The tangible impact of the landmark change by the NCAA to allow the 65 schools in the five power conferences to write many of their own rules will not be felt for some time, but the strong reaction that continues to flow in paints a clear picture of how divisive the issue continues to be.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby was unapologetic Friday as the Power 5 start to move ahead after being granted more control than mid-major and smaller conferences.
The NCAA Division I board of directors on Thursday voted 16-2 in favor of the change.
“I think the only message is that our student-athletes and our programs are largely the face of what America knows as college athletics,” Bowlsby told ESPN on Friday. “We win more than 90 percent of the NCAA championships every year.
“I think this [vote] recognizes that there are some differences, and programs at our level have some unique challenges, have some relationships with student-athletes that are evolving. We need to have rules that respond to that evolution and those changes. I think it’s an acknowledgment that some of us have challenges that are unique. It’s because of those challenges that we felt like we needed an opportunity to control a little more of our destiny.”
The autonomy measures will allow the top 64 schools in the five leagues — ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 — plus Notre Dame to decide on things such as cost-of-attendance stipends and insurance benefits for players, staff sizes, recruiting rules and mandatory hours spent on individual sports.
That legislation must be submitted by Oct. 1 to have it enacted at the January 2015 NCAA convention in Washington, D.C.
The smaller conferences understandably are not pleased with the ruling.
Tom Yeager, the commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Conference, said on ESPN Radio that the CAA was one of those that opposed autonomy for the Power 5.
“I think the current system can address a lot of the present problems,” Yeager said Thursday night. “Our presidents were really entrenched in that, coupled with the feeling also that the autonomy is not going to solve all the issues coming out. So it was more on a philosophical plane, on the absolute commitment to continue to work together to find solutions — but that we didn’t need a complete overhaul of the system to do that, we believe.
“We’ll see how it all plays out. It’s a little bit of, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Because you’re not going to be in a position now as blaming the woes or whatever is inhibiting you from doing whatever you want with all your money. You can’t blame it on us anymore. We’re not even in the room.”
Chris Petersen, the former Boise State coach now at Washington, doesn’t think teams from the power conferences should schedule teams such as the Broncos.
In an informal poll conducted by ESPN.com, Petersen voted “yes” when asked if “Power 5” teams should only play other teams from Power 5 or higher-resource conferences.
Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen, who previously coached at Utah State, voted no in the poll.
“Where do teams like Utah State go to get a big game?” Andersen told ESPN.com.
Thirty of the 65 Power 5 coaches voted in favor of playing only amongst themselves, including Alabama’s Nick Saban, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Oregon’s Mark Helfrich. Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, whose team plays Navy every season and who coached at Central Michigan and Cincinnati before Notre Dame, voted no as did TCU coach Gary Patterson, whose Horned Frogs were in the Mountain West before moving to the Big 12. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who coached at Bowling Green and Utah when it was a member of the Mountain West, also voted no.
Boise State is scheduled to play Petersen and Washington at Albertsons Stadium to open the 2015 season. The Broncos have future games scheduled against Power 5 teams Virginia, Florida State, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Washington State.