NCAA’s New Autonomy Structure Explained

By Kyle Packnick,
Sports Business Writer

On Aug. 26, 2015, Seton Hall University announced that it would be distributing a $2,600 annual stipend to its men’s and women’s basketball players. Athletic Director, Pat Lyons, explained that the purpose behind the stipend was to remain competitive in recruitment in the wake of the new cost-of-attendance policy. Athletic programs are now providing their athletes with scholarships up to the full cost-of-attendance, which includes the cost of food, books, travel, and other irregular expenses. These figures range anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000, depending on each university’s estimates. In order to understand where this stipend developed, we examine the development of the NCAA Autonomous Five.

It is widely known that many student-athletes do not receive nearly the same value for what they are making their universities, particularly for revenue sports. In light of the many legal cases and negative publicity, the NCAA has been making a conscious effort to offer more benefits for student-athletes.

The most recent resolution came in the form of autonomy for the major revenue contributing conferences. Prior to the “Autonomous Five,” all teams and conferences shared equal voting power, despite the fact that certain conferences were generating superior funds compared to others. These major conferences wanted more power and were considering leaving the NCAA to form their own separate association.

Facing the pressure of succeeding conferences, last August the NCAA passed its autonomy proposal, allowing the five major conferences, the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC, to govern themselves. This granted the five conferences the right to pass their own rules autonomously, providing greater latitude in the areas that they were most concerned with.

In January, the sixty-five universities of the major five conferences, as well as 15 student-athletes (three from each conferences), voted on the Autonomy proposals.

The voting committee approved five major proposals.

The first includes Concussion Safety Protocol, which provided a guidelines to abide by when handling possible concussions. Second, Full Grant-In-Aid, which allows student athletes to receive scholarships up to the cost of attendance. Third, Borrowing Against Future Value, which allows athletes on track to play at the professional level to borrow against their future earnings and purchase loss of value insurance. Fourth, Guaranteed Scholarships, which prohibits universities to remove scholarships for athletic performance. Lastly, Modernizing Collegiate Model with “Big 5” Vision, which provides the major five conferences the power to influence college athletics going forward. These changes went into the effect at the start of the 2015-2016 academic year.

Competing conferences had the option to follow these changes or not. Many schools chose to adopt these proposals. Several universities also selected not to.

What this does is creates a wider gap in recruitment between the powerhouses and the “underdogs.” It ultimately changes the competitive landscape across the NCAA. Schools vying to remain competitive could also be forced to deemphasize or even eliminate non-revenue sports in order to afford these changes.

The impact won’t necessarily be known until a few years from now. The concern is that these autonomous proposals are only the beginning.

The Power 5 may continue to do more for their schools and this could force other conferences out. In the meantime, the NCAA should consider finding alternative solutions to provide for their major conferences without damaging the integrity of collegiate sports.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 20th print edition.

Contact Kyle at


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s