Former Boise State football coach Chris Petersen cemented his reputation as one of the best coaches in college football by leading the Broncos to a series of victories against the biggest names in the sport — Oklahoma, Oregon (twice), Virginia Tech, Georgia, Oregon State, Washington.
Now Petersen, who left Boise in December to become head coach at Washington, doesn't think teams from the "Power 5" conferences — Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC and SEC — should schedule teams like Boise State. In an informal poll conducted by Brett McMurphy at ESPN.com, Petersen voted "yes" when asked if "Power 5" teams should only play other teams from Power 5 or higher-resource conferences.
The non-Power 5 leagues are the Mountain West, American, Conference USA, Sun Belt and Mid-American Conference.
Teams from those leagues, including Idaho, often use payday games against Power 5 teams to fund their athletic budgets. Idaho opens the season at Florida.
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Others, like Boise State, have been able to schedule home-and-home series against "Power 5" teams.
Wisconsin's Gary Andersen, who previously coached at Utah State, voted no in the poll.
"Where do teams like Utah State go to get a big game?" Andersen told ESPN.com.
But Petersen is not alone. Thirty of the 65 Power 5 coaches voted in favor of playing only amongst themselves, including Alabama's Nick Saban, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Oregon's Mark Helfrich. Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, whose team plays Navy every season and who coached at Central Michigan and Cincinnati before Notre Dame, voted no as did TCU coach Gary Patterson, whose Horned Frogs were in the Mountain West before moving to the Big 12. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who coached at Bowling Green and Utah when it was a member of the Mountain West, also voted no.
Boise State is scheduled to play Petersen and Washington at Albertsons Stadium to open the 2015 season. The Broncos have future games scheduled against Power 5 teams Virginia, Florida State, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Washington State.
The poll comes on the same day as the NCAA's granted new autonomy to the five biggest conferences.
The new rules give the Power 5 greater discretion in providing benefits to players. Boise State President Bob Kustra has been a vocal critic of the proposed autonomy.
"For those who already think that Division I athletics has devolved into a business that too often dictates university priorities rather than the other way around, it's about to get worse. These elite programs will bear less and less resemblance to amateur athletics and the mission and role of a university. No one should think it will stop here," Kustra said Thursday. "This entire issue of increased autonomy for the resource five conferences should not be viewed as an intramural fight within Division I. No president within Division I should be in favor of these changes. They take Division I athletics down the wrong road to professionalism and brands the entire division as beyond the control and oversight of universities and the boards who govern them."
"Today's vote by the NCAA Board of Directors is historic, but our universities have understood for some time that there will more than likely be an increase in the cost of operating their athletic programs. There will be challenges, but Sun Belt universities have invested too much not to be part of major college sports in the future," Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said.
"The Mountain West appreciates the efforts of the Division I Steering Committee and chair Nathan Hatch in developing a governance structure that meets the needs of Division I as a whole. Adoption of the new governance model will allow Mountain West institutions to determine how best to meet the needs of their student-athletes while continuing to provide opportunities to compete at the highest level of collegiate athletics. Student-athlete welfare and academic excellence have always been paramount in the Mountain West and will continue to be at the forefront of the discussion as we enter this new era of Division I. The Mountain West already has begun to involve student-athletes in its governance structure with the participation of two student-athletes at its spring 2014 Board of Directors meeting. This type of engagement will further enhance the overall experience of the student-athlete. The Mountain West membership has been actively engaged in conversations about the governance redesign for some time and we look forward to continuing the dialogue throughout the implementation phase of the new structure," Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said.
A look at what autonomy means
From Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press:
Q: What do the big conferences want?
A: The 65 schools in Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference would get the ability to pass permissive legislation to "enhance the well-being of student-athletes." They want to be allowed to spend their growing revenues on things such as scholarships that cover the full cost of attending college beyond tuition, room and board and books. Those conferences also want to invest more in long-term health care and continuing education and ensure that athletes retain scholarships for four years. Schools in the other 27 Division I conferences can try to do some of those things if they want, but they will not be required to.
"I think we've gotten to a place where we just believe there was a need for us to perhaps be a little less egalitarian, a little less magnanimous about the 350 schools and spend a little time worrying about the most severe issues that are troubling our programs among the 65," Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Wednesday during forum in New York host by the conference.
Q: Why do those conferences need autonomy to do that?
A: In the past, schools in conferences that don't have the billions of dollars in TV revenues that the so-called Big Five have stood in the way of the NCAA passing legislation that would have provide some of those extra benefits to athletes. Specifically, in 2011 a proposal that would have allowed schools to give athletes a $2,000 stipend to cover cost of attendance was overridden by about half of the 355 Division I schools.
Q: Will other conferences try to do what the Big Five want to do?
A: The leaders of the other five conferences that play at the highest level of college football, FBS, have all said their members are prepared to do their best to provide the same additional benefits to student-athletes. Some schools, such as those in the American Athletic Conference or Mountain West, are probably better situated to spend more on athletes than others, such as those in the Sun Belt or Mid-American Conference. But they'll try.
"Will there be greater additional costs? More than likely," Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said at the league's football media day last month. "And yes, there will be challenges, but Sun Belt universities have invested too much not to be part of major college football in the future."
There is concern that schools trying to keep up with the Big Five in revenue sports such as football and men's basketball might not have enough money to fund non-revenue Olympic sports.
Q: Who is against it?
A: There are some in those other 22 conferences who are concerned that giving the Big Five the ability to make their own rules will increase the competitive advantage those schools already have. The most vocal critic has been Boise State President Bob Kustra, who believes autonomy is the Big Five's attempt to keep schools such as his from competing on the highest level. The Broncos, who play in the MWC, have been a football power but have often been shut out of the biggest games, with the biggest payouts.
"The NCAA cannot fall prey to phony arguments about student welfare when the real goal of some of these so-called reformers is create a plutocracy," Kustra wrote in statement released to the media in May, "that serves no useful purpose in American higher education."
Q: Why is this likely to pass?
A: Because the Big Five generate millions in revenue for all NCAA members, and while the leaders of those conferences have repeatedly said they don't want to break away from the rest of Division I, they have also made clear it is an option. So they'll get what they want.
It also helps relieve some of the pressure to reform an outdated amateur sports model, brought in part by a lawsuit that claims athletes deserve revenue from the use of their names and likenesses and a unionization effort from Northwestern football players.
Q: When would it go into effect?
A: The formal start would be in January 2015, at the NCAA convention.
Q: Will fans notice a difference?
A: Not really. Maybe in the long-term some FBS schools will decide it's too expensive to compete at that level and drop down to FCS. And it could be a step toward full separation between the Big Five and the rest of college athletics, but there is nothing to suggest that is imminent. For now, it will look like business as usual.