Non-Power 5 conferences not interested in spring league

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The "Power 5" conferences, including the Big 10, SEC, ACC, Pac 12 and Big East, won a major victory last week on several key issues after the NCAA Division I steering committee released new rules for its internal governance structure.

Naturally, that left the left-out conferences scrambling.

Big guys win big

While the non-Power 5 conferences won their request to be included in discussions over transfer issues, there still are concerns that the Power 5 will eventually form their own league and shut other conferences out from television money.

SMU head coach June Jones made a suggestion on Thursday as to how the other leagues should move forward.

"I think the have-nots [non-Power Five leagues] should go ahead and move to the spring, just like the USFL did," Jones told WDAE-AM on Thursday.

"I think that there's an opportunity to do a complete other side of that division and I think that if we don't think that way as a group of have-nots, we're going to get left behind."

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Jones' Mustangs are in the American Athletic conference, one of the non-Power Five leagues. The Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt and Conference USA are also in that group.

Commissioners from those leagues told ESPN that they weren't interested in a move to the spring, a time which is currently free for football leagues but has traditionally been for sports like basketball and baseball.

"Our position is clear," Aresco said. "We are integral part of the fabric of FBS college football."

The lower leagues have actually been very competitive at times. Last year, the AAC had two teams finish in the top 15 teams in the final AP Poll. The league's champion, UCF, upset Big 12 champion Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.

But regardless of whether or not the smaller leagues should remain a part of FBS Division I football, would a move to the spring work?

The Positives

There is certainly room for football to be played in the spring and summer months.

College football has a constant news cycle, one that isn't satiated by off-season transfer rumors and round-the-clock recruiting. Even in the slow months, college and professional football often draws the most attention for media outlets.

The aforementioned United States Football League ran from 1983 to 1985, attempting to take advantage of the open spring/summer schedule. It had 18 teams and boasted big names, with three Heisman winners signing with it after college: Georgia's Herschel Walker, Boston College's Doug Flutie and Nebraska's Mike Rozier.

Many future NFL Hall of Famers also spent time in the league.

Still, despite its talent, the league suffered from financial difficulties due to its courtship of star players. 

Could a college football league that wouldn't have to pay its players survive on its own, with a spring schedule and with a tighter leash on cash flow?

The Negatives

The major problem would be that, without being able to play the top conferences, many lower-level leagues would not have enough money to run their programs.

One time-honored tradition of college football is for bigger teams to pay smaller teams enormous sums for the right to play (and dominate) them. Ohio State will pay three small schools more than $2 million in guarantees to play them at Ohio Stadium in 2014.

Virginia Tech, Kent State and Cincinnati are likely to lose their games, but they came out financial winners. Cincinnati alone will receive $888,246 for traveling a few hours north and probably getting beat.

That type of money is important for running athletic departments. 

But if the lower-level schools move their season to the spring, they would lose out on those fundraising opportunities. They also would have even less of a chance at grabbing some of the television money that is available.

The only chance the non-Power 5 teams would have is if the demand for college football in the spring is somehow enough to keep them afloat financially, through new media contracts and improved ticket sales.

It seems unlikely that teams with less revenue and less popularity as a whole could survive in such a manner, which explains why the league commissioners are fighting to continue playing with the big boys.


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