The whole affair took two hours and worked just fine in a 38-by-61-foot conference room in the Holiday Inn next to Vanderbilt‘s campus.
Each school had a table with name cards. The head coach and two players from each school sat there and chatted up whichever reporter sat in front of them.
There were no podium calls. There was no podium
Most notably, there was no address from OVC commissioner Beth DeBauche. If there had been, she might have told the SEC’s Mike Slive, easy for you to say.
The three OVC head coaches who once held the same job on college football’s top level sure seemed to say that, at least when quizzed about the reforms Slive pushed at SEC Media Days this past week.
Multi-year scholarships that cover more of the actual costs of attending college was among reforms Slive forwarded about a week ago in Hoover. He also suggested stiffer newcomer eligibility requirements, like a 2.5 GPA in 16 core classes instead of 2.0.
It was all part of what Slive called his “National Agenda for Change.” Regardless of whether such reforms become by-laws for all, effects could be felt throughout Division I’s two subdivisions.
Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown, ex of Vanderbilt and UAB and whose brother Mack presides over one of college football’s richest programs, says whoa.
“You’ve got to be a little careful when you do it for everybody when there’s the money guys, and there’s the non-money guys, and the money guys are a lot smaller in number than the non-money guys,” Watson Brown said. “If you’re not in those BCS conferences, then you’re a non-money guy, I don’t care what you say.
“When you get into, say, paying players, we could never do that on this level.”
Slive’s answer? So what. Let those who have do what they can, and same for the have-nots.
That could create interesting problems at the FCS level, where schools like Jacksonville State have been known to benefit from a Football Bowl Subdivision transfer or two.
Players like former Georgia running back Washaun Ealey, a new arrival at JSU, transfer for more playing time. It’s a fairly easy decision, especially when a scholarship is a scholarship is a scholarship.
That decision becomes tougher when player realizes he’s losing money. FCS schools can’t cover living expenses that would be covered at an FBS school.
“If they’re transferring down, they’re giving up some (niceties), and they may have to give up a little bit more,” said JSU’s Jack Crowe, a former head coach at Arkansas with several years as an offensive coordinator in what’s now known as FBS.
The transfer decision would be toughest for players who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. He might be forced to stay in an unhappy situation.
That means a scholarship stays filled for the FBS program, and the FCS program misses out on an immediate-help transfer.
“It’s possible, if a kid doesn’t have money in the first place and it’s going to cost him more,” said Southeast Missouri State’s Tony Samuel, a former player and assistant coach at Nebraska and head coach at New Mexico State. “It’s probably going to be on an individual basis.”
The 2.5 GPA requirement idea drew mixed reviews. Brown saying kids tend to rise to the requirement, though his experience with high-end academic schools means “I may not be the best guy to ask on that.”
Samuel seeing opportunities lost.
“I worry about kids that might not have the opportunity to get in a college environment, which would better their lives,” he said. “They just need to get on campus and get around people they can learn from. Some people don’t develop early in their lives.”
As for multi-year scholarships, Crowe said it would cause even tougher personnel decisions in FCS, where teams have only 63 scholarships. The margin for a recruiting miss is smaller.
All three former top-division head coaches said FCS programs can’t keep pace with one-size-fits-all reforms. The hidden cost comes in support staff.
“Every time you create more bureaucracy, the more layers of reforms, you’ve got to bring in a team of people to do it,” Crowe said. “If that gets passed down to us?
“The ratio between us and some SEC schools is anywhere from 20-1 to 25-1 that are supporting all of the things that those reforms have led us to in the last five years.”
Such are the realities for college football’s have-nots when the haves drive reform. Brown would like reformers to keep eyes on a bigger picture.
“I’m not against it as long as everybody has to do it and it’s fair to everybody,” Brown said. “But when we start making decisions that fit just the BCS schools over everybody else, then I think we’re wrong.
“This thing started out to be college football — not elitist college football, but college football.”
Maybe that should be easier for everyone to say.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.