Momentum has been building, and for the structure of the NCAA, it seems there is finally enough steam to produce positive change for the organization and some of its most influential members.
Evidence that major advancements could be in the works surfaced in January, when the NCAA released information on the movement. Now, as ESPN's Heather Dinich reports, the shift toward more freedom is closer to a reality.
Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch spoke with Dinich about the what the future may hold:
Membership can vote it down, but this has been a huge process. ... The board last fall had a whole day of hearings. We've talked to coaches, students, athletic directors, big schools, small schools, the Knight Commission, faculty-athletic representatives, and I think we can craft a compromise that makes the board more nimble, more strategic, in some ways more like a confederation that allows big schools certain ways to expend some of their new revenue on behalf of student-athletes.
This underscores a marked diversion from 2011, when SI.com's Andy Staples detailed how the smaller schools voted down the full-cost measure. Almost three years ago, the issue was at an impasse as the smaller schools feared the big boys gaining another, clear recruiting advantage in the form of the $2,000 stipend.
Now, just as the January straw poll reported by Stewart Mandel of SI.com pointed out, the tides are turning in favor of the big boys.
Perhaps it was the tough talk of SEC and Big Ten commissioners Mike Slive and Jim Delany over the summer. Or it could have been the trickle-down of College Football Playoff money. Or, maybe, the real threat of the Big Five conferences leaving the rest in a lurch is what did the trick.
Whatever was the cause, the member institutions are now closer to operating in accord. That is a plus for collegiate athletics, at every level.
While some may argue that the elite teams will gain an advantage, the fact is those same schools already control the money and attract the most skilled athletes. Providing the large power brokers with autonomy would only mirror the current reality of the situation—thus not making anything worse for the schools already struggling to afford the increased expense.
Meanwhile, on the other side, it would allow schools a means to provide some much-needed relief to student-athletes. It could also mean some of the other major plans, such as Delany's lifetime education, could become realities for those schools capable of committing the funds.
The swing in ideals can only bode well for the NCAA, which has been hoping the full-cost solution would pass since 2011.
Regardless of the impetus behind the changing minds, the 58 percent in favor of autonomy are to be commended for recognizing that steps must be taken to create a cultivating environment for all members—not just legislate to the minimum and force bigger programs to comply.