Can a marketing firm grow the school’s budget, or enrollment, or change their market? Probably not!

I wonder if the real move here would be to actually try to somehow start their own league. FCS doesn’t have a ton of options for western schools, and the Big Sky is already a little bloated. Could a league with UTEP, New Mexico State, and I dunno, Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado, Weber State and somebody else be the start of something? Just spitballing.

Other than that, well, I hope that consulting firm is at least affordable.

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