NCAA Opens a New Chapter in Conference Autonomy

NCAA Opens a New Chapter in Conference Autonomy
  • Opening Intro -

    Conference autonomy has arrived or at least what passes for it. Specifically, the NCAA has allowed the Power 5 conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC — to set their own rules.


As a block, the conferences are now writing rules apart from NCAA oversight.

This past Saturday, members of the 65 Power 5 conference schools and 15 student-athlete representatives, convened near Washington, DC, to debate and vote on a number of resolutions. By a 79 to 1 vote, with only Boston College voting against, several matters were approved.


The matters concern stipends for student-athletes, monies that these individuals can use that are not part of their athletic scholarships. Previously, any funds given to athletes could get both the athlete and the school in trouble, with the NCAA issuing sanctions and other penalties against both.

Under the newly-adopted arrangement agreed upon by the voters, students can receive funds ranging from $2,000 to $4,000. These monies fall within federal guidelines and will be adopted by all 65 schools. Moreover, Division I schools in the other 27 conferences will have the option of adopting a similar stipend program, if desired.

Beyond the financial remuneration, the conferences also addressed critical issues, including a concussion safety protocol, loss-of-value insurance and keeping scholarships in place regardless of athletic performance. Each issue was passed and adopted by the committee.

Is Unionization Dead?

The changes are both far-reaching and responsive. Concerning responsive, the Power 5 conferences effectively countered unionization efforts by Northwestern University football players. It also attempts to redefine amateurism, as these moves acknowledge the financial benefit such schools derive from their student-athletes.

Of big concern for student-athletes for many years is the loss of athletic scholarships and the impact that these have on individual students, the team as well as on the coach.

For instance, if a football player was not living up to his expectations, he could be removed from the team and lose his scholarship. Under the new arrangement, the scholarship would remain.

Yet, some have argued that the coach’s authority is undermined if underperforming athletes are not penalized. Ultimately, those arguing for education over athletic performance prevailed.

A Win For All?

The general mood at the Power 5 conference meeting was that it was a win for student-athletes as well as for schools that have wanted more autonomy. Indeed, Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch told ESPN, “We have the freedom to act autonomously, but we have the responsibility to do so wisely.”

It is that responsibility that may cause other schools and conferences to follow, although recouping the added costs may not be possible for many of the institutions.

See AlsoBig Five Conferences to Receive NCAA Autonomy


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Categories: NCAA Football