Between now and Sept. 10, directors of athletics and football coaches at the nation's major college powers will choose between television broadcast packages negotiated by the College Football Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association and they will cite a myriad of reasons for their choice.
Dick Dull, director of athletics at the University of Maryland, is forthright about his decision.
"Obviously one of the major benefits in the CFA package is from the standpoint of greater exposure of our product. Financially, it will benefit the (Atlantic Coast) conference. Each school would be guaranteed$1 million over four years. We wouldn't make that under the NCAA package; at least we never have. And we would maintain control over our property rights, which we feel we haven't given to the NCAA in perpetuity."
At the University of Virginia, Dick Schultz, director of athletics, sees the confrontation as the culmination of a dispute that has simmered for years.
"Unfortunately, the football television package has brought the whole thing to a head," observed Schultz. "But the much larger issue is the reorganization of Division I and IA in the NCAA. There are many schools who are very concerned about reorganization. The crux of the whole thing is that now you've got apples, oranges and pears in the same division."
Along with most of the major college athletic directors and football coaches in the nation, Dull and Schultz have had the confrontation between the CFA and the NCAA uppermost in their minds since Aug. 7, when the CFA signed a four-year, $180 million television football package with NBC-TV, putting the association on a collision course with the NCAA.
Weeks earlier the NCAA had signed a $263 million contract with ABC and CBS-TV covering the same four years, 1982-1985.
Washington area coaches and athletic directors generally agreed with Schultz's assessment that the CFA deal with NBC was the spark that ignited what had become, in recent years, an increasing combustible relationship. Most were more cautious than Dull in discussing the issues of finances, exposure and control.
Many agreed with the analysis of George Welsh, football coach at the Naval Academy, that "maybe a clash was inevitable."
The problem lies in the fact that while no more than 85 schools have football programs of such breadth and scope that they can financially support other sports, those schools are a distinct minority within the NCAA and are consistently outvoted on regulations that affect their programs. In 1977, 61 of those schools, while maintaining their NCAA membership, formed the CFA. Virtually all the major football powers and conferences with the exception of the Pacific 10 and the Big Ten were included.
"Some of the things I've liked about the CFA is that the football coaches have a much stronger input than in the NCAA," said Welsh. "It should be within their power to do some of the things they need to do without going to the NCAA and taking a vote of 600 schools. I can remember when prominent football coaches like Darrell Royal (Texas) were saying that they didn't want schools like Wagner and Alfred telling them how to run their football programs."
Jerry Claiborne, football coach at the University of Maryland, said: "The TV package is just one part of what the CFA has been trying to do. Those schools that have a like concept of intercollegiate football have proposed a lot of things, recruiting calendars, academic requirements . . . "
Claiborne's counterpart at Virginia, Dick Bestwick, was particularly vocal on the subject of academic standards.
"Any effort in the last five years to change academic standards has been defeated. It has been defeated by schools that have only basketball programs. Most football coaches would agree that there needs to be some higher academic standards."
An academically selective college, Virginia would profit from a general upgrading of academic standards, but Bestwick contends that many of the other major football powers would, too.
"I think the CFA would like some higher standards. I think they would like to make some reasonable recruiting rules. I think they would like some reasonable limitations on numbers. Ever since the 2.0 (grade eligibility) rule went into effect, academic standards have gone out the window. At some schools you can get that kind of a grade in sociology just by walking your girl friend to lunch. There are no real standards now."
At this point it is unclear what the final count will be on Sept. 10, when the CFA member schools must notify the association whether they want in or out of the association's football package. The preliminary vote on Aug. 21 was 33-20 with five members abstaining and three others not casting ballots. The NCAA has threatened sanctions and possible probation and expulsion against those schools that opt for the CFA plan.
Should such efforts be undertaken, said Virginia's Schultz, "The CFA would counter with some type of restraining order or injunction which they seem to think they could get.
"If it comes to that, then there probably won't be any winners."
Virginia voted in favor of the CFA package in Atlanta, but it will be continually reevaluating its position in the days before the Sept. 10 deadline.
Similarly, Navy, which voted against the CFA in Atlanta, also is reconsidering, according to Athletic Director J.O.(Bo) Coppedge. "I don't see much chance of an accommodation," Coppedge said. "We are trying to reevaluate our situation in light of the vote and in light of our loyalty to the NCAA."
Navy is leaning toward the NCAA, Coppedge said, but is concerned that the CFA television contract could invalidate the NCAA pact with ABC and CBS.