Time for full-blown conference realignment (cont.)
If, down the road, the NCAA grew tired of second-class citizen status, it could sue the CASH on antitrust grounds. This is America. Anyone can sue anyone for anything. If that happened, the CASH might lose, just as the NFL lost an antitrust suit to the USFL in 1986. Remember how much the jury awarded the USFL? One buck.
The CASH will make lots of bucks. Its football and men's basketball seasons would be television gold. Because they would have to avoid playing NCAA teams for antitrust reasons, CASH teams could only play one another. That means no patsy games. Alabama wouldn't play Chattanooga in November. At worst, we'd get Bama-Kansas State.
The men's basketball tournament wouldn't generate as much as the current NCAA tourney, which brings in about $545 million a year in television revenue. Let's face it. People love their Cinderellas. But the pot would be split 64 ways and not among a Division I membership more than 300 strong. Plus, if the CASH so chose, the governing body wouldn't have to take a cut as big as the NCAA does from its tournament. Besides, there remains money to be made in a regular season made more legitimate by the lack of 64-team tournament. How will ESPN fill all those hours of regular-season programming? With the Horizon League?
There is, of course, a major stumbling block that probably would keep the CASH from getting its black helicopters off the ground. Many of the schools in question here are prestigious research institutions, and it's difficult to imagine the presidents of Vanderbilt, Michigan or UCLA signing off on a venture so blatantly commercial. But presidents signed off on the 12th regular-season football game, and that was a shameless money grab. They may sign off on a 96-team men's basketball tournament and greedily bastardize the world's most perfect sporting event this side of the World Cup. So we know the eggheads can be bought for a high enough price.
Besides, if the presidents need a way to spin their choice to chase the CASH, they can point to the bottom line. All 64 athletic departments would be completely self-sufficient; no chief executive would ever again have to explain to a state legislature why he needs government funds to build a softball stadium.
Meanwhile, back in the NCAA, the remaining members of the Football Bowl Subdivision would slip back toward what the NCAA originally intended. Students who probably would have gone to their chosen college anyway would enrich their academic experiences through athletics. The ones who wanted to play in a pro farm system would sign with a CASH program.
It all sounds so corporate, so cold, so ... honest. The CASH wouldn't expose or exploit the ills that face big-time college athletics any more than the NCAA does. It simply would offer a more straightforward alternative than the NCAA, which must govern schools that truly embrace amateur athletics as well as those that offer football and men's basketball programs that serve as thinly disguised Triple-A affiliates for their professional counterparts.
So why continue the ruse? Why not break away? The market made the top 64 what they are. Now, those 64 can use the same market to enrich themselves and stave off government intervention into their affairs.
If they elected to make the leap, it wouldn't take long before the CASH became king.
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