I agree about competition vs participation. In many sports, trying to compete out of your weight class is going to end in disappointment. We can try to level the field by crushing the strongest down to the level of the weakest and anyone can win, or we can break up the participants into classes that are level within them, so the competition within a class is fair. We already have separate classes for men & women for the obvious physical disparity, so why not also by restricted or unrestricted team membership, or by level of seriousness, if those are barriers to overall competitiveness?
The aspects of buggy that keep us interested years later are the ones that only show up in unlimited competition - a stock race is more fair, appealing to a wider pool, and more competitive, but doesn't inspire the level of craziness that buggy does. So we need both a "low barrier to entry, fair" competition while keeping the athletic & technical challenge that buggy currently has at the top level.
The women's field has always been unrestricted - except for the couple of sororities that entered and were handicapped by the restrictions. But still the talent isn't uniformly distributed. So I doubt that unrestricting the men's field will level the talent imbalance much in reality. But the _perception_ that "we can now compete as a small house" may be more important than the reality of "we probably aren't going to recruit pushers hugely more athletic than our brothers." If PiKA and SigEp want to keep restricting themselves to their own brothers and still compete, then more power to them.
Before the university started cracking down on Greeks, the big fraternities could count on having 5 brothers more athletic than 95% of the CMU population. So the bigger recruiting pool available to independents helps them find participants, but not necessarily to compete overall. Witness CIA's big-but-rarely-fast-enough-to-make-finals decade of the 2000's.
The Greeks point to the independents' activities fee funding, the independents point to the Greeks' access to pledges and a pre-existing team bond. They all matter, and we'll never agree on exactly how much. At this point, except for SDC, the big independents are mostly funded by their alumni & student's pockets. Because they're big, they have a lot of alumni, so it keeps perpetuating, same as it did for the large houses.
Big teams heavily benefit from economy of scale - the incremental cost & effort involved in going from a 0 to a 1 buggy team is huge, but going from 3 to 4 is small. Having gone through that entire progression, I think the only way for a small team to overcome its overhead is to get a helping hand from a bigger team, or put in exceptional effort. If you break up a big team, you're left with two struggling teams.
It has always been possible to set up an independent shell around a Greek team, but nobody's tried until Pika/Fish. Will they continue, or go back to being PiKA? It's always been possible for a push team worth of Greeks to join an independent & push together, but I don't think anybody has done that since SigEp in they year before starting their own program.
If cash is the main barrier to entry for a new team, that's a solvable problem - there are plenty of decent buggies pushed into retirement by the teams with build-every-year production lines, and there's activities fee funds available to every team, maybe they can make a case for a startup grant from the BAA. We can shower money on the Greeks or anyone else, we can offer handbook of all buggy knowledge, but those don't help get people out of bed on the half-dozen weekend mornings to qualify a driver, so I think the ultimate stumbling block is the initial commitment required.
The chores need to be done with or without a new team, so the existing teams can either cut the new team a break for their first year and hope they pull their weight the next year, or insist on the new team doing their share from the start and thus help ensure the new team won't return. Any new entrant needs to experience the fun part of buggy and get hooked before they realize all the unpleasant parts.
The economy of scale and basic buggy competence of large, established, teams is why I think they're the most effective option for providing buggies for the minor league. Arguably, this is the avenue for Greek minor teams to get to use the fraction of an independent buggy that they've paid for via activities fee. The major teams will be doing their chores and freerolls because they need to for the main competition. Their D buggy exists already and needs to be present for its main races, so there's little additional cost to using it again in a minor race - there's only the risk of crashing & breaking it the minor race. So either the "rental fee" just needs to cover that risk, or sweepstakes has a fund to reasonably compensate teams for damage in a minor race - odds are pretty low that they'll have to pay out.
Most decent buggies freeroll within a second of each other, so are already close to equal. Ballast and stock wheels would level them even further, so the minor event becomes entirely a push competition. A no-practice event would be farcical, but completely fair and give non-buggy people a taste of buggy with the least possible effort. Practice would of course be better, and the major teams have enough freeroll days when they are short on manpower that they'd probably welcome any minor-league pushers (and the chance to watch and recruit the good ones). Push practice would be more congested though.
It's a legitimate worry that some single-buggy teams would move down to the minors. But if the minor league is well-populated, there's the chance that more minor teams will want to move up than major teams move down. If the minor league grows into the main event then the "borrow a buggy from a major team" plan will no longer work, but we'll have a much bigger buggy community to figure out how to deal with it.
As an experiment, can we talk 3 teams into providing a buggy each for "competetive exhibitions"? If the buggies are equal, they can run multiple times with different push teams if needed.
If we can't find at least a handful of fraternities & clubs to enter a "no-barrier-to-entry" introductory event, will we ever find any to step up to the effort involved in a full program?