Today, the NCAA passed the rules that will allow the "Power 5" conferences the ability to change the rules governing Division I college sports. The Board of Directors passed the legislation 16-2.
"Today’s vote marks a significant step into a brighter future for Division I athletics," said Nathan Hatch, board chair and Wake Forest University president (who chaired the steering committee that redesigned the structure). "We hope this decision not only will allow us to focus more intently on the well-being of our student-athletes but also preserve the tradition of Division I as a diverse and inclusive group of schools competing together on college athletics’ biggest stage."
The NCAA's press release highlights the change in the Board of Directors, which will now have "a student-athlete, faculty representative, athletics director and female administrator," and student-athlete members of the Council, which will oversee day-to-day operations.
But for the rest of us, the much more important part:
The new model also grants flexibility to schools in the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences to change rules for themselves in a list of specific areas within Division I.
In other words: autonomy, provided those schools agree on the rules. This is significant; those schools will create rules that require the funding of a large conference. And the smaller conferences will have to decide whether they want to keep up and provide the same benefits, or simply wait for players to fall to them and offer the "well, we can't give you the same stipend, but we'll make up for it by giving you playing time." (Which is kind of how things work now.)
According to the AP, the main rules changes the "Power 5" will seek to expand scholarships monies to cover the full cost of attendance. A measure to allow up to $2,000 per year for players to cover expenses beyond tuition, room & board and books was scuttled in 2011 by smaller schools. Additional spending on health care and continuing education are also priorities.
The "Power 5" schools would be strongly represented on the Board (with 21% of the votes, but the autonomy to make rules for their group) and 37.5% of the Council.
The "Power 5" schools will not be able to change rules about Division I transfers, though if they feel substantial change hasn't occurred in the next two years, they will seek flexibility.
The change in governance can be overridden in 16 days - if at least 75 schools request an override. The request for an override must include the whole governance model, not just components.
From the AP, again, some concerns have been voiced by the Big East and Conference USA.
A group of compliance officers and faculty representatives wrote to board Chairman Nathan Hatch in hopes of getting greater representation in the decision-making process. Big East and Ivy League officials expressed concerns over giving the five non-power, FBS-playing leagues permanent seats on the board, meaning almost two-thirds of the schools that do not play in the FBS will only hold seven seats on the board.
Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky also told the NCAA his league strongly opposed any changes in transfer rules that would permit athletes to transfer "from our institutions to high resource conference institutions without restrictions unless it is the result of shared governance discussions and provides for shared voting privileges for all Division I conferences/institutions."