The five biggest conferences in college football have just grown even more powerful, as the Division I board of directors has given those conferences the autonomous right to craft their own rules on several key student-athlete issues in college sports.
The final vote on Thursday was 16-2 in favor of the new changes. Michelle Brutlag Hosick of NCAA.org has more on the proposal itself:
The final model expands the Division I Board of Directors to include not only more presidents, but also a student-athlete, faculty representative, athletics director and female administrator.
A new body known as the Council will be responsible for day-to-day operations of the division and include more voices: two seats for student-athletes, two for faculty and four for commissioners.
The new model also grants flexibility to schools in the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences to change rules for themselves in a list of specific areas within Division I. The legislative process for these 65 schools, which could begin as early as Oct. 1, includes three student-athlete representatives from each conference who will vote on rule changes within those conferences.
Per the report, NCAA President Mark Emmert praised the decision:
I am immensely proud of the work done by the membership. 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 nuts and bolts of the new proposal come in the form of autonomy for the five major conferences and the new Council that has been established. The NCAA on Twitter passed along a graphic showing how the new voting system would work:
Schools in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC will have flexibility to make decisions within DI. pic.twitter.com/Nsc2qdib44— NCAA (@NCAA) August 7, 2014
Some NCAA rules would fall outside the realm of autonomy, which would be governed and voted on by the Council. Here's a graphic from NCAA on Twitter showing the members who would comprise this Council:
The new DI Council will include student-athletes, conference commissioners and faculty. pic.twitter.com/XN2notFWRu— NCAA (@NCAA) August 7, 2014
It would appear that most of the issues the major conferences would have autonomy on would deal directly with student-athlete rights, from attendance stipends to the value of scholarships to medical expenses and even a student-athlete's rights when it comes to contacting agents.
Without question, one of the biggest issues surrounding the NCAA today is the rights of student-athletes, specifically as they relate to the question of whether college athletes should be paid. The issue came to a head in March, when the National Labor Relations Board's regional director in Chicago determined that members of the Northwestern football team were employees, not amateurs, and could form a union.
With the NCAA opposing the end to what it has termed amateurism, however, the new rules and two seats on the Council could be seen as an olive branch to student-athletes. And along the way, they also offer the major five conferences a new degree of power and independence they have never been afforded in NCAA history.
Ralph D. Russo of The Associated Press put into context exactly what all of these changes could mean going forward:
On one hand, autonomy gives the Big 5 a weapon to fight back challenges to a system of amateurism seen as explorative by it opponents.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) August 7, 2014
Autonomy gives the Big 5 the opportunity to preserve the collegiate model they so dearly want to protect.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) August 7, 2014
Other hand, autonomy protects system creating HUGE revenue, mostly for Big 5, and making college sports appear anything but collegial.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) August 7, 2014
The proposal must still pass through a 60-day comment period, however. If 75 universities protest, the board will reconsider the decision, while the protest of 125 universities will suspend the proposal barring reconsideration.