On Tuesday morning, it was reported that the NCAA will be proposing a new subdivision within college football that would allow schools to compensate their student-athletes through a trust, as well as through NIL directly from the school. Until now, for decades, the multi-billion dollar industry of college athletics has only resulted in payouts for the schools themselves. This proposal would mark possibly the biggest change in college athletics ever, finally allowing hard-working student-athletes to be paid for their efforts.
NEWS: NCAA president Charlie Baker is proposing the creation of a new FBS subdivision that would allow the highest-resource schools to compensate athletes directly through a trust as well as NIL: pic.twitter.com/j7q4cjZ0oW— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) December 5, 2023
As proposed, this new subdivision would be available for just FBS football, so other sports would largely go unaffected for now. Though it wouldn’t be a big stretch of the imagination to picture men’s and women’s basketball also eventually receiving this kind of structure, given the small size of basketball rosters and how much money is made every year through March Madness.
How would this change affect Boston College?
This proposal will irreversibly shift the landscape of college athletics. There’s no way to predict what cascading effects could occur across the country as college football players start to get paid. But we can at least make some predictions as to how Boston College would act in the short-term.
This new “paid” subdivision will likely include just the wealthiest college football programs in the country. Boston College will have the choice to opt-in if they want to, and could afford to at least meet the minimum requirements of entry, but they likely will choose to remain in the “unpaid” subdivision. BC would not have the resources to seriously compete with the Alabamas, Georgias, Michigans, and Ohio States of the world in this upper tier of CFB. They’d be subjecting their players and fans to years of bottom-dwelling, forced to play against stacked programs while putting together one of the lowest paid rosters in the whole subdivision. It would be a miserable existence.
Instead, BC is much more likely to opt to play against schools of their own caliber in the “unpaid” subdivision. The player talent, TV viewership, and overall popularity will be less than that of the “paid” subdivision, but the Eagles will at least be competitive. BC football is much more likely to be winning games and playing for championships when you remove today’s top dogs. It will make for more interesting seasons, more winning seasons, and more meaningful games. Fans won’t have to hope for that one magical year where it all comes together, but instead can watch BC try to build a sustainable, winning program that plays well against its peers instead of trying to create a Cinderella story against Clemson or FSU. BC could actually be pushing for conference championships in the last few weeks of the season pretty regularly, unlike the generally meaningless games that they’ve been playing recently to reach 6 or 7 wins without ever really having any aspirations beyond that.
Some may see this kind of future as bleak. Some may see it as a relief. It really depends on whether you value playing on the nation’s biggest stage or playing more meaningful games against other schools of their caliber. But if you’re lamenting the “demotion” of BC athletics to a lesser tier, I beg you to open your eyes. BC hasn’t been on an even playing field in the ACC (or nationally) for years now.
While this proposal won’t have a direct effect on how NCAA basketball is structured, it could have cascading effects on the balance of the sport. Mega-conferences based on football will no longer need to exist, and instead basketball could revert back to smaller, regional conferences. Revenue from football will get even more lopsided, meaning that the top earners will be able to invest their profits into their basketball programs, too. And the new NIL structure could have any number of trickle-down effects on the student-athletes from other sports. It’s still very early, but Boston College basketball could find itself in a very different situation 5 or 10 years from now.
BC’s premier sport could very well become hockey. We don’t know exactly what kind of popularity hit BC football will take, considering that the fanbase is already relatively small, but we know that they won’t be attracting the top talent in the country. BC hockey, on the other hand, is a blue blood school with recruiting access to the NHL’s top draft picks. Could we see a shift there?
As for the other non-revenue sports, we could see a change in conference to something more regional, which could affect BC’s competitiveness and recruiting ability in certain sports. Will BC women’s lacrosse be as dominant if they end up leaving the ACC? It’s tough to tell this early, but it should at least be on fans’ radar.
Is this good for college sports?
Yes and no. I’m happy to see that the student-athletes are finally getting paid. They sink countless hours into a product that makes their school millions of dollars. It’s about time that they saw some of that revenue. But the overall state of the sport is about to undergo a dramatic shift. These 18-23 year olds are about to become full-on professional athletes. The culture is going to change. The days of personal loyalty and historic rivalries are over. We are about to fully enter the era where money is king, if we’re not already there.