Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

April 30, 2014

Big changes in NCAA will affect future of college sports

In case you missed it, the NCAA officially cried "Uncle" last week and handled over certain  decision making authority to officials with the five major conferences – the ones with the true power, clout and deep pockets.

The direction set in motion a process that will allow teams from the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and Southeastern conferences to make some of their own rules. That clears the way to offer stipends to athletes in addition to traditional scholarship costs involving tuition, room and board, and books.

That would seem reasonable, especially when one takes a look at how much money the 65 athletic departments in those leagues generate. Details will take time to figure out, but it will happen.

Those schools that operate a rung down the competitive ladder fought against a spending plan they knew they could not afford. But realizing it was looking at a revolt, the NCAA Division I Board of Governors voted to give the power players more autonomy.

The less powerful schools face a dilemma: They don’t have the big money – most of which is generated from large crowds at football games and the huge payouts from cable networks --  to offer a stipend, which some have estimated would cost between $2,000 to $4,000 per player a year.

Furthermore, they’ve argued, the stipends would put them at an even worse bargaining position when recruiting against a school that can offer extra benefits to a player.

Anyone who thinks a stipend is all that’s being discussed is mistaken. That’s only the beginning. College athletes have seen the financial showers rain down on their programs and celebrated coaches, so it won’t be long before the ante is upped.

Players know universities are making money off them – licensing agreements, jerseys, etc. – so what they expect out of a fair deal and what the NCAA and other college powerbrokers are discussing remain far apart.

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