football-fbs flag | January 13, 2016

College football: FBS conferences with fewer than 12 members now able to hold championship game

Football Bowl Subdivision conferences with fewer than 12 members will be able to hold a conference championship football game in addition to the allowed 12 regular-season games, the Division I Council decided Wednesday, and such conferences will have two ways to meet scheduling requirements.

Under current rules, FBS conferences must have at least 12 members, and championship games must be between the winners of two divisions within the conference. Each division must play a round-robin schedule during the regular season in order to hold a championship game.

Council members adopted a proposal that originated with the Division I Football Oversight Committee but also approved an amendment from the Big Ten Conference. The amendment, offered by the Big Ten late last week, allows conferences with fewer than 12 members to hold championship games in football, as long as they meet one of two additional conditions: Conferences that want to play championship games must either play their championship game between division winners after round-robin competition in each division or between the top two teams in the conference standings following full round-robin, regular-season competition between all members of the conference.

“We felt that this more flexible amendment with two options was the best way to help our conference colleagues to play a championship game without the uncertainty that comes with complete deregulation,” said Jim Phillips, Northwestern University athletics director and chair of the Council. Phillips also represents the Big Ten Conference on the Council.

Members voted 77 percent to 23 percent to amend the proposal and then 77 percent to 23 percent to adopt it as amended. Only the Football Bowl Subdivision members of the Council participated in the vote, and votes were weighted. Votes from members representing the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences each counted twice. Votes from members representing the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference and Sun Belt Conference each counted once.

Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12 Conference and chair of the Football Oversight Committee, said the proposal continues with the movement away from strict regulation in Division I.

“We felt like in an era of deregulation, this was an area that could and should be deregulated,” Bowlsby said. “I’m happy we were able to come to a compromise that got us part of the way down that path.”

The new rule will be in place for the 2016 season.

Student-athlete experience

The Council continued its discussion about improving the student-athlete experience, reviewing the latest information from the 2015 NCAA Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations and Learning of Students in College Study, commonly known as GOALS, and additional data from a survey of student-athletes led by the national Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Council members noted data may not offer a full picture of life for student-athletes compared to their student leader peers.

“I think it’s important to note that where we have data available for both student-athletes and students generally, student-athletes are not that much different than their peers in the student body,” said Council vice chair Keith Gill, athletics director at the University of Richmond. “These similarities are significant as Division I considers appropriate policy changes to improve the experiences of our student-athletes.”

The Council referred the survey information and concepts to the Division I Strategic Vision and Planning committee for further review and to identify potential policy implications.

Waiver review process

The group voted to maintain a more flexible review of many different types of waivers, especially in cases where a guideline causes a strong negative impact on a student-athlete or one that is inconsistent with the intent of the rule. First adopted by the Leadership Council and the Board of Directors in 2014, the flexible review process allows NCAA staff members to more heavily weigh a student-athlete’s personal circumstances when making decisions. The temporary authority given to staff was expected to expire this month.

Committees in each specific waiver area will continue to oversee the process.

Working group report

The Council received an update from the Division I Financial Aid Issues Working Group, formed to analyze the current impact of cost-of-attendance legislation in sports that often do not offer full scholarships. 

The working group surveyed members in November on two concepts, one that would make legislative changes to the way cost of attendance is counted and another that would monitor the impact of specific financial aid elements before recommending any legislative changes.

The Council received the survey results and requested the working group determine the best course of action based on further examination of the results in preparation for Council meetings scheduled for February and April. The deadline to sponsor legislation in the 2016-17 legislative cycle is Sept. 1.


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