Reclassifying to FBS may become more expensive soon. Here's why:
The D1 Council's proposed new FBS requirements, explained:
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On Wednesday afternoon, the NCAA released proposed legislation from the Division I Council that would alter the current entrance requirements to reclassify from FCS to FBS.
The proposal that grabbed the most immediate headlines was a change in entrance fees. Currently, it costs $5,000 to transition from FCS to FBS. The proposed legislation bumps that number up to $5 million, all due at once.
The assumption I’ve seen from fans is that this fee increase is meant to dissuade schools from reclassifying to FBS, or to serve as some sort of gatekeeping tool. I reached out to a few ADs this week, including a few at FCS institutions that may consider reclassifying over the next few years…and most didn’t think that was really the case. Nobody I’ve spoken to believes that $5 million is enough to actually prevent anybody that was serious about reclassifying, especially since it’s a one-time expense.
Multiple industry sources told me that the $5 million mark, specifically, came from wanting to peg application fees to something resembling NCAA units. The fee to reclassify from D-II to D-I is roughly that of one NCAA Unit, and the goal, I was told, was to tie this entrance fee to roughly two NCAA Units.
ADs and other insiders told me that actually, it’s the other stuff in this proposal that matters more
Per the release:
Outside of FBS, most schools do not fully fund the maximum allowable scholarships for every single “Equivalency" sport, like swimming, soccer or softball. A few potential FBS candidate schools also don’t currently sponsor 16 sports, like McNeese State (14) or Montana State (15). Other schools may sponsor 16-18 sports, but not do not clear the 90% mark or the $6 million mark. I’m still trying to dig through all the data, but I suspect at least a few current FBS programs are also not in compliance with the scholarship rules. Under the proposal, schools will have until 2027 to be in compliance.
Of course, anybody moving from FCS to FBS would need to add 20+ football scholarships, plus potentially other women’s sports scholarships, so those increases may be enough to move them into compliance territory.
Adding new sports, new scholarships, or increased scholarship funding is classified as a reoccurring expense, along with all of the new staffing changes, travel, and salary adjustments that come from moving to FBS. Coupled with other expenses that are rising at the mid-major level, that could potentially give some schools pause. For what it’s worth, when I talk to mid-major FBS leaders or FCS schools that might consider a reclassification, I hear way more concerns about rising health insurance costs or finding athletic trainers than I do about scholarships….but every dollar counts.
Anybody who was seriously considering moving to FBS over the next decade is probably within shouting distance of those benchmarks, but I was repeatedly told that it’s the annual expenses that are much more significant than shelling out five million bucks to the NCAA.
FWIW, this proposal also calls for the immediate removal of attendance-related requirements that nobody follows, comprehensive reviews of athlete health support services every four years, as well as life skills and career counseling programming.
I look at these proposals (and that’s what these are, proposals that haven’t been formally voted on yet) as a continuation of the Transformation Committee’s goals to ‘elevate’ what it means to be a D-I institution, rather than the Big Bad SEC and Big Ten trying to pull up the drawbridge before Delaware and Eastern Kentucky can sneak in.
We’ll see if the proposal is meaningfully altered as it goes through the Byzantine NCAA legislative process.
We wrote a bunch of other stuff this week, in case you missed it:
NIL collectives across the country are trying to diversify their revenue streams to avoid donor fatigue. Several are trying to raise money via subscriptions. Well friends, I know a thing or two about running a college sports-focused and subscription revenue-funded business. Here’s my advice to those collectives.
Thanks to Open Records Requests, I got a copy of the emails San Diego State sent to the Mountain West about maybe-but-not-really-but-kind-of resigning from the conference, as well as the MWC’s response. We should have some sort of resolution to this storyline by the end of the day today…but we’ll see!
The Athletic wrote a thoughtful story about the potential of Saudi or foreign investment funding coming to NIL collectives or college sports. Earlier in the week, I wrote about why I didn’t think that exact scenario was very likely…but that foreign money could absolutely come to college sports in these two other ways.
And I’ve been spending a lot of time on tweaking and updating our beta version of Athletic Director Simulator 3000. Thanks to everybody who has played it so far! We’re putting the final coats of paint on Version 1.0 and are excited to share our plans for it soon. Paid subscribers can play the game now and help offer feedback to shape it for the future.
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