Aug 30, 2013
On a summer Thursday night, another college football season began amid great excitement and anticipation. And the annual flood of money for the fortunate few began.
If you're in the Southeastern Conference or the Big 12 or Pac-12 or the ACC or the Big Ten, college football can be a very lucrative undertaking. In the SEC, there'll be more money than ever next year with the arrival of the SEC Network.
But if you're Fresno State or Utah State or Louisiana-Monroe or, really, any school outside of the BCS conferences, making finances work can be difficult if not impossible. More college football programs operate in the red than in the black, and it's not even close.
Those who are awash in television money and those that count pennies just don't have much in common. The have-nots depend, to a great extent, on the haves to fund their programs. Auburn will pay Arkansas State $1.1 million to come to Jordan-Hare next week. It will pay Western Carolina $525,000 and Florida Atlantic $1 million.
Yet it is those same schools that often get in the way of the wealthier programs doing the things they want to do. During the summer, one BCS conference commissioner after another warned that something had to change, that there had to be some autonomy. None of them would rule out the possibility of leaving the NCAA altogether.
Jay Jacobs, in his ninth year as Auburn's athletics director, didn't hesitate or dodge the issue when asked Thursday about the growing discomfort the big-time football schools feel in the NCAA.
"We've got to get to some level of deregulation," Jacobs said. "Everybody is different. We can't treat all Division I schools as if they are all the same. Why can't we feed our student-athletes three (training table meals) a day? Why can't we? I don't get it."
Why does Middle Tennessee State or Louisiana-Monroe care if SEC offers full cost-of-attendance scholarships? Why do they care about anything the SEC does? They live in different worlds.
"There is a survey a lot of us are filling out," Jacobs said. "They've invited a lot of us - presidents and AD's - to the NCAA convention in January. They want our input. We all have a vote. Things have changed and times have changed."
Yes, things have changed. And the NCAA, as it is currently configured, is clearly having a difficult time coping with those changes. With every enforcement action comes a controversy. Should players be able to be paid for autographs? Should they get a cut of money that comes from displaying their likeness or selling jerseys with their names on them?
You hear it all. Johnny Manziel got off too easy. Johnny Manziel shouldn't have been suspended at all. Around and around we go.
Manziel made millions for Texas A&M with a single big year. Cam Newton did the same for Auburn in 2010. And even with Auburn coming off a 3-9 season, the RV's began rolling into town Thursday in advance of Saturday's season-opener against Washington State.
"I think the landscape is changing," Jacobs said. "I think we need to look at that. Are the rules best for the student-athlete? Are they archaic?"
Everything needs to be looked at, Jacobs said, from autographs and jerseys to dealing with agents.
"If I'm in chemical engineering and I have an off-the-charts GPA and I'm a junior, I can assure you some company is going to be pursuing me," Jacobs said. "We're telling our student-athletes they can't talk to somebody about their prospective employment their junior year. I think we need to look at all those things and see if all those things we decided years ago are still good today. Some of them might be. Some might not be."
The momentum is in the favor of Jacobs and his fellow BCS conference athletics directors and their commissioners. The call is growing louder for the AD's to have much more of a voice in NCAA matters, seeing as how the presidents haven't made it work all that well. It will be a major surprise if the power conference schools don't come out of next January's convention with some concessions.
As the chairman of the SEC's athletics directors, Jacobs will have a front-row seat as things unfold. It's anybody's guess what college football will eventually look like. But it will be different than it is today.
You can count on that.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: