NCAA Adopts Structure Giving Autonomy to Richest Division I Leagues

August 7, 2014

The Board of Directors that governs Division I member universities of the National Collegiate Athletic Association voted today to restructure how the institutions govern themselves, granting a greater level of autonomy to the five wealthiest conferences.

The Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific 12, and Southeastern Conferences can now make their own rules concerning issues such as allowing full-cost-of-attendance stipends, offering four-year scholarships, and providing better health care for athletes. Though the new structure was easily passed with a 16-2 vote, some officials from less-wealthy Division I conferences have expressed concern about the new structure, saying they are worried about the growing gap between high-resource institutions and the rest.

"The NCAA is letting those five conferences do whatever they want," one Division I president said. “The Division I colleges that are left out, they are now in a different stratum of American athletics. Do the athletes, the fans, the alumni realize that they may be pushed down to a different level of excellence?”

The restructuring also increases the size of the board of directors from 18 members to 24. The new board will consist of five presidents from the five "power conferences," five presidents from the remaining five Football Bowl Subdivision Conferences, five from the Football Championship Subdivision, and five from Division I institutions that don't have football teams. A college athlete, a faculty athletics representative, a campus senior woman athletics representative, and the chair of the Council -- a new governing body in charge of the day-to-day legislative functions -- will round out the rest of the board.

The weighted voting totals of the Council gives 37.5 percent of the vote to the five major conferences, as well as a combined 37.5 percent to FCS and no-football conferences. FBS conferences would have 18.8 percent. Faculty representatives and student athletes would have 3.1 percent each.

“I am immensely proud of the work done by the membership," Mark Emmert, NCAA president, said in a statement. "The new governance model represents a compromise on all sides that will better serve our members and, most importantly, our student-athletes,” Emmert said. “These changes will help all our schools better support the young people who come to college to play sports while earning a degree.”

Institutions that oppose the governance change can still say so during a 60-day comment period. If 75 colleges request an override, the board can reconsider the change. If 125 colleges request an override during that time, the legislation will be suspended.

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