A major feud between college football super powers and prominent basketball schools that don't play football erupted today on the floor of the NCAA convention over attempts to reorganize.
Representatives of the basketball schools accused football powers of trying to reshape the organization regardless of the effect the changes would have on its future.
The heated debate occurred during discussion of a reorganization proposal that would in effect keep major football schools in the NCAA's Division 1 while shuttling present Division 1 schools that play just major college basketball into Division II.
Those basketball schools, which include such current national standouts as No. l ranked San Francisco, Marquette, St. John's Providence, and Georgetown, would be allowed to compete on the Division I level in the future but they would not be able to vote on any Division I legislation, even though the proposals directly affected such items as the number of grants-in-aid they could award.
"All we want is a chance to vote in matters which concern us," said American University athletic director Bob Frailey. "It makes no sense.We'd be playing basketball on a Division I level, but we would have to vote on Division II legislation. It's an unacceptable proposal."
American, Georgetown, Catholic and George Washington all would lose their Division I votes if the reorganization proposal is approved Tuesday by the convention.Delegates feel the vote will be close.
"I came here thinking this would probably pass but I think things are turning our way now," said Georgetown athletic director Frank Rienzo. "I am just philosophically opposed to the whole thing. We probably need reorganization but not in this matter."
The football powers have been trying for the last two years to reorganize the NCAA. Last year, the convention tabled a proposal that would have formed Divisions I and IA, with Division I containing about 75 major football schools and Division IA becoming a conglomeration of leftover Division I and some current Divsion II colleges. That proposal drew heated criticism from the football schools to be exiled from the present Division I into IA.
There are 247 colleges in Division I. Of those, 137 play Division I football, and 47 play either Division II or III football. The remaining 63 play just major college basketball.
Proponents of reorganization say that if their proposal passes, Division I will be narrowed to about 150 schools, most of which will have similar athletic programs and future objectives. They say the current Division I setup, which includes such schools as Michigan and Rider, is too diverso to allow meaningful legislation to be passed.
Last year, the football powers, led by the Southeastern and Big Eight conferences, let it be known they would consider walking out of the NCAA (and take the lucrative television football contract with them) if reorganization was thwarted.
The basketball schools and many colleges that have low-key football programs see the reorganization proposal as a first step toward a so-called Super Division, in which the major football powers alone will be members.
"It's a three-act play," said Frailey. "This is the first act. The second act is to eliminate the smaller football school through legislation. The third is to wind up with a division of the biggies alone.
"But I have no objection to the football schools deciding football issues. I just want to be able to have a vote on things that affect me, such as anything dealing with basketball."
Rienzo and others also are opposed to the philosophy behind the reorganization plan which, as Rienzo put it, "says you have to have a diversified sports program that must include football.
Just to be safe, however, Georgetown and St. John's are sponsoring an amendment to the reorganization package. It would allow schools playing a sport in the new Division I to have a vote on any Division I legislation affecting that sport.
Some football powers including a few from the SEC, are expected to join the basketball schools Tuesday in opposition to reorganization. These colleges either cannot meet the criteria for belonging to the new Division I (including sponsoring eight Division I sports) or they don't feel it goes far enough to help their cause.
George Washington also is concerned about another reorganization section that could take away the new Eastern Collegiate Basketball League's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. In order to retain that qualifier, the ECBL would have to hold championships in six sports instead of just in basketball.
"We'd be able to do it," said GW athletic director Bob Faris, "but it's just another example of the NCAA taking away self-determination. They are forcing something on us we don't want."