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Could the NCAA’s Division I setup be in line for a change?

Jan 17, 2014, 8:22 PM EST

emmert AP

The current structure of the NCAA is an interesting one, with their being three divisions (I, II and III) with separate championship systems. Obviously at the Division I level schools can give out more scholarships than Division II schools, and Division III schools don’t offer athletic scholarships.

But within Division I there’s quite the division between the “haves” and the “have-nots” with college football being the big reason why.

The revenue brought in by that sport had a major impact on conference realignment, and when the dust settled there were essentially five “major” conferences, with those leagues (the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) receiving that designation due to the fact that many of the sport’s most powerful programs reside in one of those five conferences.

That separation has also led to increased questioning of the current setup of the NCAA, and how that impacts the way in which schools are governed.

While the five conferences that reel in the most money would like to do things such as meeting the full cost of attendance for its scholarship athletes, getting that legislation through has been difficult due to smaller schools being concerned about their ability to afford such an expense. That led to the occasional idea that the five most powerful conferences could consider splitting off from the other Division I leagues, with the question being whether that would occur under the NCAA umbrella or if they would take their money and leave.

At the NCAA meetings in San Diego that was one of the topics discussed, and according to Yahoo! Sports we could be approaching the day when those five league are allowed to govern themselves while remaining part of the NCAA structure.

“It makes sense for the five big revenue conferences to have their own voice,” [NCAA President Mark] Emmert told Yahoo Sports Friday. “A year ago that would have been a very difficult conversation. Now [member schools] are saying, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’ … People have just become more comfortable with the ideas and concepts of it.’ “

The process still will take time. Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, the chair of the Division I Board of Directors, said there will be more focused discussion on the NCAA’s new governing structure in April, and individual conferences will then have a chance to discuss those findings at their spring meetings. Then the proposals can be put to a formal vote.

“We hope to have it wrapped up and approved by summer,” Hatch said.

According to the story 58% of the administrators in attendance were in favor of the five most powerful conferences having the ability to govern themselves, hence the thinking that this could be the way collegiate athletics is headed. But would this prohibit other leagues, like the American Athletic Conference or Mountain West for example, from taking up the same initiative(s) to better compensate student-athletes?

That’s just one of the questions administrators will need to address between now and the summer, with how much of a voice athletic directors should have in the governing of collegiate athletics moving forward being another. But just as the case was with conference realignment “the times they are a-changin’,” and athletic departments will have little choice but to adapt.