FBS ADs urge college football reform, but not NCAA breakaway

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WASHINGTON — The athletic directors who lead the schools that play Division I college football at the highest level want the sport to continue to be governed by the NCAA – if that governance can be streamlined.

LEAD1, an association of Football Bowl Subdivision ADs, convened 105 of its 131 members Wednesday for a meeting that focused mostly on how best to govern major college football.

There has been some momentum in the past year to seriously explore breaking FBS away from the NCAA and creating another structure to run the biggest revenue generator in college sports.

For now, though, the preference is for reform within the current structure.

“At the end of the day, it was very clear that the status quo is not acceptable,” said LEAD1 President and CEO Tom McMillen, the former Maryland basketball star and congressman. “And that there was a strong, very strong, preference for a model in the NCAA that is extremely streamlined and much less bureaucratic.”

McMillen added: “And if that can’t be accomplished, move it to the outside.”

McMillen did not detail what a more efficient governing model for major college football would entail.

He said LEAD1 planned to gather ideas cultivated at Wednesday’s meeting and share them with NCAA officials in a letter.

“We’re a facilitator. We’re not the decision-maker,” McMillen said. “We recommend. That’s really the extent of what we can do.”

The NCAA is in the midst of what college sports leaders hope will be an overhaul of the way Division I is structured and governed.

The Division I Transformation Committee was formed last year and has been meeting regularly for months. It is led by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and Ohio athletic director Julie Cromer, who is also a member of LEAD1.

“Certainly the debate today has been helpful,” Cromer said. “I think we’ll use this feedback in our transformation committee work.”

The Transformation Committee has already handed down proposals related to transfer rules and how NCAA enforcement operates as part of phase one of its work. A set of those proposals were approved last month.

Phase two is in progress, with membership requirements for schools, student-athlete benefits, access to championship events and revenue distribution at the core of the discussions.

“I think there exists some frustration with the lack of responsibility and the ability to be nimble and specific to our needs in football, within the current decision-making structure,” Cromer said of the FBS ADs.

As the NCAA’s role in governance is deemphasized, and more power is handed down to conferences and schools, it seemed a perfect time for a re-assessment of how major college football operates to many athletic directors.

The NCAA has limited involvement over FBS compared to the rest of Division I sports. The conferences run the College Football Playoff and share the hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue it generates with no NCAA involvement.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has suggested the College Football Playoff could become the governing body for major college football.

“Nothing about its current constitution would support that,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbick told The Associated Press last month. “So you can change it to play that role. But it’s not set up to do it now.”

One of the concerns about moving away from the NCAA would be the need to create a new, similar organization.

McMillen said the NCAA spends about $65 million per year on administrative and insurance costs.

“That does not include any kind of extraordinary costs or legal,” McMillen said. “As you know, the NCAA is the legal shield. They take a lot of the front load.”

The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, an independent group of former and current college administrators that advocates for an emphasis on education in college sports, proposed in 2020 separating FBS from the rest of NCAA sports.

Sankey has said he is adamantly against the Knight Commission’s proposal, in large part because he doesn’t like the idea of compartmentalizing one sport within an athletic department.

Sankey attended the LEAD1 meeting to give the ADs an update on the Transformation Committee’s work.

He said he also shared with the ADs his skepticism for the effectiveness of an FBS breakaway from the NCAA. He said he understands the desire for change.

“And given the distinctions around football, there are those who view that as a relevant point of change,” Sankey said. “But then the why, the outcomes, those have to be much further developed.”

WVU RB Donaldson in concussion protocol, out for Baylor game

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson is in concussion protocol and will miss next week’s home game with Baylor after he was injured in a loss to Texas, coach Neal Brown said Tuesday.

Donaldson remained on the ground after he was tackled on a short gain in the third quarter of Saturday’s 38-20 loss to the Longhorns. His helmet and shoulder pads were removed and he was carted off the field on a stretcher. After the game he was cleared to travel home with the team.

“He’s recovering,” Brown said. “There is a strict return-to-play (policy) that we have to follow here and I’m zero involved in it. All I do is ask the question. They don’t even start the return-to-play until they’re symptom free.”

Donaldson, a 240-pound freshman, leads the Mountaineers with 389 rushing yards and six touchdowns, with an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12 Conference) is idle this week and hosts Baylor (3-2, 1-1) next Thursday, Oct. 13.

Taulia Tagovailoa says he visited brother, Tua, over weekend

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was able to visit his brother, Tua, last weekend after the Terrapins’ game against Michigan State, he said Tuesday in his first comments to reporters since Tua left the Miami Dolphins’ game against Cincinnati last Thursday with a frightening head injury.

Taulia played in Maryland’s win over Michigan State on Saturday but was not made available to the media afterward. He said Tuesday he was able to go to Florida and spend some time with his brother, who suffered a concussion four days after taking a hit in another game but was cleared to return.

“He’s doing good, everything’s fine,” he said. “My biggest thing was just seeing him and spending as much time as I can with him. I came back Sunday night.”

Tagovailoa said he appreciates the support for his brother.

“My brother’s my heart. He’s someone I look up to, someone I talk to every day,” he said. “It was just a hard scene for me to see that.”

Tagovailoa said he was in constant contact with his mother about his brother’s situation, and he was finally able to talk to Tua on Friday night.

“I really just wanted to go there and just spend time with my family, hug them and stuff like that,” Taulia Tagovailoa said. “But he told me he’s a big fan of us, and he’d rather watch me play on Saturday. … After that phone call, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine.”

Tagovailoa indicated that his brother’s injury didn’t make him too nervous about his own health when he took the field again.

“I guess when that happens to someone like my brother, or when anything happens to one of my family members, I don’t really think of how it will be able to affect me,” he said. “I just think of: `Is he OK? How’s he doing?”‘

Although it was a short visit to Florida, he said he and Tua made the most of their chance to be together.

“I just wanted to make sure he’s healthy and stuff, which he is,” Taulia Tagovailoa said.