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CBS: First proposal for "Division 4" formally proposed

There have been rumblings from fans, coaches and athletic directors about a possible huge NCAA governance change, with the bigger schools breaking out on their own, so to speak. Now, it appears we have the first formal proposal to get there.

The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

Amid the thundering chorus for NCAA reform, outside of actually paying the players, one issue has stood out from the rest. Is it fair for the huge, football playing schools to share decision making with smaller, basketball only institutions in decision making? With the athletic departments of Ohio State and say, American University, being so dramatically different, can policy be reached that makes sense for both parties? Members from some FBS athletic departments have implied that the current administrative status quo just isn't working.

Dennis Dodd, of CBS, reports that the first proposal to formally separate some of the "big boys" is finally out, although it isn't nearly as dramatic as some might have expected.

Here are some of the highlights:

Responding to an NCAA request for input, the FAR board earlier this month proposed that the highest level of college football -- Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) -- "become a new and separate division" with its own board of directors. FBS (formerly named Division I-A) is within the Division I structure of approximately 350 schools.

Many fans have suspected that the "new" Division 4 would be limited to around 64 teams, with smaller conferences relegated to an enlarged FCS, or perhaps something different. This proposal, coming from a Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) named Brian Shannon a law professor at Texas Tech, draws the line at including all FBS programs, even the small ones like Western Kentucky, Tulane and New Mexico State.

This FAR proposal does not call for a "breakaway" of those FBS schools. They would still be NCAA members.

The idea of bolting the NCAA to start their own club has been primarily raised by fans, rather than coaches or athletic directors.

The proposal resembles a so-called 'federated' structure, an idea that is making the rounds among some administrators. Either divisions or sports -- or both -- would be aligned more among common interests. For example, one idea is to have major-college football run by a board of directors with an overall chairman or commissioner.

That essentially is what the FAR is proposing. The FBS board of directors would include one CEO from each of the 10 leagues. The voting powers of those 10 may or may not be weighted toward the BCS leagues (Pac-12, Big 12, SEC, ACC, Big Ten).

A separate management council of FBS would be populated by one AD and one FAR from each FBS conference. The idea is for college athletics' main stakeholders to take a leadership role and to streamline a bogged-down NCAA process.

This is an especially unique wrinkle. If legislative control is tied to conferences only, what happens to the independents? Would there be a separate FAR/AD representative for them, or would this ratchet up pressure for Notre Dame, BYU and others to formally join a conference? It's hard to see any kind of football governance structure that would overly disadvantage Notre Dame, but it could be an interesting wedge to see what Army and BYU do in the future.

The other question is whether "D4" would weight influence towards the BCS leagues, and to what extent. If the cutoff line for D4 membership is merely having an FBS program, it would seem difficult to not weight influence towards the major conferences. If the deck is too heavily stacked though, some smaller leagues may question the wisdom of D4 membership (which may be a bug or a feature, depending on your perspective). It also might potentially provide an incentive for conference realignment. If you're Boise State, and having a larger seat at the negotiating table is a priority to you, you're probably even placing more institutional emphasis on getting into a larger conference.

The proposal also reiterates their desire to continue to compete in combined D1 championships for other sports, especially Men's Basketball. This makes sense not just from a competitive balance standpoint (keeping Gonzaga, Georgetown and Butler out of the 'premier basketball tournament' would seriously weaken the product), but a financial one, since 90% of all NCAA functions are funded by March Madness.

If you want to see the actual proposal, you can read it here. Undoubtedly, this is the first salvo in what will be a long discussion over the next number of months.