NCAA votes to grant five ‘power’ conferences autonomy

Posted Aug. 07, 2014, at 3:48 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 07, 2014, at 10:01 p.m.

The NCAA approved a historic change Thursday to allow the 65 schools in the five power conferences to write many of their own rules.

The 16-2 vote by the Division I Board of Directors took place at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.

The autonomy measures ruling is subject to a 60-day veto period before the new structure is official.

The NCAA Board made one significant change to the proposal introduced last month. For legislation to be considered, only one of the five conferences is required to submit it — not three.

“I am immensely proud of the work done by the membership,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “The new governance model represents a compromise on all sides that will better serve our members and, most importantly, our student-athletes. These changes will help all our schools better support the young people who come to college to play sports while earning a degree.”

The five power leagues — the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 — could begin submitting their own legislation by Oct. 1 and have it enacted at the January 2015 NCAA convention in Washington, D.C.

According to ESPN.com, key early issues are expected to include full cost-of-attendance stipends worth up to $5,000 per player; four-year scholarship guarantees; loosened rules involving contact between players and agents, as well as outside career pursuits for players; and travel allowances for players’ families to attend postseason games.

ESPN reported a new 80-member voting panel, which will include 15 current players, will determine policies for the five leagues. Areas that will not fall under the autonomy umbrella include postseason tournaments, transfer policies, scholarship limits, signing day and rules governing on-field play.

University of Maine women’s basketball coach Richard Barron, who was an assistant coach at ACC school North Carolina State and Big-12 member Baylor, said he is “neutral” about the changes.

“It remains to be seen [how it will all play out],” said Barron. “If they’re allowed to pay their players a $5,000 stipend [in addition to their athletic scholarships], it’s not that big of a deal. You tend to struggle recruiting against those schools anyway. It may make a bit of a difference but not a huge one.

“There isn’t much financial equity between the schools in those five conferences and the rest of the schools,” he pointed out. “Those schools earn huge amounts of revenue.”

He feels the NCAA may be trying to keep the five conferences under the NCAA umbrella “rather than having them separate.

“There is also the possibility that football will do its own thing. Football is driving this,” said Barron. “I grew up in Florida and Tennessee and at [the University of Tennessee’s] Neyland Stadium, they would get 103,000 to a game. That made it the fourth largest city in Tennessee on game day.”

But he said there are a lot of questions to be asked.

“It will be interesting to see how Title IX impacts some of those decisions,” said Barron, referring to the federally-mandated law that requires financial equality and participatory opportunities for women’s and men’s athletic programs at an institution.

“If male athletes receive a $5,000 stipend, will female athletes also earn a $5,000 stipend? ” posed Barron.

He said another benefit for the schools at the five major conferences could be an expansion of their rosters, which would make it more difficult for schools in the other leagues to compete.

That could impact schools such as Maine because the pool of players to choose from would be smaller.

Barron said the changes could impact scheduling and the men’s basketball tournament if the five power conferences begin distancing themselves from everybody else.

They may not schedule as many games against mid-major schools in the future and that could lead to more conference regionalization for the teams that aren’t in the five major conferences.

BDN Reporter Larry Mahoney contributed to this report.

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