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Report: Big 5 conferences could get autonomy on Thursday

Aug 6, 2014, 10:24 AM EDT

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The Power 5 conferences could get one step closer to being granted autonomy on Thursday as they are “expected to gain preliminary approval Thursday to break away from some of the strictures of the NCAA”, according to a report from the New York Times.

The rule changes that would happen if the proposal were to go through are that the Power 5 conferences would be able to pay their athletes a stipend of a couple thousand dollars, allowing more contact between athletes and agents, and allowing more contact between recruits and the schools pursuing them.

It’s not a secret that there is already a massive gap between the wealthiest athletic programs and the schools that are at the bottom of Division I, particularly on the basketball side of things. Duke and North Carolina-Central are both located in Durham, North Carolina, but comparing their facilities is, well, frankly not possible.

This is a move that has been speculated about for a long time, as the amount of money that gets generated by the athletes at the highest levels of football and basketball continues to grow while their “income” remains constant : a scholarship that too often doesn’t cover the full cost of attendance.

Here’s a bit more on the changes that may be coming, via the Times:

The N.C.A.A. currently restricts scholarships to the cost of “tuition and fees, room, board and required course-related books.” The new measure would allow athletes to receive the “full cost of attendance,” a sum that is generally a few thousand dollars higher. The Big 5 officials have also suggested they would use autonomy to uniformly give athletes better medical coverage and greater leeway to borrow against future earnings to purchase disability insurance.

Under the new model, the rule-making body would include a representative from each institution plus three athletes from each conference. The number of scholarships awarded per sport would remain the same for all Division I universities, and all Division I institutions could continue to participate in championships and revenue-sharing. Any other Division I conference or university (pending its conference’s approval) could opt into the Big 5’s rules. Notre Dame, which is independent in football but is in the A.C.C. and Hockey East in other sports, would be treated as a Big 5 institution.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this, but there’s a possibility that it could be the first step in the Power 5 schools breaking away from the rest of the NCAA.

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