BLOOMINGTON -- The college sports world is changing faster than new Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill makes Johnny Manziel old news.
Yes, Indiana athletic director Fred Glass is aware.
Reform, power conference autonomy, full cost of a scholarship, the consequences of the O'Bannon suit (paying football and men's basketball players, with likely expansion to other sports) crashes against the reality that most athletic departments still lose money despite the seemingly ever increasing NCAA cash machine.
Indiana has the advantage of the Big Ten Network, a game changer that pumps millions of dollars to every league school every year. Add upcoming new TV deals with ESPN, Fox, CBS and more, and IU figures to get $27 million this year and up to $44.5 million by 2017.
Still, there are limits, and the potential changes could help cause schools to exceed them.
1) How do you pay for it?
2) Could this force colleges to cut sports?
Glass has a few thoughts about his 24-Sport-One-Team program.
“I would not want to cut sports,” he says. “The last resort would be to limit the opportunities we give to student-athletes from the undoubtedly increased expenses coming out of reform -- the change in governance, litigation like the O'Bannon suit or other sources.
“It's a matter of us prioritizing and providing athletes with those benefits -- whether it's the full cost of attendance, a life-time scholarship guarantee, the multi-year scholarship. That crowds some other things out. We are fortunate to have a strong revenue stream like the Big Ten Network and other media partners. That will help.
“(All this change) will reshuffle the (budget) deck. The last place I would look would be cutting sports.”
How much is the full cost of a scholarship? Speculated amounts range from $2,000 to $4,000 per full scholarship athlete a year, although Glass says that depends on the school.
“Those are institutional driven. There won't be a declaration that it will be $2,000, $3,000, $4,000. Already each institution declares what that is.”
There is the chance schools could manipulate that unspecified number for recruiting gain, a violation of NCAA rules. And it will give major conference schools even more of an advantage over mid-major programs -- as if the Ball States and Indiana States of the world don't face enough challenges.
“There is concern that it creates an uneven playing field or an opportunity for monkey business,” Glass says, “but the concept of cost of attendance is so important, we'll have to manage that.”
Meanwhile, IU officials project attendance of around 44,000 for today's football season-opener against Indiana State. The goal, Glass says, is to sell out (52,929) every game.
“The hope is that if we can get a break and get some early excitement, we can bounce up to 52,929.”
The Hoosiers have six home games this season, one less than next year, and two fewer than last season.
“We are setting as a prime directive to get to seven games,” Glass says. “We'll continue making that investment in the schedule so we can hit that sweet spot of seven games. (Coach Kevin Wilson) deserves that. The kids deserve that.”
The Big Ten is set to go from an eight- to a nine-game conference schedule, which means teams will alternate between four and five conference home games. That creates scheduling challenges. The Big Ten also doesn't want conference teams to play FCS teams such as Indiana State any more. Why? To create stronger schedules to boost Big Ten team chances to make the four-team national playoff.
The net result is more stress on schedule makers.
“It's hard to get home and away football games with a peer university (for non-conference games), then have buy-in games (where IU pays a team to come to Memorial Stadium),” Glass says. “With FCS schools out, that means fewer available schools, and the (buy-in) price goes up. The conference is looking at that.”
Would making a 10-game conference schedule help?
“There are pros and cons about 10,” Glass says. “I don't think it's off the table. There are some challenges and benefits. It's more even. You get more of a feel or flavor for playing all the teams in the conference. I don't think it's out of question, but I don't know that it's going to happen, either.”
Finally, in an effort to boost attendance, Glass has devised new ways to try to make going to games more fun. That includes installing a $300,000, 200-foot-long display panel inside Memorial Stadium that will show game statistics and entertainment, $6.8 million for paved lots around the stadium (increasing the parking spaces from 1,250 to 1,800) along with eight acres of grass green space (730 new trees will be planted), friendlier ushers who more closely resemble what you'd see in Disney World (if a child loses an ice cream cone, ushers would buy a new one) and more.
“We'll do new fun things to keep people's enthusiasm in what's going on in the stadium,” Glass says.