A year ago, the college world's major sports powers carried a big stick to the NCAA convention and threatened to bolt the organization if they weren't allowed to form a socalled super division.
Now they are returning to another convention with the same goal. But the big stick has been replaced by soft, persuasive voices and the hope that reason and logic can accomplish what rhetoric could not.
It just might work. The superpowers are given an excellent chance this week in Miami Beach of getting their separate division, although not quite in the same form or with the same rules as they had hoped. But anything, they fell is better than the present NCAA structure.
At the same time, these powers will be guarding their against any proposals that would replace the current athlentic scholarships with financial awards based on family financial need only.
It was just such an attempt to switch to "need" that rocked last year's convention in St. Louis - and almost sneaked through before an impassioned plea for rejection by Notre Dame vice president Edmund Joyce saved the day for the jock schools.
There are some 37 proposals regarding need and financial aid on the convention agenda.The strongest, which would call for the need criterion to be imposed on all sports, probably will not pass. But more modified need legislation, which would exclude football and basketball from such restrictions, has a better chance of being approved.
The debate in both the need and reorganization areas could result in the most heated convention yet. Unlike at past meetings, the agenda has been organized so both topics are to be taken up immediately Tuesday while delegates are still fresh and not trying to dash for planes at the end of a long day. There shouldn't be an empty seat in the house.
Other important legislative topics include attempts to modify the limitations on coaching staffs and "individual-sport" scholarships imposed by last year's convention; a loosening of restrictions on scouting, and a proposal to require members to exhaust all internal appeals before taking probation cases to the courts.
In the year since the St. Louis vention, the major schools have organized a loosely knit federation that obsrensively will serve, they say, to help them lobby for legislation at these meetings. But the federation also symbolizes the schools' serious intent to be allowed more freedom to govern their own futures either within the NCAA or as a saparate organization.
For now, the threats to bolt seem dead, since the leading mititants in the NCAA (the Southeastern, Big Eight and Southwest conferences) can't be assured of support from the Big 10 and Pacific-Eight.
But the big powers apparently will be appeased, at least for the time being, if the proposed reorganization legislation passes.
That legislation would reduce the schools in Division One from 247 to about 150, and rid the major football schools of colleges they feel have no relationship with their programs, but yet are allowed to vote on common legislation.
The proposed reorganization plan is complicated, but it basically would require Division-One schools to maintain Division-One sports programs in at least eight sports, including football and basketball. These schools also would have to meet minimum standards in such areas as size of travel squads, number of scholarships awarded, and number of games played.
Since many smaller schools currently in Division-One cannot afford a program that includes football and seven other Division-One sports, they would be forced out of the new division and into Division-Two. But these schools would be allowed to play on a Division One level in anywhere from one to four individual sports.
Under current rules, a school's divisional status is determined primarily on the strength of its schedules in football and basketball.
The legislation also would force Division One schools that have a basketball team but no football squad into Division Two. Such schools as Marquette, George Washington, American, St. John's Providence and others would be allowed to compete in Division One in basketball but would not be allowed to vote on any Division One legislation. Thus they would have no say about limits in recruiting, financial aid or coaching staffs, for example.
These basketball-only schools are sure to lead a floor fight on reorganization. But many experts think the footballs powers finally have the votes to overwhelm them.
The football schools are also dreadfully afraid of new legislation, since they feel it is impossible to regulate need rules or establish criteria that cannot be easily violated by members.
Should need legislation pass, the football schools quite likely would reconsider their threats to form a new governing organization. Ironically. however, among the advocates of need are most of the members of the football-powerful Pac-Eight. And many members of the Big 10 are known supporters of the idea.
Proponents of need probably will settle for half a loaf. They would be satisfied if athletes in all sports except football and basketball were governed by a need principal for now. Then they say they would begin chipping away at the football-basketball power bloc at future conventions.
On Wednesday, delegates will consider those proposals dealing with football-scholarship limitations and with size of coaching staffs. Depending on their mood, voters could increase total football grants from 95 to 105 or reduce them from 95 to 75. And they can move all staff limitations or impose restrictive ones.