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Power 5 power moves: what does a new NCAA structure mean for college athletics?

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A new NCAA model that would give Power 5 schools autonomous legislation was announced last week. How will this impact future collegiate athletics?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After months of debate and increasing pressure from college sports' Power 5 conferences (the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC, SEC), the NCAA announced a new proposed model that would give schools in higher-profile conferences more influence and a lower voting threshold to make their own rules benefiting student athletes.

The proposal will be voted on by the NCAA Board of Directors on August 7 and will have a lasting impact on college athletics.

In this new model, the Power 5 conferences have two possible ways to pass their own autonomous legislation. With each representative and school receiving a vote, one way would be a 60% approval from the 65 Power 5 schools and 15 student-representatives, along with majority support in three of the five conferences.

The other method would be a 51% approval and majority support from four of the five conferences. This is a big step down from the initial proposal, which required a 2/3 majority support from Power 5 schools, in addition to approval from four of the five conferences.

This new model gives the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 the chance to essentially pass their own autonomous legislation, or in other words, to make their own rules going forward.

While this will be extremely beneficial for schools in those Power 5 conferences, it does leave many other schools and conferences in the dust, including St. John's and the Big East. Even the premier programs of the Big East such as St. John's, Villanova, and Georgetown are still not in the same class as schools in the Power 5 in terms of money and facilities.

This will make competing with Power 5 schools for future recruits a challenge, as Big East schools may have to begin considering changes that may or may not be supported by their current revenue streams.

While these changes were clearly made with the NCAA's biggest moneymaker, football, in mind, there are still quite a few historically dominant basketball programs that will get to reap their benefits.

Think of Power 5 schools like Kansas, Kentucky, and Indiana - none of those schools have fielded a competitive football team in ages, yet they will now have a much larger say on all things to do with collegiate athletics in the future just because of their size and the conference that they are a part of.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has also made it clear that the first item on the Power 5's agenda would be to implement a cost of attendance for student-athletes. If this process is successful, we could be seeing student-athletes getting paid a few thousand dollars more than their tuition in the very near future - easy to manage for schools reaping football revenues, but harder to manage, perhaps, without football television contracts.

This could only be the beginning to these conference's dominance over the NCAA.

"They're going to be the ones push the athlete welfare agenda. They're going to be the ones to clean up transfer rules," wrote CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd, "they're going to be the ones to guarantee lifetime medical coverage. They're the ones who could even consider freshman ineligibility to clean up the whole sordid enterprise."

Many who have been following this situation closely believe that if this new proposal had not been announced, the Power 5 conferences would likely have separated from the NCAA in some form.

And there is merit to those claims. This past May, Slive was very critical of the NCAA's initial proposal, stating that the voting threshold would make it too difficult for the conferences to pass any legislation. When asked if he thought a new governance structure would pass, he stated that "if it doesn't I think our league will want to move toward a Division IV. My colleagues, I can't speak for anybody else, but I would be surprised if they don't feel the same way."

While it seems as though these Power 5 conferences currently have the well-being of all NCAA student-athletes in mind, even the most casual college sports fan has to see the slippery slope that the current structure of collegiate athletics as a whole could be sliding down.

For as long as I, and probably most others, can remember, there have been "haves" (teams in the power conferences) and "have-nots" (teams in non-power conferences) in the NCAA. It seems as though some schools have always just had more available resources than others.

In addition to having more available resources at their disposal, these Power 5 schools will now have more power to pass legislation that only benefits themselves.

It is tough to fault the NCAA for handing over this power to a select, and very influential, group of its members. The only other option that they really had was to play hard-ball and risk seeing the NCAA as we know it - including the inclusive and always surprising NCAA men's basketball tournament - crumble.

Who knows what the changes in the NCAA's governance could lead to next, or what that means for those without the power.