SBD/December 12, 2013/Colleges

Leaders Say NCAA Reform Is Coming Soon, But What Or How Much Remains To Be Seen

Benson expects upcoming NCAA changes to governance to be more like tweaks
Everyone at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum yesterday "seemed to agree on a basic premise: NCAA change is coming, perhaps as soon as next summer," according to Greg Bishop of the N.Y. TIMES. However, the more everyone talked, "the less grand potential reforms seemed." Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said he expected changes would look more like "tweaks." This "seemed like a step back from the supposed impending 'historic moment' detailed by officials in recent months." Seismic, or even systemic, change "seemed less likely than a day before." Instead, "three takeaways emerged." First, the NCAA "will not pay players, will not consider paying players and will not entertain the notion of paying players." Second, reform would "probably not include a new NCAA division, but instead would grant more autonomy in making decisions to the universities in the five major conferences." Third, the NCAA, conference commissioners and officials from member universities "feel unfairly picked on, or inaccurately characterized." It was "hard ... to tell whether the power brokers considered the system broken." They said that "it needed reform" and that they would "defend it and its honor and what worked." The forum "lacked one important voice on this subject: the voice of the student-athlete, like those who wrote 'All Players United' on their gear this season" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/12). Get more conference updates from the '13 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum on our On The Ground blog, and follow the Twitter hashtag #sbjiaf.

CONFERENCE CALL: The AP's Rachel Cohen reported the five power conferences "want more flexibility in providing financial support to athletes." NCAA leaders are "exploring ways to alter their governing structure, which would allow the colleges that can afford it to pay for certain expenses currently prohibited." That includes "offering a stipend for the costs of attending school not covered by scholarships." Benson, whose conference lacks an automatic BCS bid, "supports greater autonomy for those five as long as there's proper oversight and believes a change will come, though it won't be very dramatic." Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany acknowledged that he and his counterparts "don't have many concessions to offer the other members to entice them to approve a change that clearly bolsters those five leagues." But Cohen noted the tribulations that have "recently roiled college sports may mean this time really is different." Delany insisted that from the "botched investigation of Miami to lawsuits seeking compensation for athletes, 'we got to a tipping point last year.'" While conference leaders "currently express support for staying in NCAA Division I, there's always the risk they could try to break away unless they gain more autonomy." Delany said, "If we can do that, I think we can stay together. If we can't do that, I think we have to honestly say, 'Hey, we not only have external threats, we have internal threats.' And the internal threats are that we can't find a way to use the NCAA as a town hall for us to solve our problems" (AP, 12/11).
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