Saying bye-bye to amateur athletics

Published 10:35 am Thursday, August 17, 2023

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Guess we need to stop finding fault with college athletes jumping from school to school in search of the best financial offer for their services.

Who’s to blame those guys and gals when the schools that recruited them are doing exactly the same thing.

The world of collegiate athletics is now likened to a showdown between gunslingers in the old Wild West. Whoever has the fastest draw – or in some cases, the biggest gun – wins the battle.

It’s a sad day when the PAC 12 – once a powerful conference with proud athletic programs etched deep in the annals of sports history (does anyone recall the legendary John Wooten leading UCLA to 10 national championships over a period of 12 seasons) – is left with just four schools.

Colorado bolted for the Big 12 Conference. Then came the news that USC and UCLA were leaving for the Big Ten. Shortly thereafter Oregon and Washington joined them. Not to be outdone, Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah departed for the Big 12. That only leaves Stanford, Cal, Oregon State, and Washington State in the PAC 12….err the PAC 4.

Any why…, just follow the money.

According to, using info from John Canzano who closely follows football out on the Left Coast, ESPN made an offer of $30 million per school for the broadcast rights of the PAC 12.

“But the PAC 12 membership, feeling they could get more in the new marketplace, advised commissioner George Kliavkoff to ask the network for $50 million per school. ESPN’s response to that counter-offer? “Goodbye,” reported “That reaction, combined with what appeared to be a very lukewarm interest from Fox that included carrying some of the PAC 12’s games, and the final offer from Apple’s streaming service that has been valued at around $25 million per school, resulted in the mass exodus from the conference that followed in recent days.”

Our own Atlantic Coast Conference expressed some interest in an expansion deal that would invite Stanford and Cal to join, but it appears that offer is now on life support as the presidents of NC State, UNC, Clemson, and Florida State voted “no” to the proposal. And all of that comes at a time when Florida State perhaps wants to leave the ACC.

A friend on Facebook shared a plan that would incorporate all of the football-playing members of the Power 5 conferences – plus Notre Dame and some of the more powerful programs in the Group of 5 schools – into geographically aligned conferences.

A story posted last week on also proposed the idea of grouping colleges/universities within specific geographic regions. That proposal calls for 10 schools in each of eight regions as follows:

Northeast: Army, Boston College, Connecticut, Navy, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, West Virginia

Midwest: Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

Mid Atlantic: Duke, East Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, NC State, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

Southeast: Central Florida, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami, South Carolina, South Florida, Tennessee

Central: Alabama, Auburn, Iowa, Iowa State, Memphis, Minnesota, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, Vanderbilt

Southwest: Arkansas, Baylor, Houston, LSU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

Mountain: Air Force, Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State, BYU, Colorado, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Utah

Pacific: California, Fresno State, Hawaii, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State

The proposal calls for the champions of each geographical division having an eight-team playoff to crown a national champion.

This all makes better sense than having USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington – all on the west coast – playing in the Big Ten Conference. By the way, did the Big Ten hire Jethro Bodine as its Director of Ciphering? The Big Ten hasn’t been comprised of 10 schools since 1989. It currently boasts of 18 schools.

If the 8 x 10 proposal becomes a reality, then what becomes of the schools that didn’t make the final cut? The current pecking order starts with the Power Five conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Southeastern, and PAC 12). Then comes the Group of 5 conferences (American, Conference USA, Mountain Athletic, Mountain West, and Sun Belt).

What do say to the likes of UNC-Charlotte, Appalachian Stare, Marshall, Old Dominion, James Madison, Coastal Carolina, Louisiana, Southern Mississippi, SMU, Tulane, Rice, Liberty, Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, San Diego State, and Hawaii? Sorry….nothing personal, but you can’t play here???

And if the far-fetched idea of building new “conferences” based upon geographical locations, is it possible to offer each of them the same exact TV contract for broadcast rights? I know that’s “old school” thinking, but it would keep everyone fed from the same spoon. If those schools want to improve their athletic facilities, let ‘em do it the old-fashioned way….through donations from the deep pockets of their alumni.

And while we’re at it, let’s do away with the term NIL (Name, Likeness, Image) and call today’s version of “recruiting” exactly what it is….pay to play.

In 2019, I fired a warning shot about what was to become NIL. Back then, it was a measure introduced by Kevin Parker, a State Senator from Brooklyn who proposed legislation that would make New York the first state in the nation to provide direct payments to collegiate student-athletes.

What it has become (unregulated by the NCAA) is basically a bidding war….and the schools who have athletic boosters with deep, deep pockets are seeing the majority of top-flight athletes sign with them.

The old days where illegal back-room deals included enticements such as cash, cars, jewelry, free apartments, etc. for the best athletes (funded, of course, by billionaire boosters) are long gone.

Some of these NIL deals have reportedly reached seven figures. Apparently, seven figures doesn’t come close to the financial deals some of our colleges and universities have or are in the process of reaching. We will soon reach a boiling point and the landscape of what once was amateur athletics will be forever gutted.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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