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Who is speaking for the FCS and mid-major schools?

Inside the effort to advocate for everybody else in college sports

Good morning, and thanks for your continued support of Extra Points.

On Tuesday, Ross Dellenger of Yahoo! Sports reported on the behind-the-scenes discussions on some of the biggest questions in college sports.

The story touched on potential changes to College Football Playoff formats and revenue distribution, possible settlements and substantial changes to player compensation models…even restructuring postseason access for basketball and other tournaments.

The report included multiple, on-the-record quotes from sitting power conference commissioners, as well as departing American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco. It referenced previous reporting on the myriad legal issues the NCAA is facing, as well as the organization’s efforts to engage with lawmakers. It’s an excellent, informative read.

But conspicuous in its absence? Anything from any president, athletic director, commissioner, or leader from an FCS or I-AAA (D1, non-football) institution.

That’s not a slight at Dellenger’s story whatsoever, or at any other reporter who is covering systemic changes in college sports. It makes sense to put the microphone in front of the leaders who represent the biggest brands, the most political power, and the most money.

But there are over 200 schools in D1 that don’t participate in FBS football, by far the majority of DI membership. These schools represent the overwhelming majority of college athletes.

“Nobody speaks for us,” UMBC athletic director Brian Barrio told me.

That’s why a new group of administrators at the FCS and I-AAA (D1, no football) are working together to craft unified policy positions and advocate for their interests in a changing college sports world.

This working group, currently co-chaired by Stephen F. Austin AD Ryan Ivey, includes leaders from across the low and mid-major landscape, like UNC-Asheville AD Janet Cone, UMBC AD Brian Barrio, Lafayette AD Sherryta Freeman, Arkansas Pine Bluff AD Chris Robinson, and NJIT AD Lenny Kaplan, among others.

From talking to several of the ADs involved, and from reading the working position paper, I’d categorize the group’s goals as working to address two related, but different problems: a governance problem, and a legal problem.

First, let’s talk about governance….which includes the postseason.

“As college sports has grown and become more complex, our governance structure hasn’t really grown up with it,” said Stephen F. Austin AD Ryan Ivey. “It’s very hard to get anything done quickly in the NCAA.”

That’s a problem, given the massive problems all D-I institutions are facing right now, from legal exposure, revenue redistribution, sport governance, and much more.

As Dellenger reported, one of the major issues that the largest athletic departments are concerned with is championship access. Specifically…power conferences would like more of it. Via his story:

However, discussions between the commissioners and NCAA go beyond the topic of revenue and also include the growing wish for more access in the form of at-large spots. In the meeting with Baker, commissioners were transparent about their desire for more access in a 68-team field that includes 32 automatic qualifying spots — 27 of which go to non-power leagues.

“I want to see the best teams competing for a national championship, no different than (the Big Ten and SEC) want to see in football,” Yormark said. “I’m not sure that is currently happening.”

The debate about expanding the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, or potentially removing automatic qualifications for league champions, has been going on for more than a year….but industry sources tell me that those conversations aren’t limited to just the basketball tournament.

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