Leaders across all college athletics are considering hiring a general manager of operations for college football who will report to the proposed football board for FBS, according to a lengthy letter from the LEAD1 association obtained by ESPN.
The letter was sent this week to every Division I athletic director, members of the NCAA Division I Transformation Committee and the NCAA Board of Directors.
Sources said the proposal has been circulated to the highest levels of college football, including 10 FBS commissioners and College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock.
The detailed recommendations for the future governance of the sport are the result of months of discussions, which began to emerge last spring when some of the most prominent voices in college athletics, including Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, called for college football to be separated from the NCAA entirely.
Any momentum for that shifted in September, when the vast majority of Division I athletic directors at the annual LEAD1 meetings expressed a strong preference for keeping FBS football under the NCAA if it could be more streamlined and less bureaucratic.
Following the strong consensus at the fall meeting, LEAD1, which represents 131 FBS athletic directors, established a working group composed of representatives from all 10 FBS conferences.
According to the group’s proposal, FBS Football’s board of directors would consist primarily of people with a great deal of football knowledge, appointed by their respective conferences. There will also be a representative from the NFL Coaches Association, along with four independent directors, including at least two former student-athletes — a mix of unbiased people and those with the players point of view, which the Knight Committee was separately pushing from. Yes.
The FBS Football Board of Directors will decide “all matters relating to FBS Football” except for rules relating to academics, financial aid, and health and safety. While the board will oversee things like administration, rules, and possibly scheduling, many agree that there are issues that need to remain at the college presidents level, and the NCAA will remain a legal shield.
Liability issues lie at the core of why most athletic leaders want college football to remain under the NCAA. The NCAA currently has a committee to oversee football, but six of the 18 members represent the FCS, and many athletic directors regret that they have different challenges that need to be dealt with separately.
The COO will be in a similar position to that of Dan Gavitt, who is the NCAA’s Senior Vice President of Basketball. FBS football is currently the only collegiate sport governed by the NCAA but runs its own national championship, through the CFP. The NCAA deals with issues like rules, litigation, concussion litigation, and enforcement, but there’s no person like Gavitt at the table when making important decisions about the sport. This proposed position will also be on the NCAA President’s Leadership Team/Council.
Although LEAD1 does not have the authority to implement any of the recommendations, it is another step toward changing how the sport of college football is governed as the NCAA undergoes sweeping changes in its own organization, and more shifts of power to the individual conferences. The proposal also prompts the NFL to provide financial support, arguing that “the NFL reaps the benefits of football from FBS which serves as its farm system without providing any financial support (and other resources) to the NCAA.”
It will likely take weeks to gather feedback, and the proposal will eventually have to be approved by the Division I Board of Directors. While there may be some backing out of the plan, there may also be some who are willing to wait until the NCAA has appointed a president to replace Mark Emmert before making such drastic changes to the structure of the sport. According to the sources, it is also unclear who needs to vote for it to be officially approved, as there are different legal opinions.
According to the letter, “In the event that these recommendations are not implemented, our FBS Advertisement would prefer to consider options for decision-making outside of the NCAA.”