SBD/August 8, 2014/Colleges

As NCAA BOD Approves Autonomy For Power Five Conferences, Questions Over Equity Loom

The NCAA D-I BOD on Thursday voted by a 16-2 margin to grant the Power Five conferences "more freedom to pass legislation without approval of the full NCAA membership," according to Chris Dufresne of the L.A. TIMES. The vote, which was held at NCAA HQ in Indianapolis and is subjected to a 60-day veto period, "grants the Power Five twice as much voting power (37.5%) on one of the NCAA's newly created councils." The five remaining major football conferences "will have 18.5%, while subdivision football and non-football schools will share 37.5%." Athletes and faculty members "would have the remaining share." Pepperdine AD Steve Potts: "Those in our situation were like, 'OK, let's get on with it''' (L.A. TIMES, 8/8). NCAA.org's Michelle Brutlag Hosick noted the new model expands the D-I BOD, which will now be 24 members, to "include not only more presidents, but also a student-athlete, faculty representative, athletics director and female administrator." A new eight-member 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" (NCAA.org, 8/7).



DECISION DETAILS: In Chicago, Seth Gruen notes the Council "has voting power over new proposals" and will "vote every April on whether to pass rules." The Council is subject to a 60-day period during which the 75 non-power conference schools can veto the Council's decisions. College Athletes Players Association President Ramogi Huma: "It’s uncertain whether or not this structure will be any more effective than the current structure in terms of getting legislation passed that will provide any meaningful protection for the players. Time will tell whether this is a step in the right direction" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/8). In N.Y., Marc Tracy writes the "first step toward an aristocracy in college sports was codified Thursday." Observers "appear to be divided over whether the new model represents incremental reform designed to thwart more drastic change that could be brought on by the courts or Congress. D-I BOD members "described the atmosphere at Thursday’s meeting as deliberate and polite." Univ. of South Carolina President Harris Pastides: "There was friction, but it was positive" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/8). USA TODAY's Dan Wolken notes the BOD "made one significant change to the proposal introduced last month: For legislation to be considered, only one of the five conferences is required to submit it, not three." That "aligns with the current" D-I legislative process. The new governance model essentially "shifts much of the day-to-day operation of Division I from the presidential level to the practitioners, with significant input" from ADs (USA TODAY, 8/8).

THE COST-OF-ATTENDANCE ISSUE: The L.A. TIMES' Dufresne notes Thursday's vote immediately "allows the Power Five to move forward on legislation to offer 'full cost of attendance' to athletes." Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott anticipates that stipends at his schools "will annually range from $2,000 to $5,000 per student." The amount "will be paid over the course of the nine-month academic calendar and will vary as each school calculates its full cost in accordance with federal guidelines." Scott: "If it's different on each campus, so what? The value of your tuition is different on each campus." He expects that the full-cost measure "will be approved at January's NCAA Convention" in time for the '15 football season (L.A. TIMES, 8/8). Pastides expects that the first agenda item the BOD will tackle "would be providing" the full cost of attendance measure. USA TODAY's Wolken notes discussions about how to calculate the full cost of attendance "are still in the relatively early stages." Pastides: "That's not going to be an easy issue, but I'm confident that's the first thing we'll undertake." (USA TODAY, 8/8). The AP reported a handful of university presidents who spoke at NCAA HQ after the vote "agreed on one thing: Paying athletes to play is off the table." It also is "very unlikely that the five leagues will design their own policies when it comes to academics and rules infractions." But there is a "good chance the five leagues will take steps to add money to scholarships or craft an athlete stipend intended to help cover the so-called full cost of attending college" (AP, 8/7). Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby was asked how the ruling affects the discussion surrounding paying student-athletes and responded, "It certainly doesn't make that discussion go away, but I think it mitigates it somewhat. The opportunity to finish college debt free, to have a more robust scholarship that permits some expenditures outside of room, board, books, tuition and fees I think is all together appropriate" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/8).

STIPEND STIPULATIONS: In Baltimore, Matt Zenitz writes student athletes "likely will be the primary beneficiaries" of Thursday's rulings. The Power Five conferences "are expected to find ways to provide more money to athletes, either through bigger scholarships or stipends to better help cover the cost of college living" (Baltimore SUN, 8/8). In Hartford, Jeff Otterbein reports "various estimates" of the cost-of-attendance stipend generally put it between $2,000-3,000 annually (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/8). Ohio State AD Gene Smith said that at his school, the stipend would cost "about an extra $3,600 for full-ride scholarships." Across the country, the numbers "differ, and Smith said he hopes the group of 65 is strong enough to allow each school to use its own cost of attendance number and be able to say 'so what?' if some schools are higher than others." He added that OSU "has already budgeted" another $1.65M a year to cover cost of attendance (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/8). In Akron, George Thomas writes it is a problem that "not everyone’s cost-of-attendance number is the same." Akron AD Tom Wistrcill: "The gaps in those could be drastic. That’s the unintended part that I don’t think enough people are talking about" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/8).

