The executive director of the NCAA said today that the organization could be disrupted in the near future if it does not approve some sort of regrouping that will satisfy the major football schools.
The NCAA has entered into a most difficult period and it may have to go through a convulsion before getting through it," Walter Byers said at the conclusion of the NCAA's annual convention.
"Our problem could lead to a disruption," Byers said. "Or it could lead to a federation of autonomous divisions, or to a midler reorganization - but I don't minimize the problem."
The remarks came after the convention adjourned its three-day meeting without passing any significant new legislation, especially in the areas of reorganization or financial aid based on need.
"Maybe a convention is successful in some of the things it doesn't do," said Byers.
What the convention did not do today was modify any of the controversial measures it approved last year concerning football squad limits, size of coaching staffs and recruiting curtailments.
The delegates also did not pass any major economy legislation. During their last two meetings they approved some of most important economic proposals in the convention's history.
The closest they came to saving money was this morning, when a proposal to reduce the total number of scholarships availabe at member schools in the so-called minor sports was approved.
But a reconsideration of the vote was requested, and the convention reversed itself and voted down the measure, sponsored by the University of Virginia.
"The only reason we made this proposal is to maintain a broad-based (sports) program," said Virginia athletic director Gene Corrigan. "It is not intended to pull down the non-revenue sports. But this is a sound economy move that will save money and keep us from dropping some sports."
Opponents of the proposed legislation, to cut minor sport scholarships from 80 to 60, successfully argued that the convention was trying to economize at the expense of athletes who happen to choose not to play football or basketball.
Byers later said he agreed with the opponents. "I have difficulty in seeing how a reserve in football or basketball receiving maximum aid can be treated differently from an Olympic runner or swimmer who can't qualify for the same aid (because he's in a minor sport)."
The only other major cost-cutting proposal - awarding of athletic aid-on a need basis only - was voted down Tuesday by the delegates. Those who favor need said they will come back next year with another attempt.
Byers felt it would fail again.
The convention turned down efforts to eliminate a rule that limits coaches to only three face-to-face visits with a prospect. It also turned back efforts to increase football squad sizes from 95 to as many as 105 and to allow 35 (instead of 30) football scholarships annually.
Delegates refused to increase the size of coaching staffs, now set at eight assistants and a head coach, to 10 assistants or to eliminate restrictions entirely.
Theat action drew a heated response from a University of Alabama delegate. he said he had been told Alabama violated state law by reducing its staff to meet the NCAA regulation.
"We have been told by the NCAA Council that if we don't like the limit, then we can either come to the convention floor or get out the organization," said Charles Scott. Alabama's NCAA faculty representative. "(With your action) that fulfills our obligation in the manner of seeking relief from the NCAA."
Scott apparently was implying that the school would consider suing the NCAA, although he would not elaborate. Two former Alabama assistant coaches currently have a suit on appeal challenging the same legislation.
The membership earlier turned down a proposal that would have required schools to exhaust all internal avenues of appeal within the NCAA before turning to the courts, or risk paying NCAA court costs, if the school lost its case.
Byers, who previously had discounted all reported threats by big-time football schools that they would leave the NCAA if reorganization were not approved, altered his stance today after witnessing the wide division existing in his organization.
"I was of the opinion that it (reorganization) could be resolved by fair exchange on the convention floor," he said. "Now it will take a more aggressive stance to remedy the problem."
That stance, he added, would have to be taken by those who want "to get it done," namely the football powers. It was obvious he was saying those football schools probably would have to demonstrate that their threats of bolting were serious before reorganization would be approved.
Byers held out hope that the reorganization dilemma would be settled without the need for such drastic steps. "We've survived considerable amount of turmoil in the past," he said. "I can see why they want reorganization. I don't disagree with them.
He also admitted he wasn't fure how that reorganization should be devised.
That is the crux of the current problem.