Early morning on Friday an interesting story was reported by ESPN. At the annual NCAA convention a "sub-committee of the Division I board of directors proposed a rough governance model that would give more autonomy to the five power conferences -- the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC -- and give a stronger voice to athletic directors with respect to how student-athletes are supported."
The autonomy as described in the article centers around:
- The power conferences could make certain legislative decisions on their own.
- The two major issues for legislation are full cost of attendance and ongoing education scholarships.
- The new legislative committee would feature school presidents as board of directors but also sub-committees and advisory councils made up of athletic directors and student-athletes.
As Kevin Gemmell from ESPN states:
"Spearheading the change is a growing belief that the "level playing field" model no longer applies and the divide between the five power conferences has grown to the point where a different standard of governance is needed."
There is a lot of interesting stuff that can come out of these talks and it looks like stipends for athletes will be here sooner rather than later. The ongoing education scholarships seems like a good idea and would allow athletes to go play professionally but still come back at a later time and have their academic scholarship in tact in order to graduate.
You would think this will effectively begin turning the wheels on the major conferences creating their own super division separate from the other conferences but that's still going to be a tricky proposition to pull off outside of the sport of football. Craig Thompson, the commissioner of the Mountain West Conference, doesn't seem too concerned:
"For the most part, a lot of this is business as usual. There don't seem to be any red flags ... There hasn't been a level playing field for decades. People like to say that and there's a perception. But there are different budgets etc. We felt like we have performed nationally and competitively at a pretty good pace and I don't see this changing our world too dramatically."
We'll see where Notre Dame fits into this possible new world of governance. You have to assume that Swarbrick will be heavily involved in these discussions and Fighting Irish athletics are going to be in line with the ACC. The commissioner of the ACC John Swofford mentioned back in October about restructuring the NCAA and had this to say about paying athletes:
"I'm not for paying players. I think that's a disaster waiting to happen if you go down that road.''
Swofford said he did see the need to provide student-athletes with additional compensation. He preferred to keep that compensation "education-based.''
"I still think the opportunity to receive a quality education and to play a sport you love is a pretty good deal,'' Swofford said. "But at the same time, we can't live with our heads stuck in the sand. That's why we really need to look at that and try to find the sweet spot, if you will.
"I'm a big believer in the collegiate model. It's not perfect, by any means.''
What's interesting is that Stewart Mandel from SI.com has a completely different opinion on the NCAA conference proceedings. This line sums things up in a different light:
More realistically, as several industry officials told SI.com in some form: "This is all for show."
If there's one thing that is true it's that the NCAA isn't going to change enough for most people and it's not going to change fast enough. I tend to think that's at the root of a lot of the frustration around potential changes. No one on the outside looking in is really willing to accept gradual change.
If that's not enough opinion for you Pat Forde from Yahoo! weighs in with his thoughts on the NCAA conference.
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