There’s little doubt by now you’ve heard what’s being dubbed “Division 4,” the BCS superpowers threat to divide from the rest of the FBS in an attempt to get their way, more or less.
Right now, the idea is an abstract, and a rather foolish one at that. But, if, and big if right now, the top five or six conference split into their own division, what would that mean for the OVC? Only time will truly tell, but here’s our best guess:
Being in the FCS, you might think that a BCS split wouldn’t have much affect on the OVC. I would wager that it would.
One of many ideas being thrown out there is that this football super-division wouldn’t play “lower division” teams, only themselves, which means less in the way of “money games ” for smaller divisions. This idea is not only feasible, some conferences (i.e. the Big 10) is asking their teams to stop playing FCS teams already, in hopes a tougher schedule could get them better bowl consideration. There’s little incentive for the SEC to stop playing these games, but if their National Title streak were to end, it’s not out of the realm of possibility many of the BCS teams could do this on their own.
Unless “mandated” by the conferences, I severely doubt this will happen across the board.
Money games would still likely exist for the FCS, but their would likely be fewer (no more three in a season, Austin Peay) and they would be less lucrative; The MAC isn’t paying SEC money.
Less money could mean less football. In it’s current climate, there aren’t many (read: any) teams truly making money from football, and losing these games could put serious pressure on school leaders already looking for ways to save money.
Outside of the financial impact, could FBS football survive without the BCS? Essentially you would go from 130 teams down to about 60, and there’s serious question how many of those remaining are a major draw. I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t some discussion about combining the FCS and remaining FBS teams into just Division I. It would be rough for many teams, sure, but the top of the FCS isn’t that far off from the bottom of the FBS. (If not outright better, in an average year)
The split could also launch a new round of realignment, as this one appears to be slowing down. With a split, the era of 16-team super-conferences can’t be far behind, meaning the WAC, C-USA, and Sun Belt are likely ripe for the taking. (I can’t imagine Boise State not somehow finding their way into “Division 4”) That, of course means teams from the FBS looking to jump to FCS conferences, although I’m not sure how financially lucrative that division would be outside the current system, which has the top teams and conferences sharing some of the revenue with the rest of the division. (Something top-conference heads are none too happy about.)
Basketball (and other sports)
This is where things are even murkier. There’s no real consensus whether this super-conference would take basketball, and all other sports, with them, or just the football programs. Truth be told, there’s not as much incentive to split-off from basketball, other than from the programs that are convinced a 96-team NCAA Tournament is the way to go. (It’s not.)
Secondly, basketball is as much of a financial strain on schools as football is, nor the potential financial boon.
I don’t see the world of basketball changing much.
…but what if it does? What if the same super-division comes to basketball? Well, we can discuss that.
First, I would be immensely surprised to see any conference not willing to continue playing money games against lower divisions. It’s one thing over a 12-game schedule, compared to a 28-game one. Teams aren’t being hurt (mostly) from weak non-conference schedules like they are in football.
Even if you took the top 8 conferences, Division I could easily survive in basketball. (Maybe even thrive.) You would still have 250+ teams, more than 20 conferences, and tons of quality programs.
Realignment is still a major possibility, although it would almost certainly be tied to football.
So, there you go. A “Division 4” isn’t going to be the end of small conferences like the OVC, but it could have a ripple effect throughout Division I. Think something else might happen? Let me know in the comments.