SBD/January 15, 2014/Colleges

NCAA Debating New Structure Providing More Autonomy To Power Conferences

Emmert believes the idea of giving athletes a stipend has grown less controversial
As the NCAA holds its annual convention this week, its members are "moving toward significant change that would give more power to the wealthiest, highest-profile schools but would keep the organization intact," according to George Schroeder of USA TODAY. Schools in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC are "set to gain more autonomy to provide more benefits to athletes, including a stipend, and to use their resources as they see fit." The net effect would be to "formalize the gap between the NCAA's haves and have-nots and to eliminate the 'level playing field' as an ideal." A 14-page proposal "with a broad outline for change at the Division I level is to be debated this week." Nothing is "expected to be finalized, but it's likely that by next fall, the NCAA will operate with a new structure." The proposal also attempts to "streamline the organization." There has been a "growing sense among NCAA members of a disconnect, especially as it pertained" to policy-makers versus ADs "working daily in college athletics." A separate subdivision "is not in the proposal to be considered this week, and appears unlikely." Although football is "driving much of the change, there's no apparent desire for changes that would harm the NCAA basketball tournament." But the "possibility remains, if only as leverage." The proposal under consideration this week "limits the power conferences' autonomy to specific issues, including stipends and other things labeled as 'student-athlete welfare.'" In order to "implement changes by the summer, a special convention might be necessary in the spring" (USA TODAY, 1/15). ACC Commissioner John Swofford said he is "encouraged by the discussions that have been going on." While he doubted there will be any "definitive decisions made this week," the expectation is during the "calendar year of 2014 we may see significant change in the organization itself from a structure standpoint." Swofford noted there is "potential for significant change that would be very positive in terms of the future of the NCAA and how it effects the major conferences going forward" ("The David Glenn Show," WCMC-FM, 1/14).

WE'VE GOT YOU COVERED: NCAA President Mark Emmert on Monday said that there "is a 'reasonable chance' the five power conferences in college football will be able to offer athletes the full cost of attendance after being granted autonomy to do so sometime after the upcoming NCAA convention." Emmert said that he "senses that providing a stipend to student-athletes seems 'less controversial' and 'less threatening' than it did in the past year." ESPN.com's Joe Schad noted in order to "decide if schools with the resources should be able to pass rules that would allow for autonomy for the power conferences, the NCAA board, consisting of 17 school presidents, will listen to debate and discussion that could lead to the autonomy being granted." In this scenario, those schools "would be permitted, for example, to grant athletes the full cost of attendance and possibly pass rules in other areas such as agent regulation." It would "not preclude other conferences from also deciding to do so" (ESPN.com, 1/13).
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