DISSENSION WITHIN THE RANKS: In Salt Lake City, Kyle Goon reports U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) "had questions about the NCAA’s Thursday action, warning that a congressional review may be warranted." Hatch: "I am concerned that today’s action could create an uneven playing field that may prevent some institutions from being able to compete fairly with other schools that have superior resources to pay for student-athletes" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 8/8). Drexel AD Eric Zillmer hopes that schools override Thursday's vote, "as Drexel plans to do." Zillmber believes that the Power Five "are grabbing fistfuls of more power by hiding behind what Zillmer calls 'their version of enhancing student welfare.'" Zillmer said of the future outlined by Thursday's vote, "If this was a chemistry experiment, I think it would be an unstable series of events that would not last" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/8). D-I BOD member and Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon, who voted against the measure, in an e-mail after the vote wrote the new structure threatens to "further escalate the arms race in college sports." He added, "The proposed governance changes move in the direction of even greater spending and revenue growth in intercollegiate athletics and even greater disparity between the conferences" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/8). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, “Welcome to ‘Animal Farm.’ George Orwell told us, ‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.’ That's what the NCAA has just ruled" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/7).

GIVING THEIR TWO CENTS: In DC, Kent Babb writes Thursday's vote "puts an effective end to the suggestion that all 351 Division I programs operate on a level playing field" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/8). The AP wrote it "is certainly a dramatic new start for an organization that has come under increasing criticism" (AP, 8/7). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sharon Terlep writes the new system "would make official what has long been true: Universities with big-budget sports programs are in a different echelon than the nation's other schools" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/8). The AKRON BEACON JOURNAL's Thomas asks is this a "bold new world or just evolution?" The fact remains that all of college athletics "has begun a process that puts their future in the hands of a few" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/8). In Austin, Brian Davis writes the vote represented a "monumental moment in college sports" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 8/8). In Raleigh, Luke DeCock writes a little more money "is going to slip through the hands of administrators and bowl execs and down to the athletes who actually generate the income." The "great monolith of the NCAA has held back change for too long," and the "dam is breaking." DeCock: "Not today, not tomorrow, but the cracking and crumbling has begun" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 8/8). The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan said of the NCAA, "As we knew it, it's over. ... We started in 1977 with the CFA, the breakaway, the forerunner of the BCS. Now we've gone full cycle. It's a whole new ball game" ("PTI," ESPN, 8/7).

Some execs think the stipends will cost around $2,000-3,000 annually
OPINIONS ABOUND
: In Dallas, Chuck Carlton writes the Power Five basically "get most everything they wanted, enough to put on hold a breakaway from their Division I brethren or the NCAA as a whole." Now that the Power Five "have postured and threatened to form their own division, they must avoid overreach and deliver on promises" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/8). In N.Y., Juliet Macur writes the Power Five "will rule college sports." Other programs, "unable to keep up, would face the choice of dropping down a division or eradicating nonrevenue sports to go all in on football and basketball" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/8). ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel wrote autonomy "will come with its own set of issues." Because the wealthiest schools "are free to act upon their own interests, the rich will likely get richer." Still, it also is a "good bet that student-athletes will receive more benefits." That, "at the end of the day, is the point" (ESPN.com, 8/7). In Austin, Cedric Golden writes the ruling "basically adds up to the big dogs building a huge castle -- complete with a state-of-the-art moat -- to freely go about the business of stacking their millions free from the prying eyes of the undesirables." The undesirables, "formerly known as the nonautomatic qualifying conferences, were given a lesson in the NCAA’s pecking order." It is an "exclusive club that’s not very interested in opening its doors to others" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 8/8).

WINNERS & LOSERS: In K.C., Blair Kerkhoff writes non-power conferences will undoubtedly "feel the pinch and must search for even more sources of revenue." Kerkhoff: "The rich aren't getting richer. They already are" (K.C. STAR, 8/8). In Birmingham, Kevin Scarbinsky writes autonomy "isn't going to create an uneven playing field," but rather "going to acknowledge it and embrace it" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 8/8). In Austin, Kirk Bohls writes, "Big boys 1, Little boys 0." Still, athletes "are the real winners" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 8/8). In Cleveland, Doug Lesmerises writes Thursday's vote created "two realities." One is that the "push for athletes rights has gained momentum." The other is that the Power Five "can handle most of this." Not every smaller school "has the money to act on these things" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/8). SI.com's Pete Thamel wrote while college sports "probably" will not change dramatically due to the vote, autonomy still "is an important step in restructuring the amateurism model in its favor" (SI.com, 8/7). In Chicago, Teddy Greenstein writes the haves now "have a whole lot more pressure," and, "thankfully, they possess the will to make changes" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/8). ESPN’s Jay Bilas said, "Up until now, it has been a system where those with lesser resources have been able to say, ‘Hey, we can't afford that, therefore you can't do it.’ This changes that and it only changed it in certain areas because the power conferences have always been able to spend what they wanted on coaches and facilities and the like. ...  I'm dubious that there could be a greater chasm than right now because the power conferences can spend whatever they want on themselves, but just can't spend it on the athlete. … We moved a step closer to the athlete being heard" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 8/8).

FROM THE EDITORIAL BOARDS: A N.Y. TIMES editorial states under the new rules, the rich "will inevitably get richer." On the "upside, athletes who play for one of the 65 universities in the Big 5 will also benefit, if modestly" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/8). A CHARLOTTE OBSERVER editorial is written under the subheader, "NCAA Vote Will Widen Big-Small School Gap." You can "bet that revenue gap will continue to get larger" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/8).
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