The expected power shift in the organization of collegiate athletics could be put in lace as early as August, giving the big conferences a “range of autonomy.” According to a report by ESPN.com, a committee of Division 1 athletic directors is working on plans to make it a reality and there are hopes to have it put in place by the end of the summer.
The biggest issue the big conferences — ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC — is focused on is the cost of a scholarship. With the resources and funds available to play on a separate playing field than the rest of the Division 1 membership, allowing a modified set of rules or guidelines has been under discussion for a while now. As previously reported, support for autonomy to the power conferences is growing as well, which makes this a very realistic scenario coming together. Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch told ESPN.com he feels changes are coming.
“Membership can vote it down, but this has been a huge process,” Hatch said. “The board last fall had a whole day of hearings. We’ve talked to coaches, students, athletic directors, big schools, small schools, the Knight Commission, faculty-athletic representatives, and I think we can craft a compromise that makes the board more nimble, more strategic, in some ways more like a confederation that allows big schools certain ways to expend some of their new revenue on behalf of student-athletes.”
This debate over whether or not this is a positive impact on the sport of college football or not will continue for many. At this point in the process the control is in the hands of the university presidents. As usual, presidents will have dollars and cents at the top of the list of priorities, and the threat of legal battles with players can always come in to play. With Northwestern football players attempting to get the ball rolling on the formation of a players union, anything the schools that can afford to provide more to their student-athletes can do will be reviewed carefully.
While the cost of scholarship is a big sticking point for the power conferences, there are other issues on the table as well that could lead to a philosophical and governing split. Among them are a desire to have more input in rules. Hatch told ESPN.com the big conferences would like to have athletic directors more involved when it comes to forming and adjusting rules. The idea makes sense, as the athletic directors are in charge of understanding the rules and ensuring they are upheld on their watch. Having them be a part of putting the rules together may not be a terrible idea, although the Football Rules Committee includes a varied mix of personalities that should be capable of understanding the rules put in place.