NCAA Approves ‘Power Five” Autonomy as U.S. Court Sides with NCAA Athletes
On Thursday, the NCAA did what it had to do to maintain unity: it surrendered much of it’s control to the conferences generating the most money.
As conference television contracts have skyrocketed, it’s put the most pressure on the schools of the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, ACC and Big XII as the clamoring for more student-athlete rights and benefits gets louder. When these schools are bringing in tens to hundreds of millions of dollars and the athletes are getting next to nothing in return, it is publicly a more difficult position to be in that the schools that are making just enough money to remain in the FBS level. You won’t ever hear Buffalo, WKU or UMass come up in conversations about athletes deserving a piece of the financial pie. But you will hear that when discussing schools like Texas, Florida, Alabama and USC.
What this vote means is simply that the conferences have more control to decide what they want to do with their revenues.
If it means giving the athletes a stipend, they can. If it means creating special cafeterias or other ways to provide better room and board for the student-athletes, they can. Any changes will reflect the local cost of living as well. So a student athlete at UCLA will need more than one in a less expensive city like Tuskaloosa, Alabama.
We will see how far the conferences take this control in the coming months and years and what changes they have in store.
With the additional court ruling on Friday in which U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland, California sided with the NCAA athletes in the O’Bannon / NCAA case. The ruling does limit the amount of money students can earn and the NCAA could cap pay. But it is the first major step in revamping a system in which athletes were not allowed to be compensated for their athletic contributions beyond room, board, and tuition.
For the schools in conferences that are not generating as much money, both the U.S. court ruling and the NCAA vote will be difficult to deal with. In conferences such as the MWC, CUSA, MAC and Sun Belt, the football programs rely on a recruiting approach where they can try to get a player by guarantee playing time to a recruit, rather than him being a backup at a “Power Five” school. So we have seen future star NFL players coming out of these conferences because they were able to play for 3-4 years rather then site on the bench for their entire college career.
But what happens now if said MWC/CUSA/MAC/Sun Belt school cannot afford to pay an incoming athlete the type of stipend that they can get being a backup at a “Power Five” school?
Only time will tell.
But with the NCAA approving to allow the “Power Five” conference school to set their own rules in exchange for the schools remaining in the NCAA, it allows the rest of the schools to at least remain at a similar level. The hopes for these schools is that one day, they will be given the opportunity to upgrade to a “Power Five” conference and reap the rewards as well.
If I were looking to place a bet , I would say there is little chance any “Power Five” conference makes any moves until plenty of time has passed to see how everything plays out economically.