The major football schools of the National Collegiate Athletic Association finally succeeded today in creating their "superpowers" football division.
The creation of the new division, defeated on the initial vote in an atmosphere sometimes charged with rancor and permeated with parliamentary politics, resulted from a conciliatory coalition between the major football schools and the colleges where basketball is the dominant sport. Both agreed, in essence, that self-determination was critical for the success of their athletic programs.
The football schools helped defeat a proposal imposing criteria that would have made it difficult for many of the basketball schools to remain in Division I, the most prestigious NCAA division.
The criteria would have knocked defending NCAA basketball champion Marquette University into Division II and have forced George Washington University to add three more varsity sports or play in Division II in everything but one sport.
In return for the football powers' cooperation, the basketball and other major football colleges provided the necessary votes for the NCAA's current Division I to be split into divisions I-A and I-AA for football only.
Many of the smaller football schools, fearful they would be relegated to Division II because they could not meet requirements for Division I membership that the convention adopted before the reorganization vote, clinched the reorganization's success by accepting the middle ground of Division I-AA.
By the best estimates available tonight, 79 colleges - including Maryland, Virginia and Navy - would be eligible for Division I-A, the "superpowers" division, and 88 schools for Division I-AA, the category for colleges with lower-keyed football programs.
The precise number of colleges that might elect to join Division I-A is not known because the schools have three years to meet the standards for the division.
To be eligible for I-A, a school would have to sponsor a minimum of eight varsity Division I sports, including football, and schedule at least 60 per cent of its games against Division I teams.
The college would also have to have averaged more than 17,000 paid admissions at home in the past four years or have averaged 17,000 paid admissions in any one of those four years and have a stadium with a minimum 30,000-seat capacity.
The convention made a special exception aimed at encompassing the Ivy League schools and others on the order of William & Mary and Colgate into I-A, by agreeing that schools having 12 or more varsity sports, including football and basketball, do not have to meet the other criteria.
Some schools hope to eliminate the exemption during Friday's session.
The conferences eligible for I-A are the Big Eight, the Big 10, Pacific 10, Southeastern, Southwest, Western, Atlantic Coast, plus leading independents.
Divisions I-A and I-AA will vote separately on legislative issues that involve football - the reason for the reorganization. The big football schools were concerned because schools with smaller football programs controlled so much of their programs by having votes on such issues as the number of scholarships and coaches allowed. The smaller schools also shared in the television and gate profits of the big schools.
That dilemma could conceivably arise again in I-A and was the basis for some of the opposition to the reorganization. Proponents of the plan were asked frequently today and Wednesday what they would gain from reorganization that they don't already have. The same schools would be receiving the bulk of the money and the same schools would be in the bowl games, the opponents noted.
The Division I-A schools would be gaining more power over their affairs. They would be able to increase the number and value of scholarships, allow teams to have more coaches and take other steps that would have significant financial impact on I-A schools.
In other action, the convention voted to strip of remaining collegiate eligibility any basketball players who apply in the future for consideration in the professional "hardship" draft. Old rules allowed the underclassman to stay eligible if he withdrew his name 24 hours before the draft.
The convention approved allowing college athletes training for the Olympics to receive compensation authorized by the Olympic committee to cover financial loss as a result of an absence from employment.