The recent ban on satellite camps, only for the NCAA to reverse direction, has prompted discussion that college football needs a commissioner as a unifying force bringing everything together. The same charade can’t happen again.
Some of college football’s biggest names, including Nick Saban and David Shaw, are proponents of a person having the power to say, “the buck stops here,” when it comes to important matters of the day for all 128 FBS teams and 124 FCS teams.
Coincidentally, Saban and Shaw have NFL coaching backgrounds. They experienced the administrative structure with a commissioner and came to appreciate the checks and balances of a centralized setup. They forget that the NFL has only 32 teams and the owners pay the commissioner to essentially be a figurehead, a person who requires the approval of high-placed others to have a final say.
A college football commissioner will never have that luxury. He or she would have to answer to numerous conference commissioners, college administrators and coaches throughout the nation. Because of this, the best decision-making process is to form a board that is representative of every conference. A chairperson of that board can run the show.
The checks and balances in college football are too widespread for one person to handle, especially if bias comes in to play. Can you imagine if a college football commissioner sided with the heavy-handed SEC and implemented the satellite camp? Can you imagine the outrage over that commissioner from conference commissioners, athletic directors, coaches and players?
Many would call for the commissioner’s job.
Instead, the reversal of the satellite-camp ban only puts the onus on some of the conferences and administrators, such as those from the SEC, who were looking out for their own interests. Everybody can turn the page and look at it as a simple power struggle. No harm done, especially to one person.
A college football board of representatives is already in place with the newly formed football oversight committee. Among the 17 committee members are athletic directors from the Pac-12, ACC, Big Ten as well conference commissioners from the Big 12, Mid-American Conference and Big South. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen of the SEC is the lone head coach representative.
The committee ensures proper oversight of the enhancement and development of the FBS and FCS in the regular season and postseason. Administrators such as Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby have claimed the committee decreases the influence coaches have on rules. Saban and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema can’t force their will on the game by regulating no-huddle offenses because of the checks and balances of the committee.
The hot topics in college football include satellite camps, glut of postseason bowl games, further development of the playoffs, dynamics of conference title games (the Big 12 needs one), future realignment, recruiting procedures, uniformity of the number of conference games played by each league and the scheduling of Power 5 non-conference opponents by every program each season.
The oversight committee has already made its mark by recommending a three-year moratorium on sanctioning new postseason games. The recommendation was then approved by the Division I Council. The oversight committee also started a task force to study the Bowl Subdivision postseason after there was not enough six-win, bowl-eligible teams last season to fill the 40 games. The committee will deliver a full set of recommendations on reforming the postseason next month, including determining what should qualify as a deserving team (three 5-7 teams played in bowl games at the end of last season).
The system is working with the oversight committee and Division I Council. The addition of a commissioner can muddle things and add an unnecessary step in the process.
The most important question: Who would make a good commissioner? It should be a person without bias. That will not be the case if an existing college administrator from a particular conference fills that role. What about an impartial person outside of college football becoming the commissioner? Is hiring an outsider worth that effort when those in committees and councils are already familiar with college athletics?
This is not pro sports with owners moving the strings for a commissioner like a puppet.
This is about college athletics, in which many institutions and administrators should have a voice as they do now with oversight committees and councils. College is about the educational process with classrooms, study groups, clubs, teams, student governments, fraternities, sororities, etc. Making important decisions through committee meetings makes sense at that level.