The future of the NCAA is cloudy, and the spectrum ranges from dead to overhauled to who knows in the coming days.
There is no shortage of issues at hand -- pay for players, rules enforcement, the rising cost of attendance and the escalating salaries of coaches and profits of major college programs -- and the NCAA has handled these hurdles with the dexterity of the Titanic.
The one thing we all seem to believe to be certain is that change is coming. What format that change assumes is unknown.
Friday morning the Northwestern football players voted whether to form a union. The votes will be stored until the school's appeals are heard.
Whatever you think about unions is up to you, but we believe if one of the Northwestern players asked our opinion, we'd tell him to vote no for the following reasons:
1) This issue will not be decided for months or maybe even years, and a lot of these guys would be making decisions for other players not knowing what the future situations may hold. And a big reason we are in this mess is because we had way too many NCAA bigwigs making way too many decisions on behalf of others.
2) Once you invite a union in, it is difficult to go back, and considering the unknowns of the moment and the possible reform on the horizon, if you are going to err, the error on the no vote is far less permanent.
If the appeals are denied, the outcome of the union vote is crucial, even though it affects only Northwestern at the moment and private schools in general. Unionization -- especially partial participation that could vary by sports and between public and private schools -- would alter everything. The new prospective divide would only add to the inequities and uneasiness. And the unknown.
So with the unknowns outnumbering the certainties in college sports, we are forced to believe in the NCAA's ability to adjust and adapt. That's a stretch of any imagination and a cause of great consternation among everyone who loves college athletics.
The NCAA's crossroad is matched in length only by the long line of critics that have turned the NCAA into the pinata across all sports.
And we're not sure how to react after the NCAA actually made a forward-thinking gesture by suggesting the power five conferences having more autonomy -- hello, full cost of attendance.
Whether you believe in "paying players" or not -- and I forever have been against it because players are paid with scholarships and the opportunities and advantages that come with them -- the NCAA had to allow the big five more chances to address concerns that pertain to them or risk the big five leaving on their own.
Without the chance to self-implement rules that apply to the big-boy conferences, the five power leagues surely would look at other options that include breaking away from the NCAA entirely.
And even with as many missteps as they have made, we have to believe the NCAA is fully aware that without the big five, the NCAA's future looks even bleaker.