Updated 

Power conferences rule the universe


Veiled threats.

Those were two words at the end of a six-paragraph story Thursday that initiated the next step in what seems more inevitable than a new reality show about housewives.

The five revenue-producing Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and Notre Dame are officially rulers of the universe, having been granted by the NCAA the power to write many of their own rules.

The rich got richer, and there is nothing schools like UNLV and leagues like the Mountain West can do about it.

Or would dare try.

The 75 schools outside the power conferences could vote to override the autonomy legislation, but would do so at their own peril. Power leagues have no doubt strongly suggested to the minions of college athletics that should they in any sense challenge this ruling, the formation of a football super conference would occur sooner than later.

That the power five would merely break away, form their own division and leave the afterthoughts behind for good.

What those in nonpower conferences need to realize: All they have now in terms of influence, which is next-to-nothing, is in all likelihood the most they will ever have.

This, my friends, is as good as it gets for those outside the power five.

“That chasm, that split, has grown and grown and grown between the power five and everyone else,” said Jim Livengood, former athletic director at Arizona and UNLV and now a consultant to athletic programs and conferences nationally. “There are no good answers to this for the (non) power leagues. I’m afraid of some of the answers. The elephant in the room is this: What do nonpower schools do with football if the power five break completely away? Do they look at the Division II model or the (Football Championship Subdivision/IAA) level? At some point in time, it’s going to be about salvation.

“In my opinion, the nonpower conferences need to take this very seriously and meet often and be proactive about what is best for the entire group and not just individual schools or conferences. Know who you are and where you fit.”

Livengood predicts that should the power five ultimately pursue legislation to change a few key areas — transfer rules and scholarship limitations in football — you could officially sound the death knell for all nonpower conferences. In other words, if football players are allowed to transfer from a nonpower team into a power conference without penalty or the likes of Alabama and such are suddenly allowed to offer 90 scholarships instead of 85, it’s lights out for the little guys.

As it is, the room is barely lit.

The power five can begin submitting their own legislation by Oct. 1., and some areas expected to be altered include full cost-of-attendance stipends, four-year scholarship guarantees, looser rules involving contact between players and agents and travel allowances for players’ families to attend postseason games.

Oklahoma is in the process of purchasing a mobile food truck for its athletes and says it will spend $1 million to provide a wider selection of food offerings beyond the typical college fare. Some power five schools have hired celebrity chefs to prepare meals for athletes.

Have you seen the athletic facilities at most power schools?

It. Is. Out. Of. Control.

Thing is, those in the power five don’t even bother to hide what has become ridiculous discrepancies between them and everyone else.

“Our student-athletes and our programs are largely the face of what America knows as college athletics,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN on Friday. “We win more than 90 percent of the NCAA championships every year. … I think this (vote for autonomy) recognizes that there are some differences, and programs at our level have some unique challenges, have some relationships with student-athletes that are evolving. We need to have rules that respond to that evolution and those changes. We felt like we needed an opportunity to control a little more of our destiny.”

Translation: We’re in charge. Shut up and deal with it.

The split will only get wider. The nonpower leagues are never getting any closer. Facilities. Budgets. Food trucks. Chefs. The train of supremacy has left the tracks.

The nonpower leagues can put on a good face and release silly statements as the Mountain West did Thursday, celebrating a supposed governance structure that meets the needs of Division I as a whole, but the reality is clear: More and more, you don’t matter if you’re not among those schools in a power conference.

Heck, even the bottom feeders of those leagues are going to find it incredibly difficult to keep up financially with the top schools, never mind the UNLVs of the college landscape.

Livengood is spot on. There are no good answers to this. The elephant in the room is becoming more obvious. There will come a day when nonpower schools have to make a very difficult decision about continuing to play football and at what level, a decision that could directly affect and irreparably harm countless Olympic sports at the university level.

Scoff if you must. Claim this an overreaction. Keep pounding the drum that all is fine and well with football programs in nonpower leagues. Continue drinking the Kool-Aid of silly statements from leagues on the outside looking in.

The power five schools are laughing their way to the bank.

Not to mention eating scrumptious fillets grilled by Bobby Flay inside the Boomer Sooner food truck.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.