NCAA proposal puts pressure on Willie Taggart and USF football to succeed quickly

adell@bradenton.comApril 30, 2014 

Louisville South Florida Football

South Florida head coach Willie Taggert, left, talks to linebacker Devekeyan Lattimore (34) during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Louisville Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Tampa, Fla. Louisville defeated South Florida 34-3. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

CHRIS O'MEARA — AP

TAMPA

One of Willie Taggart's greatest assets is his ability to recruit.

Entering his second season as the USF head football coach, the former Manatee High quarterback needs to get the most out of that gift.

The NCAA Board of Directors' recent approval to grant autonomy to the so-called five power conferences is going to give the group a recruiting advantage in a landscape already tilted in its favor.

The proposal is likely to include issues such as providing money to students that goes uncovered by traditional scholarships; expanded insurance, including coverage for pro prospects; more resources for academic; and career counseling; and funding to help families of athletes travel to the NCAA tournament.

The key issue is that the schools from the five power conferences (SEC, Big 12, Big 10, Pac-12 and ACC) want to raise scholarships to cover the cost of attendance, which can amount to an extra $2,000 to $10,000 a year per student-athlete.

Those conferences can do this without blinking an eye. They already have the highest income, which will increase significantly with the implementation of the FBS four-team football playoff next season.

The Big Five conferences will take home $90 million each annually. The other five non-BCS conferences (AAC, Mountain West, MAC, Conference USA, Sun Belt) will get an average $17.3 million with base playoff revenue capped at $1 million per school

The "autonomy" proposal has to receive additional approval under the NCAA's layer of bureaucracy, but that system -- or one similar -- is going to be implemented because of legal pressure.

Last month, high-powered labor attorney Jeffrey Kessler filed a lawsuit claiming the NCAA's cap on player compensation limited to a scholarship is a violation of anti-trust laws.

Kessler is no-fly-by-

night attorney. He was the front runner that led to NFL free agency in 1992.

So if you break this down into layman's terms this is what you have: A coach from one of the big five conferences tells the parents of a recruit he can give their son what amounts to a stipend of anywhere from $2,000 and up to cover expenses.

Now, if you are a coach from the other five conferences and can't offer the same, you might as well stay home.

The other conferences will have to decide if they want to adopt a similar system. USF is a member of the AAC, which many consider right below the top dogs, but it's a steep drop.

There are 123 schools in the FBS, but only 65 are in the NCAA's big power conferences.

The best way to solve the problem if you are in the other five is become one of the big five.

Unfortunately, the doors are, for the most part, shut. Only the Big 12 might be open to expanding.

USF, Connecticut, Cincinnati and UCF appear to be the most attractive targets for expansion, and none are shy about their intentions.

Depending on who you talk to on what day, each of these schools has the advantage, with winning and TV markets among the big attractions.

Cincinnati has at least shared four of the last five Big East football titles, UCF won the AAC last season and Connecticut won the men's NCAA basketball tournament.

USF at the moment would be the least attractive, but it's in Florida and TV folks love the Tampa market.

It means the future of USF athletics at the moment falls on the shoulders of Taggart because football stirs the drink.

It's a lot to ask of someone who inherited a football program that was left in the dumpster less than two years ago, but it's life in college football. No one is feeling sorry for you.

Taggart says he is not afraid to recruit against anybody and he has a good record. at just that.

But now his opponents could have more power to use against him.

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