NCAA Troubles Ahead


Intercollegiate Athletics was a large part of my professional career for many years.  Thus, I continue to watch what is happening across the national collegiate sports scene quite closely. As I’ve said before, “times are changing – and it’s happening fast,” as is evident by the latest news this past month pertaining to lawsuits vs. the NCAA and actions to let the “Power Five Conferences” do things their own way.

On Aug. 7, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted 16-2 to allow schools in the power conferences to write many of their own rules. The measures, which were all but demanded by the five conferences, will permit them to decide on such things as cost-of-attendance stipends and benefits for players, as well as deciding coaching staff sizes, recruiting rules and mandatory hours spent on individual sports.

The power conferences consist of the top 64 Division I schools in the ACC, the Big 12, the Big Ten, the SEC and the Pac-12, in addition to Notre Dame.  With this latest action (which could still face an override vote if 75 schools outside the Power Five Conferences challenge it within the next month – thus sending it back to the board of directors for further consideration, which is highly unlikely), they would be able to submit their own legislation by Oct. 1 and have it enacted at the January 2015 NCAA Convention in Washington, D.C.

One of the first items expected to be taken up will be the full cost-of-attendance stipend, estimated to be between $2,000 and $5,000 per player.  Another major item to be voted upon by the power conferences would be guaranteed four-year scholarships, instead of the current year-to-year offering at Division I schools.  These leagues could also enact loosening restrictions involving contacts between players and agents, allowing the players to pursue outside paid career opportunities and covering expenses for players’ families to attend post-season games.

Leagues outside the Power Five can adopt the same rules, but many won’t be able to afford these measures – which is expected to create a much larger competitive gap between the power conferences and the other Football Bowl Subdivision and the Football Championship Subdivision schools – of which Montana and Montana State currently compete.

Jim O'day FeaturedFor those who believe it won’t impact Big Sky schools, well, think again.

Neighboring Wyoming is already seeking an additional $4 million in state funding from its legislature for its athletics program to stay competitive. More than half of that ($2.5 million) will go toward buying more food for players.  Previously, universities were only allowed by the NCAA to provide three meals per day to student athletes…. Now there are no limits.  The remaining $1.5 million would help fund full scholarships, provide transportation to classes and help provide support for student athletes to train during the summer months in health and safety programs.

Like I’ve often said before, “times are changing.”   The major challenge: Finding more revenues to keep things operating smoothly for all schools at the Division I level – and that won’t be easy for the smaller universities.

… If there’s one lesson to be learned early by all FBS schools, it’s not to play North Dakota State.  Right now, the Bison appear to be in a league of their own at the FCS level.  With three consecutive FCS football championships already under their belt, and with five consecutive wins over FBS schools, I’d be reluctant at any FBS institution to schedule them in the immediate future.  Unfortunately for the University of Iowa, they have the Bison on the docket for 2016. NDSU does not have an FBS opponent on its schedule next year.  Montana will get its crack at NDSU on Sept. 20 in Fargo.  Last year, Montana State was originally slated to play at the Fargodome, but canceled to host a home game in Bozeman instead.

… Speaking of NDSU, the Bison broke the record held by Montana (2001-02), NDSU (1964-66) and Penn (1992-95) by claiming its 25th consecutive FCS victory last Saturday with the 34-14 triumph over Iowa State of the Big 12. It was also the fifth straight year in which NDSU recorded a win over a school playing in one of the so-called Power Conferences.  In 2010, the Bison beat Kansas (6-3) and followed that up with wins over Minnesota in 2011 (37-24), Colorado State in 2012 (22-7) and nationally ranked Kansas State last year (24-21).  Since the start of the 2011 season, the Bison are an amazing 43-2. With that success, combined with success it many of its other sports, NDSU might be a great candidate to move up to the FBS level.

… While serving as athletic director at The University of Montana (2005-12), I was involved in the scheduling of the UM-NDSU series (2014-15), as well as Montana-Appalachian State (2012-13) and Montana-McNeese State (2016-17).  All were the result of good relationships with their athletic directors via opportunities I received being a member of the FCS Division I Playoff Selection Committee (2008-12) – the last two years as committee chair. Interestingly enough, all three of those ADs now have jobs at other schools.  Former NDSU AD Gene Taylor recently was named the Deputy Director of Athletics at Iowa, while Charlie Cobb (Appalachian State) was named last month as new Director of Athletics at Georgia State, and Tommy McClelland left McNeese more than a year ago to accept a similar position at Louisiana Tech.

… The Big Sky Conference also lost a couple of athletic directors I served with for many years: Terry Wanless at Sacramento State and Torre Chisholm at Portland State.  Terry retired this summer after many years in the business (and is making his new home in Kentucky), while Torre recently announced he is changing career paths, and will conclude his time at Portland State on Oct. 31.  I wish them both the best of luck in their future endeavors.

… Finally, lightning delays were the topic of conversation in many circles the past few days.  At Laramie, Wyo., the UM-Wyoming football game was delayed twice by lightning concerns. Later that evening, Idaho’s game at Florida was canceled shortly after the opening kick-off due to lightning and associated weather issues.  A decision still hasn’t been made as to whether the game will be rescheduled or not (both schools have an open date on Oct. 25).  Idaho made the trip to Gainesville for $975,000 – which amounts to one-quarter of its football budget. A trip such as this would most likely cost Idaho Athletics in the neighborhood of $125,000. Thus, it is important that the Vandals receive their guarantee – and more if they have to make a return trip.  Montana also had a game impacted by lightning when the Griz traveled to Knoxville, Tenn., for an outing against the Tennessee Vols on Sept. 3, 2011. The start of that particular game was delayed by 1 ½ hours.

Check out Jim O’Day’s blog archive. Vacating UM’s 2011 Big Sky Conference Title is WrongBig 10 Decision Could Have Major Impact On FCS SchoolsAre Predetermined Tournament Sites in the Big Sky Conference’s Future? What the Financial Numbers mean for UM/MSU Athletics. Hiring/Retaining College Coaches is Becoming ToughFormer UM Coaches/Missoula Stars Making it Big in College FootballWhy I chose to Make It Missoula, The Ups & Downs of Being a Griz Fan, Once a Griz, Always a Griz.

Jim O’Day was Director of Athletics at the University of Montana from 2005-2012. He also served as the Assistant Director of the Grizzly Athletic Association (1998-2000) and later as the Director of Development for UM Intercollegiate Athletics (2000-2005).

Prior to returning to his alma mater in 1998, O’Day was the owner/publisher of the family-owned Western Breeze newspaper in Cut Bank, MT. He was also sports editor of the Kalispell Daily Interlake from 1980-82.

In late 2013, Jim started his own consulting business, O’Day Enterprises, LLC.  His main clients include Farran Realty Partners, a private equity real estate development/investment firm based in Missoula; Epio Solutions of Seattle/Missoula, an agency primarily focused on branding/marketing/public relations utilizing various social media platforms for businesses, universities, non-profits and individuals; and BancVue, a company based in Austin, Texas, that aligns itself with small community banks and credit unions across the country to compete against the large mega banks. In addition, Jim is consulting for various oil and gas firms, as well as providing valuable professional resource services for intercollegiate athletics, fund-raising, capital raises, employment opportunities, etc. 

Jim and his wife Kathy have three sons: Chris, Kevin and Brian – all three graduates of The University of Montana.


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