[SI] - Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told Sports Illustrated that he believes the breakup of college sports at the NCAA Division I level is “inevitable,” and puts a potential target date on that seismic change as the mid-2030s. Swarbrick also said there are “so many” schools trying to leave their current conferences, but they’re handcuffed by existing contracts.
In a wide-ranging interview with SI, the only athletic director who is part of the College Football Playoff Management Committee said the fracture lines within the 130-member FBS could leave two disparate approaches: schools that still operate athletics within a traditional educational structure, and those who tie sports to the university in name only.
I'm fascinated by this whole thing. I don't know what else to really call it besides a thing. Feel like we've heard people warning about the NCAA breaking up or the Power 5 splitting away for years now. This is the first time I've heard a true date tied into when something like that would happen. It makes sense because of the contracts, but also aren't we kind of already there?
The college football playoff is basically the same exact teams every year. The money is a huge difference - always has been, always will be. The SEC will always make more money than the MAC and so on. I know everyone is ready to blame NIL, but what's the difference again?
Pre-NIL the best players went to Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State, Notre Dame, etc. In the current NIL life the best players are going to ... Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Texas A&M (for this year). It seems like the crutch for people who want to blame something but don't realize the NCAA has been a mess for years. They still are waiting for Congress to fix shit instead of the NCAA doing it themselves. That's why we keep hearing the NCAA will break up.
The Southeastern Conference media rights deal runs through 2033–34. The Atlantic Coast goes through 2035–36. The Big Ten is in its negotiation window now, with Fox Sports positioned to be the major stakeholder. The Pac-12 and Big 12 are next on the clock.
Should the schism come, Notre Dame would be among those that still tied its athletics to the educational mission of the school and answered to its president and academic administration. Others could essentially be spun off while retaining the school name and branding. A theoretical example (not proffered by Swarbrick): Oregon Ducks Athletics, Inc.
Where the 130 schools fall along that spectrum would be up to individual institutional choice.
Based on that it sounds like the typical 'power 5 splitting off' debate we've heard the last few years. Will it truly change? Who knows. There's a decade plus of time before these contracts end and the NCAA can attempt to figure shit out. Granted they'll likely wait until 2033 but it's still out there.
As for conference realignment I don't know what the fix is there. It's happened for years but now we're seeing bigger and bigger schools leave. Sure the SEC and Big 10 have the best deals and that's what schools want a part of. The Pac-12 needs to figure out their network, the ACC is kind of stuck in the middle and the Big 12 fucked up with LHN. At some point contracts will get figured out, conferences will lock in at a max amount of teams, etc.
We'll always have college sports it's just going to be different as we get older. Can't wait to yell at my sons that they didn't understand the old days.