Change Is Coming as College Sports Leadership Is Working To Separate FBS Football From The NCAA


As the college football season nears the finish line while running on fumes, and college basketball kicks off its 2020-21 season, a commission of former AD's, school presidents, and influential figures in college sports are recommending sweeping changes across the college sports landscape. The group, which refers to themselves as the Knight Commission on intercollegiate athletics, began a deep dive into the structure of today's intercollegiate athletics landscape. Their mission is to transform the current NCAA D1 model and at the top of that list is D1 or "FBS" college football.


Knight Commission recommends a new governing structure for the sport of FBS Football

In a December 3rd press release, The Knights Commission released a document detailing their recommendation to form a new governing body for FBS (D1) level college football. The commission discusses the need to separate D1 football from the NCAA model leaving The NCAA as the governing body for all other intercollegiate athletics, including the men's and woman NCAA tournaments. March Madness is the top revenue generator for the NCAA, generating a near $1B annually, with most of the revenue coming from TV contracts.


The NCAA currently handles all regulatory functions for FBS college football yet does not receive any football revenues. FBS football’s national championship, the College Football Playoff (CFP), is managed instead by the independent CFP Administration, LLC, outside of the NCAA structure. The revenues from that championship, which generated more than $460 million in 2019, are retained by the FBS conferences and institutions to use however they choose.


We’re at a moment of both crisis and opportunity in college sports,” said Knight Commission co-chair Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education. “Now is not the time to think only of narrow institutional interests. Now is the time for college leaders to step up, and act on their desire to advance big solutions to benefit college athletes.

- Knights Commission Co-Chair Arne Duncan


The Survey Says, Change is Needed

The commission’s novel survey found that nearly 80 percent of Division I campus and sports leaders favor “big solutions” over incremental change for reforming D-I governance. Those leaders also believe the crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic presents the “perfect time” to address serious governance shortcomings.


The commission believes that the NCAA is falling behind the fast-moving evolutionary commercial changes sweeping across the college sports landscape. Separating the sport of FBS football from the NCAA would end the current financially defunct system of governance, in which the NCAA absorbs all expenses for FBS college football, without receiving financial benefits from the sport or the College Football Playoff. Those expenses include enforcement, catastrophic insurance, legal services, health and safety administration, and research.


No single entity today is responsible for FBS football – the most powerful sport in Division I athletics,” said incoming Knight Commission co-chair Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor Emeritus of the State University of New York. “It is time to end this leadership void and bring more accountability to the sport, both for the benefit of athletes and for the future of FBS football.
- Knight Commission Co-Chair Nancy Zimpher

The Separation of the Haves and Have Nots Is A Numbers Game

The landscape of college football is changing. Student-athletes will soon be able to profit from their name image and likeness, and the schools with the largest following and richest donors will begin to separate from the have nots. In addition, with the new transfer portal rules that allow a student-athlete to essentially become a free agent, the landscape is ablaze.


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These changes might be an indicator that FBS football might consider a significant consolidation where they separate the haves from the have nots. Below are the top 5 revenue generators from each Power Five Football conference. The athletic departments who are not operating at a loss have the best opportunity to come out on the other side of Covid with little to no harm vs. the schools which are operating in the red, including those who have operated in the red before Covid that might not be able to sustain their current FBS status moving forward. The future of D1 (FBS) college football could see a transformation where the conferences consolidate to divide more revenue among fewer football programs—driven by TV contracts and the need for more top matchups to generate buzz and get eyes on TV and the growing online viewing platforms. Changes are inevitable, and it will only strengthen the game of college football moving forward.


American 1. UCF — $30 million 2. SMU — $21 million 3. Houston — $19 million 4. Memphis — $18 million 5. South Florida — $17 million


ACC 1. Florida State — $69 million 2. Clemson — $61 million 3. Miami — $56 million 4. NC State — $46 million 5. Syracuse — $44 million


Big Ten 1. Michigan — $122 million 2. Ohio State — $115 million 3. Penn State — $100 million 4. Nebraska — $94 million 5. Wisconsin — $90 million

Big 12 1. Texas — $156 million 2. Oklahoma — $95 million 3. TCU — $65 million 4. Oklahoma State — $52.2 million 5. Iowa State — $51.9 million


Conference USA 1. UTEP — $14.22 million 2. FIU — $14.2 million 3. Rice — $13 million 4. UAB — $12 million 5. Florida Atlantic — $11.9 million


MAC 1. Toledo — $11.7 million 2. Miami (Ohio) — $9.3 million 3. Western Michigan — $9.26 million 4. Ohio — $9.1 million 5. Eastern Michigan — $8.8 million


Mountain West 1. Colorado State – $25 million 2. Boise State — $20 million 3. Fresno State — $16 million 4. Wyoming — $14 million 5. San Diego State — $13.4 million


Pac-12 1. Washington — $84 million 2. Oregon — $72 million 3. Utah — $63 million 4. USC — $50 million 5. Washington State — $45 million


SEC 1. Georgia — $123 million 2. Auburn — $95 million 3. Alabama — $94.6 million 4. LSU — $92 million 5. Tennessee — $91 million


Sun Belt 1. Louisiana-Lafayette — $11 million 2. South Alabama — $10 million 3. Appalachian State — $9.4 million 4. Coastal Carolina — $9.2 million 5. Troy — $8.6 million


Power 5 — Top 15 (Revenue Generators) 1. Texas — $156 million 2. Georgia — $123 million 3. Michigan — $122 million 4. Notre Dame — $116 million 5. Ohio State — $115 million 6. Penn State — $100 million 7. Auburn — $95 million 8. Oklahoma — $94.8 million 9. Alabama — $94.6 million 10. Nebraska — $94.3 million 11. LSU — $92 million 12. Tennessee — $91 million 13. Wisconsin — $90 million 14. Florida — $85 million 15. Washington — $84 million


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