NCAA breakup? SEC, Big 12, ACC commissioners all call for major changes

USA TODAY Sports

Everyone agrees, it seems: big NCAA reforms must happen. Three power-conference commissioners are hinting that enough is enough.

A theme spanning the major-conference media events this month is the call for significant changes to the structure of the NCAA. The commissioners from the SEC, ACC and Big 12 all have touched on the subject in some form or another, and to varying degrees.

SEC commish Mike Slive was the first to weigh in, taking shots at the NCAA's rulebook, which he considers antiquated.

"The current regulatory approach would be more at home in the era of Johann Gutenberg's printing press than in our current fast-paced technology-driven society and will no longer serve to functionally govern recruiting behaviors moving forward. As Albert Einstein once said, ‘We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

Slive added that he supports full cost-of-attendance scholarships -- something Steve Spurrier also stumped for last week -- for players and chided the NCAA for failing to meet the needs of student-athletes in this case. Perhaps most notably, he said that he has support from other power-conference commissioners on the issue.

That last bit is important because the talk of a potential breakaway from the NCAA by the five football power conferences has returned. The full-cost-of-attendance scholarship issue is one key sticking point with the NCAA, and if the commissioners are of like mind, it's one possible impetus for such significant structural realignment.

Even if that doesn't happen, something close to it very well could -- ACC commissioner John Swofford spoke openly Sunday about a "super division" within the NCAA for the power conferences that would allow them to create some of their own rules. It would essentially be another tier within college football's current framework, relegating about half of the FBS to some middle division between the big-money programs and FCS.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby echoed those sentiments Monday:

It's gotten to a point where it looks like the power five are working together:

Bowlsby was asked about the potential for a breakaway from the NCAA but didn't advocate anything that drastic:

"I'm very sincere when I say I haven't spoken with anyone in the business that says we should go find another organization. I don't see secession as a legitimate point of leverage except as a last resort. The leaders and rank and file believe there's a solution."

That's an opinion shared by Swofford, who cited the added complications that would come from creating a new association. For now, then, it appears these commissioners believe they can reach their goals through reforms within the NCAA. But it's also clear that these leaders are communicating with each other on the subject, and that their frustration is mounting.

We've not yet heard from Larry Scott of the Pac-12 or Jim Delany of the Big Ten -- their remarks come later in the week -- and it will be interesting to see exactly how deep the unanimity goes.

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