IOWA CITY — Big Ten officials will take another step this week toward forging a new — and potentially separate — identity for football under the NCAA umbrella.
League athletics directors meet Monday and Tuesday at their Big Ten's new offices in Rosemont, Ill.. The conversation likely will drift from the spacious building to uniting behind Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany's efforts at reforming the NCAA. There already is some agreement among the officials on most issues, Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said.
"Everybody shares the thought that it needs to be changed," Barta said. "It needs to be improved, it needs to be fixed at some level. There’s a strong sentiment, not just in the Big Ten, but across the country that we want to do it within the current NCAA.
"For a while there were discussions or rumors that there was a group that was going to pull out. I think we’ve gotten to the point, because the championships are so strong — whether it’s the men’s basketball championship or the women’s basketball championship or in our case, the wrestling championship — there is a strong commitment and desire to stay within the NCAA. But within that, we’ve got to have some change. It’s got to be streamlined, it’s got to be simplified. In some cases, a federation."
There are significant differences between high-major conferences and programs, like Iowa, from those in the football championship subdivision, like Northern Iowa. The financial disparity between those programs is stark. Iowa, for instance, earned $3.09 million in net revenue from its 2012 home football game against Minnesota. Northern Iowa expects to earn less than $2.9 million from all of its sports during the current fiscal year. Iowa's athletics budget this year is nearly $84.3 million. UNI's is less than $13 million.
"Northern Iowa and Iowa, for example, we might vote similarly for basketball, for wrestling," Barta said. "But there might be certain things in the sport of football because of the size and scope of our programs, we need to vote a little differently. So we’re trying to figure out could we stay within the NCAA, stay as Division I but then just have some areas and most of them probably related to football, where there is more of a federated vote?
"Maybe there are some things where a school like Iowa might say yes on, and the Big Ten might say yes on, in order to keep this thing moving and all stay together, were we given that opportunity. I think there’s some open-mindedness to that."
The differences are mostly financial. A majority of high-major conferences and schools are interested in providing athletes with a $2,000 stipend to help cover the cost of attendance. That proposal initially received approval from the NCAA board of directors in October 2011, but 160 schools then voted to override the legislation.
Additionally, larger schools would like to relax rules on meals for athletes, give at-risk students a transition year without competition and provide scholarships for athletes who have exhausted their eligibility. Delany introduced many of those concepts in July at Big Ten football media days.
It's possible the new football structure and rules could be voted upon at the annual NCAA convention Jan. 15-18, 2014 in San Diego.
"We’ll see if there’s still agreement on a lot of things and send that message to the NCAA," Barta said. "Hopefully by the convention, there will be enough critical mass to move forward with a new governance structure."