The world of intercollegiate athletics is facing immediate, radical changes following the NCAA’s adoption of a novel autonomy structure. This structure lets the Power Five conferences handle issues deemed to be autonomy issues independent of other Division I schools while other issues will be addressed by a shared governing structure of all NCAA-affiliated institutions.
This past January, the NCAA’s annual Business Session held in Washington, D.C. produced several new directives: schools may offer full cost of attendance scholarships, coaches cannot revoke athletic scholarships solely for athletic reasons, and student-athletes may borrow against their future earnings to obtain loss-of-value-insurance. These initiatives were passed by the NCAA’s newly restructured Council, which grants the Power Five conferences greater command over collegiate athletics and represents a new streamlined legislative process that will continue to shape college sports.
The NCAA’s autonomy structure raises many concerns. What issues will be termed “autonomy issues” as opposed to shared governance issues? Will smaller institutions and non-Power Five schools be able to compete with the members of the autonomous structure? Does their new legislative power give Power Five member schools an unfair advantage over smaller institutions? Can a balance be struck? Will this structure increase universities’ spending on intercollegiate athletic until it reaches a tipping point? Will this spending cause universities to sacrifice academia for athletics? Will this new model protect the NCAA from future lawsuits involving student-athletes? Is the NCAA’s concept of “amateurism” in jeopardy with adoption of this new structure? Will this bring new antitrust and labor causes of action against the NCAA?
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