Leaders of the Big Ten conference are joining a growing number of college athletic powers calling for more “autonomy” – a way of telling the NCAA that major change is coming one way or another.
Leaders of the “Power Five” conferences – the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, and now Big Ten – say they want more leeway in addressing issues that confront college athletic programs.
They’re hamstrung in attempts at reform, which get voted down at NCAA meetings by smaller schools with fewer resources. Those smaller institutions, on the other hand, have long feared that liberalizing the rules would give richer schools an even bigger recruiting and competitive advantage.
A statement issued by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors at the end of last weekend’s meeting was firm, if not threatening:
“While the NCAA Board of Directors’ Steering Committee on Governance has made good progress in the area of autonomy, more work needs to be done as we seek to implement a 21st century governance structure that preserves the collegiate model while allowing each school to focus on improved student-athlete welfare,” it stated.
This was the Big Ten’s way of reaffirming the Golden Rule: Those with the gold make the rules.
If the actions of 65 teams that make up the powerhouse conferences are not a call for revolution, they certainly are a strong statement that restructuring how the NCAA has conducted business for the past 50 years is about to end.
The Big Ten follows a letter circulated in late May by the Pac-12 to institutions in other major conferences. Pac-12 presidents outlined a 10-point plan that includes proposals such as paying athletes a stipend.
“We acknowledge the core objectives could prove to be expensive and controversial, but the risks of inaction or moving too slowly are far greater,” the letter reads. “The time for tinkering with the rules and making small adjustments is over.”