INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA on Thursday approved a new governance structure for Division I that will give the five power conferences a level of legislative autonomy never seen before in the history of the organization.
The 16-2 vote by the Division I Board of Directors, which took place at NCAA headquarters, is subject to a 60-day veto period before the new governance structure is official. It is not expected enough schools will lodge override votes that would put the legislation in jeopardy. The dissenting votes came from Ivy League rep and Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon and Delaware President Patrick Harker, the representative of the Colonial Athletic Conference.
Assuming there are no roadblocks, the move will affect the SEC, ACC, Big 10, PAC-12, and Big 12.
The Board made one significant change to the proposal introduced last month: For legislation to be considered, only one of the five conferences is required to submit it, not three. That aligns with the current Division I legislative process.
In a statement, NCAA President Mark Emmert said, "I am immensely proud of the work done by the membership. The new governance model represents a compromise on all sides that will better serve our members and, most importantly, our student-athletes. These changes will help all our schools better support the young people who come to college to play sports while earning a degree."
The new governing structure clears the way for colleges to provide an unprecedented level of benefits for their athletes The next step will be for the five power conferences to form an agenda that can be voted on at the NCAA Convention next January.
Part of that agenda will be providing the so-called "full cost of attendance," increasing the value of a scholarship at a time when the NCAA is under significant legal and public scrutiny over college athletes' rights.
Discussions about how to calculate the full cost of attendance are still in the relatively early stages, however, and there could be significant disagreements among the five conferences about which components should be included.
Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson, whose conference competes in Division I but is not one of its higher-resourced leagues, said, "Today's vote by the NCAA Board of Directors is historic, but our universities have understood for some time that there will more than likely be an increase in the cost of operating their athletic programs. There will be challenges, but Sun Belt universities have invested too much not to be part of major college sports in the future."
The proposal adoption also establishes a new Division I Council that will include two active college athletes, two faculty-athletic representatives and four conference commissioners in addition to 32 other conference reps. The Council will be responsible for Division I operations and each April will be able to adopt new rules.
The next stage of the reform process will be delicate and complicated. In a matter of months, the Power 5 will have to decide on their process for introducing new legislation, a nomination and vetting process for members of the various committees associated with the new governance structure — including three athletes per conference with voting power on autonomous issues. Any new legislation would likely take effect for the 2015-16 academic year.