The NCAA took one important step toward moving to a new power structure allowing for autonomy to yield more power to the most powerful conferences. The Division I Board of Directors endorsed a restructuring process that would be more equipped to handle the changing landscape of collegiate athletics and provide for a larger voice representing the student-athletes to be heard.
“The model we sent to the membership today is not a final product,” said Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch, chair of the board and the steering committee. “Some aspects of the model remain under discussion, and we hope the membership will provide us further input.”
The Board of Directors, comprised of university presidents, will now await feedback from all member schools before planning to adopt the new governance structure in August. There has been widespread support for a new system that would grant the power conferences — the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC — more power to operate under a slightly different set of rules the other divisions and conferences would be governed. This would, in theory, allow those conferences to hold separate votes regarding cost of attendance for scholarships, insurance, travel restrictions and more.
Areas in which the membership generally agrees on autonomy for the five conferences include:
financial aid, including full cost of attendance and scholarship guarantees;
insurance, including policies that protect future earnings;
academic support, particularly for at-risk student-athletes; and
other support, such as travel for families, free tickets to athletics events, and expenses associated with practice and competition (such as parking).
The timing of this news should not go unnoticed. On Friday football players at Northwestern are scheduled to cast their votes on unionizing, a right previously granted by a ruling by a regional office of the National Labor Relations Committee. Will this latest development in the changing of the power structure at the NCAA have any last-second impact on the Northwestern vote? Probably not, but it should not be considered a coincidence the new structure at the NCAA looks to leave a seat open at the table for the student-athletes.