Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
College sports today are fun, but different
Football is the tail wagging the dog in college athletics.
Thanks to TV contracts, football is the cash cow, the ATM and the checkbook for most of the sports on a campus.
Basketball still makes money and at Arkansas, Eric Musselman has made the Razorbacks a year-round sport again.
Under Hall of Fame coaches Nolan Richardson and Eddie Sutton, the Hogs were headliners 12 months a year, then they became seasonal and sometimes barely that.
The NCAA Basketball Tournament, the greatest event in sports, is the No. 1 source of income for the NCAA.
Just what the NCAA is now seems to be up in the air, especially now that it is searching for a new president.
The once powerful organization that controlled college athletics with a strong fist has been stripped of its power because its last leader seemed to lack vision.
It has been unable to get any sort of grip on the transfer portal, NIL and conference realignment.
Now this Wednesday, the NCAA appears poised to allow unlimited transfers for athletes who have the grades and transfers during a specific time frame.
Both the requirements are good ideas. However, the unlimited part is going to create havoc in college football.
In a recent column by Dan Wolken for USA Today online, Tom Mars was quoted as calling unlimited transfers “utter chaos.”
If you don’t know who Mars is, you haven’t been paying attention.
He’s the Arkansas lawyer who worked with the NCAA to allow athletes who transferred to be eligible immediately and not have to sit out a year.
Mars is a top-shelf litigator who knew little about college athletics until, at the urging of his former pastor, Rex Horne, took on Houston Nutt as a client.
Nutt was being accused of the majority of NCAA violations by his former employer Ole Miss. Nutt did have a few, but the bulk of the violations came under former head coach Hugh Freeze. Nutt got his apology.
Mars followed that by getting Shea Patterson immediate eligibility at Michigan after he transferred from Ole Miss.
Suddenly Mars phone blew up with athletes wanting him to represent them. Then coaches got in on the action and at one point the NCAA talked to him about employment.
Meanwhile, conference expansion seems to be in a holding pattern although new Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark has said his league is open for business.
New Pac 12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff said he doesn’t expect his league to be shopping in Big 12 country.
Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said USC and UCLA may not be the end of his league’s expansion and it will take a “bold” approach to further growth.
The SEC’s Greg Sankey recently said his league would be “nimble,” and ACC Commissioner Jim Philllips, who has been on the job a year, said everything is on the table.
None of them are saying it, but the trophy they all want is in South Bend, located in Indiana, which borders Kentucky, making it a state contiguous in the SEC footprint.
Notre Dame, an semi-independent, has to be on the top of everyone’s wish list. It will eventually realize the need to be part of a conference because college athletics as we have known it no longer exists.
It is still good and fun, but it is going to be different. Southern Cal and UCLA didn’t jump conferences because they wanted to experience a game in a snow storm. They did it for money.
They did it for football money.
Until some leadership is found, there will be no normalcy in college athletics. If it is not too late, the NCAA needs to shoot for the moon or even Mars to get a leader who can get NIL, transfers and conference realignment under control.
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