College sports could step into future on Thursday

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, the NCAA Board of Directors is expected to OK a new model of how its organization is run. Bottom line: major changes appear to be coming, as it appears the NCAA is trying to get a lot of this done to thwart multiple lawsuits vs. the Indianapolis institution and also to unplug the union movement.

A big anticipated change: The five power conferences are expected to be given autonomy from other leagues.

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What’s it mean? The Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Pac 12 would basically be able to make rules that apply only to themselves. No longer will we have the charade of “if Middle Tennessee State can’t do it, then no one can.” These conferences across America aren’t created equally. And it’s about time they stopped being treated as such. Again, just because East Kutztown State can’t afford to pay extra benefits doesn’t mean schools in power leagues can’t. Schools in smaller leagues can adopt similar rules if they wish (and can afford it).

The “cost of a full scholarship” long has been debated.

In fact, the NCAA was behind it, but the proposal got the boot by smaller schools that lacked the resources to provide a scholarship that covered the actual aggregate cost of attending school. But, with autonomy, the Big Five leagues could make such a provision for their athletes.

A guaranteed four-year scholarship also is a big issue. Some schools in the Big Five guarantee it. Others offer only year-to-year scholarships. I would suspect all will provide a four-year guaranteed tender, which was an issue raised in the recent Northwestern union hearings.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Along those same lines, an educational trust has been pitched by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany that basically would allow athletes to finish their degrees on scholarship even after their eligibility expired.

Another issue raised in the Northwestern union hearings was long-term medical coverage. Most doubt the NCAA will step up on this. Too expensive. It likely will be up to the schools to determine how they want to handle this. The best way for athletes to gain better coverage is via a—gulp–union.

There also could be some movement in allowing athletes to market themselves. And benefits could be expanded to allow for pay for travel of family to postseason games and to get loans to help pay for insurance policies to protect against career-ending injuries, among other things.

Transfer rules also could be changed. Players still would have to sit out if they haven’t graduated. But they can get a year of eligibility added to their scholarship for having to sit out. The issue of coaches restricting where a player can transfer may be finished, as it’s a non-compete clause that makes players look like employees.

Altering due process is another issue that could change. Yes, players can appeal to the NCAA if they’re punished for committing violations. But the College Athletes Players Association wants a better appeals system and for the punishments to be more consistent throughout the NCAA. Recently, sanctions for schools and players have varied wildly. Ask USC how it feels about its punishment compared to what happened at, say, Penn State or Miami (Fla.). Where’s the uniformity?

Stay tuned. Thursday could be a huge day in helping shape the future of college athletics.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Show Comments (2 Comments)
2 Post Your Comment
A.J. on 4/22/2014 @ 12:41pm EDT Said:

“Ask USC how it feels about its punishment compared to what happened at, say, Penn State or Miami (Fla.). Where’s the uniformity?”

Does USC really want what Penn State got? Even with the reduction in sanctions, Penn State still got it worse.

J.T. on 4/22/2014 @ 3:04pm EDT Said:

Yeah but PSU got off lightly for a far worse thing.

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