NCAA sports have already seen much change in recent years with the loosening of transfer rules, increase in athletics-related aid provided for students, and the elimination of rules against players profiting from their name, image and likeness.
College conferences have undergone major makeovers, too, as schools chase stability and the almighty dollar.
A Supreme Court decision casting doubt on the NCAA’s ability to enforce some of its rules — particularly as far as regulating income — has led some leaders in college sports to attempt to get federal legislation to protect what’s known as “amateurism,” but that term has taken on different definitions over the decades anyway.
While even giving scholarships was controversial in the early days of big-time college athletics, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is among people who have suggested sharing athletics department revenue directly with players.
NCAA president Charlie Baker created a stir when he published a letter late last year suggesting schools at the top of the food chain — the largest revenue-producers, who might be more interested in sharing their largesse more than others, in no small part because they have so much more to share — separate from the rest.
While none of that has come to pass yet, Carter mentioned the possibility of changing the divisional structure. That could include the top half of the Division I Football Subdivision no longer sharing the same status as the bottom half, let alone the Football Championship subdivision or Division II or III.
“There’s too much of a difference,” Carter said. “There’s going to have to be some separation there.”
Gene Smith, who will be Ohio State’s AD until June 30, has expressed support for changing the structure of Division I and creating a new compensation model for athletes, but he is staunchly against converting players into true employees.
The “e” word did not come up during Bjork’s introduction, but Smith’s successor did lay out his vision for the future.
“We must create a model that intersects sports and the academy, the education academy,” Bjork said. “We need a model that looks after individual sports, our athletes and our recruiting calendars and fair competition.”
He also implied he is open to revenue sharing and perhaps some form of collective bargaining with athletes.
“We need to chart a new course of financial agreement between the athlete and the constitution,” Bjork said. “We can call that whatever we want, but that’s where we’re going. We need to recreate that model, period. It’s past time to sit down with our athletes and understand what they want from this experience. Some may call that bargaining, negotiating. It’s called communicating, and it’s called coming up with the right plan.”
Bjork also suggested deconstructing the NCAA’s “antiquated” governance and divisional structures.
“At a minimum, there needs to be consolidation of the highest-resource programs around a new financial and governance model,” he said. “We either take action now or action will continue to be taken upon us.”
Carter said he agreed with Bjork’s assessment change will come sooner than later, and the president expressed a desire to make sure Ohio State is helping to steer the boat in whatever direction it goes rather than being along for the ride.
“So we are a large, powerful organization within the D-I organization,” Carter said. “We should have a big voice in that, and we should be prepared to go into that. That’s why as we were looking for who is going to be the next athletic director here at Ohio State we needed somebody who has a vision and who has been in the arena.
“Ross has been on the NCAA Compliance committees. He’s a leader in the National Association of Athletic Directors, so he know the landscape as well as anybody, and I’m really excited about that.”