University of Tennessee at Chattanooga vice chancellor and athletic director David Blackburn was not surprised by the vote by the NCAA board of directors giving more autonomy to the five biggest athletic conferences, but the decision raised more questions about where schools such as UTC will stand if the changes are upheld.
"There's just a lot of unknowns," Blackburn said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. "We're afraid that there are going to be a lot of things that will be permissive for us to do just like the big five. But how do we fund it? And if we don't do it, what do our competitors do or not do?
"We want to be sure we're competitive, and that's where the unknown is and where those of us at the FCS level have concerns."
Blackburn said he and UTC chancellor Steve Angle will work together to discuss how to vote on the override process, and they will try to determine how smaller schools and leagues such as the Southern Conference can continue to survive in the shifting landscape that college athletics has become.
"I think they have paid some concerns to us," Blackburn said. "However, I don't think there's been any concern paid to how this will affect us monetarily. I don't think the decision makers care as much about how this affects us monetarily.
"I think they're more concerned with how do we take care of the big five [conferences] who bring in the high TV ratings and so forth."
Blackburn, who worked for many years at SEC powerhouse Tennessee, said he can see the issue from both sides, but the changes that come from this could have far-reaching concerns for smaller schools that don't have the resources to keep pace with the bigger schools.
"One of the best things I had heard was from [SEC commissioner Mike] Slive," Blackburn said. "He said, 'What you're seeing here is amateurism colliding with capitalism.'
"We're just anxious to see what happens with this override vote and just in practice what does all this mean. Specifically for us, what does this mean we can do, what we can't do and how much can we afford? All those questions become real now."
Contact Jim Tanner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6478.
Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...