NCAA to Allow Power Five Conferences More Autonomy

Utah WR Kenneth Scott and his Utes team may find themselves part of a new division of the NCAA based on recent high-level discussions. - Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

The NCAA Board of Directors fired the first shot in a battle between the have conferences and the have nots, endorsing a restructuring that would allow the Power Five conferences to provide additional benefits. Utah will benefit, but how drastically a "breakaway five" will affect the other two football playing teams in Utah remains to be seen.

This past Thursday, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors endorsed a restructuring of their governance system. The biggest development emerging from this was a move to allow the five conferences with the highest levels of resources (the Pac-12 Conference, the Big 10 Conference, the Big 12 Conference, the Southeastern Conference and the Athletic Coast Conference) to have autonomy to make decisions on specific matters regarding their student-athletes. Other changes included a change in the makeup of the Board of Directors to add some new voices and perspectives.

"The model we sent to the membership today is not a final product," said Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch, chair and board of the steering committee, in a statement on the official NCAA website. "Some aspects of the model remain under discussion, and we hope the membership will provide us further input."

There are a total of 65 schools in the "Power Five." That leaves 27 other conferences that aren’t part of the top five. The steering committee is continuing to discuss how those schools might apply the decisions made by the 65 schools.

The NCAA’s release outlined four key areas generally agreed upon by the committee:

  • 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
  • Other forms of support, like travel for families, free tickets to athletic events and expenses associated with practice and competition (such as parking)

Some other areas up for discussion are mandatory time away from athletics for student-athletes, allowing student athletes to pursue careers outside of athletics while still competing (such as careers in the arts), recruiting, transfer rules and athletic personnel issues. The committee will also discuss if the next five highest-profile conferences should also be separated into a group. The steering committee is seeking further feedback from the top five conferences and others to make sure the autonomy and its limits are clear and appropriate before finalizing the changes.

Locally, this restructuring could have a huge impact. As one of the 65 schools in the five high profile conferences, the University of Utah will be able to make important decisions about their programs and athletes that will potentially impact other schools in the beehive state.

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