Why College Conference's Push for Autonomy Is NCAA's Best Option Against Union

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterApril 1, 2014

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive talks with reporters during the SEC NCAA college basketball media day in Birmingham, Ala., Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Dave Martin

As the NCAA fights battles on multiple fronts, the wise move would be to give some ground in order to stop the process that may ultimately lead to the destruction of its empire. The power players, composed of the five biggest conferences, have opened the door for concessions to be made, but it is on the NCAA to open the valve and release the pressure.

CHICAGO IL - JANUARY 28:  Leo W. Gerard, President of the Steelworkers, (R) and Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter answer questions at a press conference on January 28 2014 at  The Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago Illinois. Citing what they deem as the NC
David Banks/Getty Images

The NCAA's long standing course of action has been to dig in its heels, fight against change and dare anyone to contest its policies. Unfortunately for those who believe in the ideals of amateurism and view the NCAA as a positive group, digging in against the courts is more difficult than battling college kids on free tattoos, loans from agents or free shoes.

While the organization battles concussions, the O'Bannon lawsuit and eyeballs the appeal in the Northwestern union case, budging on the small things should take center stage. Especially because those small things align with the union desires, conference desires and would help slow the steady trickle of criticism that is eroding the NCAA's foundation.

Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports obtained a document that highlighted a list of desires. Desires that include lifetime education, more health and nutritional benefits, clearing up red tape surrounding sports agents and redefining what constitutes a scholarship, among other things. Desires that are remarkably pro player, yet do not come from the player side of the equation.

No, the push is still coming from the major conferences. The ACC, SEC, Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten are behind this strongly athlete-sided list of desires. The goals mesh with the language conference commissioners have used dating back to the 2013 media-days cycle. Despite being generated from the top down, the policies blend well with the Mission and Goals of the National Collegiate Players Association and the College Athletes Players Association.

NCAA President Mark Emmert has recognized, at times, the need for changes in an evolving landscape. As his organization takes on water from multiple punctures to the system's hull, his efforts to give have been met with grand resistance from the same schools from which the power conferences are pushing to separate. 

The players are asking for it. The conferences are demanding it. Here is a chance for the NCAA to split the difference with its players, providing some relief, while appeasing the most powerful member institutions. In a time where saving face is a must for a group that has been dragged through the mud, action to shift would help relieve some of the pressure.

As smaller factions hold back the NCAA's bigger programs by working against progress under the guise of equity, the NCAA itself is showing weaknesses at the seams. Forcing the agenda through, working to concede ground, in order to save the entity, is a must, and it starts with showing, by agreeing with the conferences, that concessions can certainly be made.