Changes Coming to NCAA
The battleground that is the NCAA continues to be front and center. With conference media days taking place all over the country the past few weeks, coaches, players and administrators continue to talk about the “changes” that are coming for the NCAA. Just this week, Northwestern football coach Par Fitzgerald spoke before the other Big Ten coaches, and the first issue he addressed is the union vote of his players last spring. He said that it unified his team and brought them closer together. The results of the voting are still unknown since the National Labor Relations Board impounded the ballots, but still its not exactly the attention the NCAA had hoped for.
Because the changes that current and former players have been screaming for are finally being heard, there is some very drastic talk within the college ranks. It seems more and more apparent that the Big Five conferences; the Big 12, SEC, Big 10, Pac 12 and the ACC, will all create their own governing body and make their own rules. They realize that it’s futile to remain deaf to scholarship athletes who say they go to bed hungry because the rules don’t allow for enough dollars for food, or that members of the school marching band can receive a scholarship AND a cash stipend while the athletes can’t even accept a cheeseburger and fries from an alumnus.
Earlier this week an auction house announced that a game-worn jersey from Johnny Manziel was going on the block and they expect it to fetch the highest auction price ever for a college athlete’s jersey. Today’s athletes are worth so much more than the measly scholarship that the school gives them, it was just a matter of time before someone stood up and said enough. Another point of contention is the “yearly renewable scholarship.” Many people don’t realize that scholarships are often just for one year at a time, and that the coach can decide not to give the athlete the scholarship next year. Or the coach who recruited the athlete leaves the school, and the new coach likes someone more. In non-revenue sports such as track or golf, it’s common for the coach to take a kid with half a scholarship and cut him back to a quarter scholarship. The push now is to guarantee the players 4 or even 5 years of tuition and room and board.
The Big Five want to make their own rules about how much they can give to players, unlimited food, tutors etc. They all have the millions to fund those things, but the difficult part is that smaller conferences like the American Athletic Conference (SMU) don’t rake in tens of millions each season from bowl games and television contracts so they won’t be able to offer the same benefits. The Big Five realize this but basically say, it’s survival of the fittest. SMU football coach June Jones even half joked that the 2nd level conferences should switch to a spring football season since the “big boys” will very shortly dominate the football landscape and no one will care about a SMU/Connecticut game. He’s probably right. The secondary conferences will slowly become the equivalent of Division II and III.
The changes coming should help many student-athletes get the compensation they’ve been denied for decades, but it will unfortunately come at a high price for all but 5 very elite “corporations.”