The five power conferences in college athletics now have some autonomy. The Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC and SEC can vote on and implement certain governance regulations that would be independent of whatever else the NCAA might be doing.
So what does autonomy mean?
Representatives from the power five conferences now account for 37.5 percent of the voting power on the NCAA Council. It is believed that those five leagues can easily pass legislation that pertains only to their schools. But that legislation is restricted. Here are rules that could be implemented by the five power conferences:
* Stipends for athletes. The NCAA two years ago passed a rule allowing schools to give athletes $2,000 a year, a “cost-of-attendance” stipend. That rule quickly was suspended amidst an outcry. That’s a lot of money for athletic departments. A school with 400 athletes would suddenly face an $800,000 expense. That’s a major blow to schools with an athletic budget of $15 million. But if your athletic budget is $60 million, you can find the money. Most budgets in the power five conferences are on the higher end. Some are way above it.
* Loosened restrictions involving contact between players and agents. This is a powderkeg, of course, because in some ways, agents are the great enemy of universities. The great friend of athletes, but the great enemy of schools. But if the schools can somehow keep the lead on gifts and advances between agents and players, the counsel of some agents would expand the knowledge for players. Baseball, for example. Baseball players are drafted and retain their eligibility. But often they’ve negotiated largely in the dark with major league franchises. Over the years, family “advisors” have developed a wink-wink relationship. It’s possible that players could be allowed to employ agents to help with their decisions on whether to turn pro.
* Loosening restrictions on allowing players to pursue outside paid career opportunities. This is also dicey. But the truth is, the NCAA looked bad when Texas A&M made millions of dollars off Johnny Manziel’s name, yet he was in hot water when he allegedly took money for signing at autograph shows. The problems arise if a school is involved in those “paid career opportunities.” But in this era, clearly the pendulum of public opinion has swung to the players.
* Allowing schools to pay for expenses covering players’ families to attend postseason games. Again, this is a potential trouble spot. Can OU or OSU afford to pay for 100 players’ families to attend the Fiesta Bowl? And if so, wouldn’t OU or OSU be compelled to pay for softball players’ families to attend an NCAA regional trip to North Carolina? You talk about expenses mounting. But if the power five conferences want autonomy, there’s autonomy.
Some areas would NOT grant carte blanch for the power five conferences:
* Postseason tournaments. The power five could not vote to change the basketball format, or the baseball format, etc.
* Transfer policies. Those would remain under the auspice of the general voting electorate. The power five could not, for instance, vote to soften the penalty for athletes transferring schools.
* Scholarship limits — 85 for football, 13 for men’s basketball, etc., would remain the say of the overall body.
* National letter of intent signing day. The power five could not unilaterally change those dates.
* On-field rules. Don’t like the targeting rule? Notre Dame will have no more say than North Dakota State.