The calendar says Temple’s next foe is Penn State on Sept. 5, but the toughest foe over the long haul could prove to be something called Cost of Attendance.
As many as 13 years ago, the schools from the larger conferences decided that there were too many schools in what was then known as Division I-A. They pushed through a NCAA rule in 2002 that required a 15,000 annual average attendance for three consecutive years to remain at that level. While some schools dropped their programs, more upgraded and that rule did not significantly change the landscape.
Failure to cull the herd of teams wanting to be part of the now Football Bowl Series (FBS), the Power 5 essentially separated itself from the rest of the teams now known as the Group of Five. Simply put, all of the championship bowl criteria are slanted to the P5 teams, the teams from the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big 10 and PAC-12.
Now a new means of separating the haves from the have-nots is something called cost of attendance, a stipend per athlete that should drive the wedge further between the P5 and the G5 schools and that threatens the very foundation of college football. That goes into effect this season.
Get used to seeing just all of the teams from the Power 5 conferences on TV even more and get used to rarely seeing the other teams. Athletes who previously were open in their recruitment to all the schools now will limit their focus to Power 5 teams and that is terrible news for any fan of fair play. It was exciting to see Utah, once a non-P5 team, win the Sugar Bowl or even Hawaii appear in one. As recently as 1998 Tulane went unbeaten but forget that ever happening again.
Temple now is in the same boat as the Tulanes and Hawaiis of the world in terms of competing, without a built-in weather advantage. The BOT hasn’t released a COA for Temple athletes, but for the Owls to compete, it must be in line with at least their fellow American Athletic Conference foes. ECU announced in April that its COA will be $4,025. Memphis will be $4,467. Figures were not released on other AAC schools, but Temple fans have reason to be concerned because BOT Chairman Patrick J. O’Connor–a Villanova grad–has said repeatedly in the past that Temple would not get caught up in a college football arm’s race. COAs are to college football what ICBMs were once to the Cold War.
The big five conferences collected a combined $311 million last year just from bowl games and NCAA tournament payouts and now have used that muscle to obtain a separate set of rules that has allowed them to pay players a so-called full cost of attendance.
The SEC is leading the way with three of the top four COAs. Penn State leads the Big 10 by giving its athletes $4,788 to play while a similar in-state institution, Pitt, can afford only $3,300. Forget a player ever picking Pitt over Penn State in that scenario or even a fellow Big 10 institution like Rutgers, which has set its COA at $2,921.
The schools that feel the larger pinch will be those at even lower levels, like the Kent States of the MAC or the Marshalls of CUSA. Marshall was a feel-good story of a year ago, challenging for a BCS bowl game until an upset loss to Western Kentucky at the end of last year.
College football needs those kind of stories more than it needs these COAs and that’s why college presidents who value education over football should put their foot down and end this unhealthy play-to-play trend. Only the presidents can change this and getting rid of this unequal system would be a statement that they are more serious about education than sports.