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SEC administrators discuss autonomy at league meetings in Florida

Jun 1, 2014, 7:15 PM EST

Mike Slive AP

One of the biggest issues in collegiate athletics these days is how the member schools will be governed. With the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC making the most money due in large part to their football-fueled television/bowl revenue streams, those conferences would like to have more control over how they do things such as meeting the full cost of attendance for their scholarship athletes.

That’s led to discussions about autonomy, with those five leagues hoping to make changes to the way in which they provide for their athletes (meeting the full cost of attendance, for example) while remaining under the NCAA umbrella. But in order for that to happen the conferences will need more leeway to pass measures that would allow them to do more for their student-athletes.

Those issues will be discussed in August by an NCAA steering committee, and at the SEC meetings in Destin, Fla. last week multiple administrators spoke of what could happen if they weren’t allowed to do more.

The current voting thresholds would require two-thirds of “Power Five” schools, 15 students and four of the five power conferences voting in favor of autonomy for that to occur. The SEC would like to see those thresholds lowered to 60 percent and three of five conferences to go along with the 15 students who would be a part of the voting process.

Based upon their arguments those numbers would make it easier for the proposed legislation to pass. And if the measures that would allow those programs to do more were to fall short of those marks? SEC commissioner Mike Slive said the following:

“I think if it doesn’t pass, I think the next move would be to go to the Division IV,” Slive said. “It’s not something we want to do.”

“But within that structure, we want the ability to have autonomy in areas that has a nexus to the well-being of student athletes. I am somewhat optimistic it will pass, but if it doesn’t our league would certainly want to move to a Division IV. My colleagues, I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t feel the same way.”

Part of the desire for autonomy stems from the number of lawsuits that currently hover over collegiate athletics, including the Ed O’Bannon suit that’s scheduled to begin on June 9. Will the five conferences look to make a move should they not get the votes? That remains to be seen, but given how much money those leagues bring in that may not be a question the other conferences are willing to wait for an answer on.

“If we don’t get it, I think there will be a real — I don’t want to use the ‘C’ word (crisis) — but there will be some real difficult times ahead for the NCAA and for the five conferences,” Florida president Bernie Machen said according to the Gainesville Sun. “The thing that’s interesting about it is the NCAA needs this to work as much as we do because they’re on the point as well.

“But I’m not convinced (it will happen). This has to be approved. First, the steering committee has to submit their final proposal, the board has to vote on it in August, then the membership has to vote on it in January. So we have quite a long ways to go before this gets approved.”