Big Five Conferences to Receive NCAA Autonomy

Big Five Conferences to Receive NCAA Autonomy

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Five of the largest Division I conferences will soon receive the autonomy that they have wanted. The SEC, Pac 12, Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC compose the “Power Five” conferences and have successfully lobbied the NCAA for the right to set some of their own rules and guidelines. Self determination is on the way, what could have a profound impact on college sports and academia.

Power Five Conferences

Under certain new rules, the Power Five would be granted permission to allow players to have improved access to agents and career advisors, receive additional scholarship assistance and permit coaches to have more contact with prospective players. Further, players would receive voting rights on select association committees.

Once adopted, the block of power conferences would be allowed to set their own rules. The more than two dozen other Division I conferences would have the same right, but without the financial resources of the Power Five it seems unlikely they would be able to implement, let alone match, those changes.

The changes under consideration may head off a brewing legal battle where student-athletes have sought compensation that goes beyond their sport scholarships. However, there is concern that the new found freedom the conferences would experience, may be used to pay for grander facilities and drive up coaching salaries.

Aid for Student-Athletes

The conferences may also look at other ways to aid student-athletes. Insurance, meal plans, and financial aid are among the areas that could be changed. Experts believe that if adopted the new rules would cover the cost for student-athletes including tuition, room and board, books and meal plans.

What isn’t known is whether the new benefits would be evenly distributed regardless of need or if there would be some consideration given to students who have the most pressing needs.

Another area that the power conferences would like to change has to do with student transfers. At present, if a student transfers to another institution, he or she must sit out one season. Under new rules the student might be eligible as soon as they complete their transfer. A problem, however, could arise if students playing at schools in smaller conferences are pressured by a Power Five member school to transfer.

While some of the anticipated changes might benefit students there are other areas that are not likely to be addressed, at least not immediately. For instance, the amount of free time student-athletes are given is highly restricted during the season. Those restrictions ease in the off season, but student-athletes may still be required to keep to a rigid schedule.

Another area that could benefit student-athletes is studying abroad. That option is currently unavailable for most or unattainable financially. Would the Power Five conferences establish a fund to help underprivileged players spend a semester abroad? The answer to that question may be forthcoming.

The Playing Field

One of the more significant concerns that must go through the mind of university presidents is the impact that these changes could have on the entire student body. With student-athletes receiving special privileges, does that mean athletic fees will be raised to help pay for those changes? If they do, then you may end up having a two-tier educational system that clearly benefits one group of students at the expense of another group. In that case, charges of “favoritism” are likely to arise and the NCAA may be forced to revisit autonomy once again.

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