Embattled NCAA lets richest colleges play their own game
By Eric Kelsey
(Reuters) - U.S. college sports took a first step in addressing broad criticism about treatment of student-athletes with a vote Thursday to grant some autonomy to rich athletic conferences, a tacit acknowledgement of their unrivaled economic clout.
The new structure among the five biggest conferences hands them broader authority to set their own rules and could potentially pave the way for the 65 universities to offer compensation to student-athletes.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I board of directors approved the measure that would let the so-called power five - the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference - self-govern in areas such as scholarships, insurance and travel for athletes' families.
The conferences and the NCAA have faced legal, political and public pressure to share its billions in revenue they generate from amateur athletes and guarantee them stronger benefits.
"The new governance model represents a compromise on all sides that will better serve our members and, most importantly, our student-athletes," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement.
The roughly 50,000 student-athletes would also get a voice in how rules are created under the new self-governing structure, but they would not have enough votes to hold up new regulations.
The new structure addresses the decades-old struggle between the richest conferences and the rest of the NCAA member schools over revenue generated in particular by football and men's basketball.
"Part of what's driving this is an effort to come to grips with a dramatically different college sport ecosystem," said Ellen Staurowsky, a sports management professor at Drexel University. Continued...