Sweeping reform to the NCAA model has seemed inevitable, to some, this offseason, and the university presidents in the Pac-12 may have just expedited its timeline.
According to a report by the Associated Press, those 12 presidents sent a joint letter to their counterparts in the other four power conferences—the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC—proposing they support a number of radical changes, chief among them a bid for autonomy from the NCAA.
Here are some of the changes the Pac-12 presidents asked for, per AP writer Antonio Gonzalez:
— Permit institutions to make scholarship awards up to the full cost of attendance.
— Provide reasonable ongoing medical or insurance assistance for student-athletes who suffer an incapacitating injury in competition or practice. Continue efforts to reduce the incidence of disabling injury.
— Guarantee scholarships for enough time to complete a bachelor's degree, provided that the student remains in good academic standing.
— Similarly decrease time demands out of season by reducing out-of-season competition and practices, and by considering shorter seasons in specific sports.
— Address the "one and done" phenomenon in men's basketball. If the NBA and its Players Association are unable to agree to raising the age limit for players, consider restoring the freshman ineligibility rule in men's basketball.
— Provide student-athletes a meaningful role in governance at the conference and NCAA levels.
— Adjust existing restrictions so that student-athletes preparing for the next stage of their careers are not unnecessarily deprived of the advice and counsel of agents and other competent professionals, but without professionalizing intercollegiate athletics.
— Liberalize the current rules limiting the ability of student-athletes to transfer between institutions.
"We acknowledge the core objectives could prove to be expensive and controversial, but the risks of inaction or moving too slowly are far greater," reads the presidents' letter, per the report. "The time for tinkering with the rules and making small adjustments is over."
The Pac-12 presidents might have a point.
Especially with the situation at Northwestern, where former quarterback Kain Colter has helped earn the players the right to unionize—if they so choose—by proving them employees of the university. The walls of the old NCAA model seem destined to break.
Jerry Hinnen of CBS Sports drew a smart comparison between the points listed above and the points of the College Athletes Players Association, the organization Colter helped found:
In addition to supporting the five major conferences' bid for autonomy within the NCAA's governance structure, the letter outlines 10 proposed changes to the current NCAA model, many of them similar to those supported by the College Athletes Player Association. The AP reports the letter was "spurred in part" by the move by former and current Northwestern football players to unionize under the CAPA banner.
Reports of this letter, which was delivered last week, came on the heels of another potentially meaningful development. According to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today, two United States Congressmen sent a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert, asking him to answer more than two dozen questions about the practices of his organization.
To say this issue is coming to a head is putting it lightly.
If nothing is done soon—and "something," in this case, does not include unlimited pasta—the rabbles for reform could cast a pall over the upcoming college football season. In a year where the NCAA finally caved to public sentiment, abandoned the BCS and instituted the College Football Playoff, that would be both ironic and disappointing.
Then again, there are legitimate reasons to be wary of the Pac-12 presidents' proposal. Supporting the full cost of attendance for scholarships would give bigger, richer schools an unfair advantage (even more than they currently enjoy) in recruiting and likely lead to a breakdown of the current NCAA structure.
The power conferences might, in theory, have to become the new Division I, with the other five current FBS leagues, and all of their teams, being left behind. That is the road this letter goes down, and though unlikely to take effect in the immediate future, it remains to be seen how the other four conferences and the NCAA respond.
According to the report, the Pac-12 presidents requested a response from their colleagues by June 4 at the latest.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT