The National Collegiate Athletic Association today at a special convention voted for a restructuring of its major football playing division and a resolution that likely would lead to giving the NCAA unchallengable control of television rights. In the process, it raised further the possiblity of a showdown between the association and college football powers.
Their sound defeat on two more sweeping restructuring proposals -- the one that was passed would reduce Division I-A members from 137 schools to between 91 and 102 by next fall and could bump the Ivy League, among others, to Division I-AA -- and the television rights resolution led the 61-member College Football Association to hold its own meeting later today at which five schools publicly pledged to sign an NCAA-opposed TV contract.
"Now is the time for us to make an effort to exercise our independence and autonomy," said Oklahoma University President William S. Banowsky, in an impassioned speech to CFA members. "Let's face it, we got beat on every single issue that matters in that meeting today. It is time for us to take action while we still can."
CFA members were angered when a resolution setting up autonomous television committees for each division was passed. The reason: the committees still can only advise the NCAA television committee, which is controlled by NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers.
The resolution is the forerunner to amendment 47 that will be brought up at the NCAA annual convention next month. That amendment is the key to the NCAA's strategy in the dispute with the CFA over TV property rights.
If passed, amendment 47 would give the NCAA control of all forms of telecasting, network and cable. It has exercised that control unchallenged for 25 years. It now wants that control put in writing so the CFA cannot challenge it, except in court as Oklahoma, Texas and Georgia already have.
"The vote today on television makes it obvious that the passing of 47 is already a fait accompli," said Charles M. Neinas, executive director of the CFA. "It's like announcing the baby's going to be born next month."
The second main topic of discussion at the CFA meeting was the television contract with NBC, tentatively signed in August, and which brought about this two-day special convention. Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia, Clemson and Florida said they would sign the contract. Penn State is likely to since Athletic Director and football Coach Joe Paterno has been in favor of it.
Many other CFA members, who came out of the convention feeling they had not been accomodated, indicated they would join the NBC camp. If the CFA schools do sign with NBC -- they have until Dec. 14 to make a final decision -- they face the possibility of sanctions, suspension or even expulsion by the NCAA, which has agreements with ABC and CBS worth $263.5 million from 1982-85. The NBC contract, for the same period, would be worth $180 million to the CFA schools.
Byers acknowledged in his press conference that the question of who controls TV was crucial in the control of the football superpowers. "It is more important than recruiting rules, more important than restrictions in scholarship numbers and more important than coaching limitation," he said.
Paterno repeated that theme during his speech to the CFA.
"I have always said that there are some schools where no coach could win without cheating because of lack of TV exposure," he said. "There are some coaches I don't blame for cheating because otherwise they have no chance at all."
Paterno argued that the NBC package, which guarantees $1 million and two appearances for each school, will give every school enough exposure and dollars that cheating will be unnecessary.
There were three restructuring proposals before the convention today. The CFA's Division IV proposal would have set up a new, autonomous division of football powers. It was soundly defeated.
Then came the so-called Big Eight proposal, less radical than Division IV. It would have pared Division I-A to perhaps 85 members. It failed, 89-55.
Finally came the proposal put forth by the NCAA Council, and which has enough loopholes to allow as many as 102 members in Division I. It passed.
Likely to be moved down to Division I-AA because of that vote are the Missouri Valley Conference, the Ohio Valley Conference; the Southern Conference; the Southland Conference the Mid-American Conference, the Ivy League and about six independents, including Richmond and William and Mary. The Mid-American may contend it qualifies for I-A and the Ivy is expected to ask for a waiver to remain in that division.
The question of who stays and who goes will not be settled before the annual convention next month.
The highlight of the NCAA meeting today was Paterno's angry speech. The 54-year-old coach/athletic director charged the microphone following a speech by Jack Dolan, president of McNeese State, who argued that the whole purpose of the convention was "because of a power play by the powerful football schools."
Then Paterno spoke emotionally of his 32 years as a coach. "All we want is a forum of 85 or 90 coaches who all deal with the same problems," he said.
"The Ivy League can't understand our problems. They don't give scholarships and, supposedly, they don't recruit. They live in a different world from me. I live in the real world."