Brown backs Bowlsby call for reform
DALLAS -- Texas Longhorns coach Mack Brown, president of the American Football Coaches Association, said Tuesday that he agrees with Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby's recent remarks that college football's most successful programs need to break away from the rest of the sport.
On Monday, Bowlsby said college football's "big five" conferences -- the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC -- might need to explore creating a fourth division or their own federation within the NCAA. Under current NCAA structure, the same rules govern Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision, Division II and Division III football, and every NCAA member, regardless of division, has the same voting rights.
Bowlsby and other FBS conference commissioners have become increasingly frustrated by their inability to pass legislation to increase the value of scholarships to cover the full cost of attendance for their student-athletes, among other desired changes.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive and ACC commissioner John Swofford made similar comments during the past week.
"I agree with it," Brown said. "I think that at some point we need to realize that's where we're headed. We've always tried to make rules for every level and have it under one umbrella, and it's never worked. When we tried to get instant replay, we couldn't because some [schools] couldn't afford it. When we tried to go to the 40-second [play] clock, we couldn't because some couldn't afford it. When we wanted to put the microphones in the helmets for quarterbacks, we couldn't because some couldn't afford it."
Brown, who also has coached at Appalachian State, Tulane and North Carolina, said college football's big five conferences might even need to relegate some of their own programs that aren't financially able to keep up with the rest.
"They'd have to be weeded out," Brown said. "You have to say, 'Here's the minimum. If you can't live up to that, go do something else.' I think that's the only way to do it. It sounds harsh, but really and truly we're putting too much pressure on those that can't live in this world. If we pay them all and let them live in their own world, who cares? Make it a good league and make it fun."
Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, chairman of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, told ESPN.com this week that there might be too much resistance from schools relegated to lower leagues for the plan to work.
"There are certain calls for that," Hatch said. "I don't sense among the presidents that people want to secede from the NCAA. There's been talk about creating a new division, but I think there would be huge resistance among NCAA schools, who are good and quality but not in one of the BCS conferences. That's under discussion, but I don't sense the gravity is huge. … The problem is, once someone does that, no one wants to be thought of as a second-class citizen. Everyone is upwardly mobile."
But with college football entering the final season of the controversial Bowl Championship Series and moving to a four-team playoff in 2014, Brown said it is becoming increasingly important for the sport's best teams to play each other during the regular season to crown a legitimate national champion.
"I want to see the best teams play," Brown said. "I think it's best for fans, best for coaches and best for players. I want to see us have to play good teams to be the best team."
Brown said the five conferences would make enough money from the future playoff -- published reports indicated ESPN paid $5.64 billion or $470 million annually in a 12-year deal that runs through the 2025 regular season -- to finance the lower leagues.
"My thought would be to take the group of teams that has it all and let them play it out," Brown said. "You have the NFL of college football. You'll make enough money out of it to make the next group. You can make it really exciting and fun for them, but let them play within their own element. Let them play at their own level. Don't try to make something out of something you don't have. Then you'll have the last group and you can make it a great little league. They can enjoy it.
"We're going to make enough money that we can pay for all of it," Brown said. "[You'll have] the Super Bowl league and then a really good league that has teams that are fun and then the guys that can't afford it. It's kind of what we've done, but we've been BCS and non-BCS and money and no money. I do think this time we need to get it right. We didn't get it right last time."
Brown's comments echo those of Alabama coach Nick Saban, who last week said: "If somebody wants to take the leadership and say, 'OK, here are the five conferences that are the top conferences, and we're going to play all our games amongst those people,' I'd be fine with that. But until somebody says that, it's going to be impossible to schedule all your games with those teams."