SBD/July 21, 2014/Colleges

ACC's John Swofford Confident In Autonomy Vote, In Favor Of Four-Year Scholarships

Swofford pointed to scholarships and full cost of attendance as priorities
ACC Commissioner John Swofford is "hopeful" a proposal for autonomy among the five power conferences that will "strengthen the league's voting power in NCAA matters will be adopted Aug. 7," according to Sammy Batten of the FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER. Swofford said, "I find the steering committee's report very encouraging, and it is my hope that it will be adopted by the full board in August so that implementation of the new structure and procedures can begin this fall. It largely gives the power five conferences what we have been asking for and keeps the current revenue sharing approach and the NCAA basketball tournament intact, thus keeping us all under what we call the big tent of the NCAA." Batten notes the proposed plan would give the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC the "ability to have 'autonomy' on legislation impacting financial aid and full cost of athletic scholarships for athletes, insurance policies that would protect future earnings for student-athletes and academic support for at-risk athletes among other things." Swofford said that the ACC's "priorities, if the new plan is implemented, would start with financial aid and the full cost of scholarship issues." Swofford: "I think the first thing on the docket, and appropriately so, will be the scholarship itself, and is that full cost of attendance. You know, conceptually I think that is something we support as a league. But there are some different ways to look at full cost of attendance. Some of our schools have an interest in a need factor being a part of that formula in terms of full cost of attendance. Others maybe aren't as strong in terms of the need factor" (FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER, 7/21). Meanwhile, Big XII Commissioner Bob Bowlsby this morning said that he is "optimistic that by this time next year, the five 'high visibility conferences' will have the autonomy it wants to institute its own rules." Bowlsby: "The scholarship is going to change, and I think that's great. In the end, it's a somewhat zero-sum game. There's only so much money out there. I don't think coaches and athletic directors are going to take pay cuts. That train has left the station" (USATODAY.com, 7/21).

SCHOLARLY THINKING: Swofford said that the ACC would "be in favor of granting four-year scholarships, and believes the other Power Five conferences would be on board with that as well." He said, "There's going to be a lot of work to be done if this passes, in order to start the ball rolling and determine how we are going to function" (ESPN.com, 7/20). Swofford said of the restructured model, “I don’t think it has to weaken the NCAA. I think it strengthens the five conferences. But I think we have a responsibility, as five conferences, to take that autonomy and do the right things. I think we’ve found a way to address the issues that are most specific to the five conferences, while at the same time not damaging the rest of Division 1. Hopefully, that’s where we’ve landed" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/21). Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said that increasing scholarships among Power Five schools "isn't being considered and isn't a topic for autonomy." Delany: "I think the numbers are where they ought to be. That's not why we went down this road. That has a direct bearing on competitive balance." Delany added that he "thinks the reason other leagues have brought up the topic of scholarship limits is that 'it's a concern they've always had,' and 'they're just re-emphasizing how important that is to them.'" He added, "We never asked for autonomy over scholarships; there's no assertion. We did ask for a provision that allows us to move things from shared governance into autonomy, and so we have a list of things that are in the autonomy of jurisdiction" (USA TODAY, 7/21).

PICKING ON THE LITTLE GUY? ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy noted commissioners from the non-Power Five conferences "vehemently disagreed" with SMU football coach June Jones' "suggestion that those leagues should play in the spring to avoid going head-to-head with the bigger conferences." American Athletic Commissioner Mike Aresco, Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson and MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said that they "have 'no interest' nor do they even expect to consider moving from the fall to the spring." Aresco: "We have no interest in doing that and have no plans to discuss or look into it. Our position is clear. We are an integral part of the fabric of FBS college football." Steinbrecher added, "I have not reviewed this concept with our membership but I cannot imagine we would support such a concept" (ESPN.com, 7/20).
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