Power 5 Conference Autonomy One Step Closer To Paying Student-Athletes

By Pat Ralph
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

This past Thursday, the NCAA Division 1 Board of Directors voted for a new model that will give the “Power 5” conferences in college athletics autonomy to create their own laws. The five major conferences, which are the ACCBig TenBig 12Pac-12 and SEC, have become even more powerful now. Most importantly, the move will have several positive and negative effects on student-athletes, smaller conferences and the future of the NCAA.

The primary type of laws that the Power 5 will look to pass pertain specifically to expanding the rights of student-athletes. Power 5 conference leaders claim to have the resources to provide more benefits for student-athletes and have blamed smaller conferences for preventing them from going forth with their intentions. That won’t be the case anymore. While the NCAA has become more concerned with money than the overall well-being of student-athletes, as well as outside pressure from lawsuits and Congress, the Power 5 have only more of a reason to act on this issue.

Some of the student-athlete issues the Power 5 will tackle include the cost of attendance stipend, medical coverage, time demands, allowing schools to pay for athletes’ families to attend games, easing restrictions on contact between student-athletes and agents and many more. Even though this is just the beginning, consider this a big step closer to student-athletes being paid. The pros and cons of this move more or less depend upon one’s views on the role of the student-athlete in college athletics. If you like the idea of paying student-athletes and reforming the NCAA, you probably like this new model.

As mentioned previously, smaller conferences will feel the impact of this new model too. First off, smaller conferences will be able to adopt the same rules that the Power 5 creates. However, this new model further widens the resource gap between the Power 5 and smaller conferences. Smaller conferences will benefit very little from this because the Power 5 will have even more to offer recruits, and the influence that the Power 5 will be able to wield over NCAA policies is far greater than anything the smaller conferences can do. The rich only get richer from this deal.

The most important impact that Power 5 autonomy will have is on the future of the NCAA. The move to grant more authority to the major five conferences is seen by many as just the NCAA kicking the can down the road on the inevitable. What is the inevitable, you ask? It is widely believed that the Power 5 will eventually break away from the NCAA and form their own division of college athletics which could be more like a pro-am league. Needless to say, the Power 5 have the resources to make this happen. No one knows when it will happen, but the NCAA has pushed it off for at least another 5-10 years.

The NCAA needs the Power 5 conferences for the revenue they can generate, and the last thing the NCAA wants to lose is money. You know the NCAA is in a desperate spot when it is willing to sacrifice power in order to keep the revenue coming in strongly. Yes, smaller conferences play an integral part for the NCAA, but in no way do they bring in the money that makes the NCAA jump for joy like the Power 5 conferences do.

The most important aspect to take away from this is that the landscape of college athletics is changing. The view of the student-athlete and his or her role in the college athletics structure is considered more important than it has ever been before, as the increased monetary resources of the NCAA and its schools have allowed for a more open discussion about what piece of that wealth student-athletes rightfully deserve. If you’ve paid close attention to the recent ruling from the Ed O’Bannon v. NCAA court case, you know that the days of student-athletes receiving monetary compensation for their efforts is coming sooner rather than later.

The era of autonomy for the Power 5 conferences in college athletics is about to begin. Now it’s time for us to see the impact it has upon the college athletic complex through student-athletes, smaller conferences and the future of the NCAA as we know it.

Pat Ralph is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Pat_Ralph, like him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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