Why the NCAA Targets Mid-Level Schools like BYU
Updated: Aug 11, 2019
My feelings toward the NCAA coming down and suspending BYU Basketball star Yoeli Childs for nine games can't fit in a Tweet.
You will find that most businesses have the same ultimate goal: Make money. Sure there are some fancy mission statements and community events, but at the end of the day those are for exposure, trust and loyalty to customers for, you guessed it, money. That isn't the case for everyone, but 95% of the time, decisions are money driven.
The NCAA is a business, and they like most every other business have to make money. Most of their money comes from about 10% of the teams in the NCAA. For college football that would be Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson, USC, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Auburn, Oregon and a few other schools. That is why in large part they are always ranked so high in the preseason. They make money. People talk about them. As much as people love to see a UCF, Western Michigan or Boise State team pull off the big upset over a P5 Powerhouse, at the end of the day that doesn't help the NCAA if it happens too much.
The Hunger Games of College Sports
In the movie, "The Hunger Games" President Snow tells the game maker Seneca Crane that "A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it's contained." This can relate to teams in college sports. The NCAA doesn't want the CFP to have G5 teams in the Playoff. If they did, suddenly G5 schools could revolt and say that they should be ranked higher and they should get more money, especially if they won. And they would be right.
Now I know there is a committee that selects the rankings, but I don't buy for even a second there isn't some unspoken rule given by the NCAA. There is no way that there is no guidance to keep in mind TV ratings and avoiding potential huge upsets that could mess up the structure of the sport.
If a G5 wins the National Championship, suddenly an unranked 11-2 Cincinnati team is raising their arms saying "We are 11-2 in the same conference as the National Champions, why aren't we ranked in the Top 10 with teams with three loses?" What would happen to the P5 schools if they listened? They would revolt yelling "Why is a two loss AAC team in the Top 10? They play nobody!" Chaos.
You get the point.
We saw that with UCF in 2018 after they got a few No. 1 rankings in the AP Poll. Suddenly they were national champions and the rest of the conference started to really brand themselves as the P6 conference, a look that NCAA doesn't like. The NCAA needs to contain the bottom 90% and keep it so the top 10% stay happy.
NCAA Tries to Avoid Cinderella Teams
If teams win, the NCAA can't do anything about that. They can't keep an undefeated team out of the Top 10 if the next best teams have three losses. What they can do is control the matchups. Here are just a few examples:
In the 2010 Fiesta Bowl undefeated TCU and Boise State played in a game in that game neither team a chance to be in the National Championship conversation. The winner beat the "next best G5".
Just in the past seasons in the NCAA Basketball Tournament there were a lot of questionable matchups with lower tiered teams playing either against another potential Cinderella team or being seeded way too low from all projections. Some include:
VCU vs UCF, two teams that could have made a run
Murray State as a 12 seed
4 loss Nevada as a 7 seed
San Diego State vs Houston
Nearly all of the "Bubble" teams being from smaller conferences
Rules and Consequences
Everybody knows that to make a point, sometimes there needs to be a bit of irrationality. For example, if a parent has a rule the kids can't play video games before 7:00, maybe the parents will give the first kid who breaks that rule a harsh consequence that does not fit the crime. The point isn't to be fair. It is to make a point. Suddenly, the kids now think that if they play video games late, there is going to be a big consequence, when in reality that may not be the case.
The NCAA works in the same way. They know that Yoeli Childs shouldn't get a nine game suspension for not understanding NCAA agent and draft rules and reinstatement standards . They know it is fair to give him a slap on the wrist and perhaps a one game suspension for not being more careful. But he came clean. He paid everything back and everything worked out fine. But the NCAA is making a point. If they go through with this punishment, every single player who ever goes through the same situation as Yoeli Childs will be very careful to make sure everything is 100% correct. My belief is, if it happened again, the consequence wouldn't be as steep.
Why BYU (and better G5 schools) are the Target
BYU is a brand that is recognized and respected. So is UCF, Boise State, Memphis, Nevada and other schools that are consistently either ranked or playing in the postseason in either football or men's basketball. However, at the same time they are in the "contained" category of the NCAA. Consider them the District Six in the Hunger Games that never win, but often make it past the first day alive. Fans get behind these teams, but they never go on winning. They are given hope, but never too much.
The NCAA knows that by fining teams like BYU with heavy sanctions that it will be recognized nationally, but not at a very high cost to them. Teams like Arizona, Kentucky or Indiana are all teams that have been caught breaking rules but receive little to no consequence. Why? Money.
BYU could be a NCAA Tournament team next season. But nobody is looking at them as a Sweet 16 team, or in other words a team that would make the NCAA a lot of money from exposure and sales.
If the NCAA were to go out and fine a team like Georgia Southern or Wofford, nobody would pay attention. It would go unnoticed and would be pointless as far as trying to get a point across. Going heavily after a team like Arizona a team that is often in the Sweet Sixteen, could cost the NCAA a lot of money because of the negative impact it would have on the team and it's potential ranking.
BYU and other schools like them are like the "Goldilocks match" for the NCAA because they are big enough markets to get noticed, but not bringing in enough money to make a huge impact for the NCAA and their bottom line. Until that changes, BYU and teams like them will continue to be the target for heavy sanctions from the NCAA.