CHICAGO – You could interpret Norwood Teague’s message two different ways.
Depending on your perspective, the Minnesota athletic director was either reassuring or dismissive about the potential re-shaping of college sports.
“All of us are a little concerned about that,” Teague said Tuesday during the Big Ten Conference’s annual spring meetings, “but I hope (the future) will be very similar to what it is now.”
Teague was among five athletic directors who met with reporters to discuss issues such as big-school autonomy and the possibility of unionization.
He was asked what college football might look like in five years.
“I think there will be small changes,” Teague said. “In terms of on the field and a lot of things that are great about it, I don’t see a lot of it changing.”
On one hand, that’s easy for him to say.
The Gophers belong to the Big Ten, and are among the schools expected to earn $44.5 million annually by 2017-18, thanks to television revenues.
And the Big Ten is among the five power conferences expecting to gain more influence and autonomy under a new NCAA governance structure.
Smaller schools are less than thrilled by this concept.
“I understand there is fear on their side,” said Teague, who spent six years as athletic director for Virginia Commonwealth. “And I understand there is concern for change. But in the end, I don’t think it’s going to be as much of a negative change as some of them fear.
“I really don’t.”
Of course, there are key matters to be hashed out:
— How much will the gap between BCS and non-BCS schools grow?
— Where do non-revenue sports fit into all this?
— And, what if athletes are allowed to form a union?
“It’s discussed to a degree,” Teague said of unionization, “but some of it seems to be out of our hands, at least for a certain amount of time.
“We follow it, are concerned about it and want it to work out.”
Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst talked about moving forward, regardless of how things play out in the courts.
“I think we’ve got to get to a place that makes sense for our students,” Eichorst said. “And not be so conflicted about the paranoia of competition.
“Because there is not a level playing field, and we’ve tried to legislate that for years and it’s created, I think, more divides in certain areas.”
What about the consequences?
“Are there going to be implications to things that we tweak? There’s no doubt,” Eichorst said. “But I hope at the end of the day, we’re not conflicted by making some bold moves to get there, by being afraid of what’s behind the door.
“I think folks are going into this with their eyes wide open.”
Some on the other side of this power shift may be wincing.
“You lose control, and you get nervous,” Teague said, “but in the end, I think it will all work out for the best.”