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Boston College Athletics: Inside The P-5 Autonomy Ruling

What does the reformation mean for college athletics on the whole?

Streeter Lecka

Last week, two major decisions came down which will forever alter the course of college football.  On Friday, Judge Claudia Wilken of California brought down a ruling against the NCAA that said athletes could no longer be compensated for their names, images, and likenesses while also protecting the integrity of the players' inability to market themselves.  Prior to that though, the governing body of college athletics already brought down one ruling that would forever change the course of sports and amateurism.

The NCAA adopted a new structure of voting where the ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12, and SEC - the so-called "Power Five" conferences - would have greater autonomy to creating rules and amending policies.  The conferences will be able to act outside of NCAA policies by creating their own policies, adopting their own rules their would only impact their leagues.  Those rules could then be adopted by the American, Conference-USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West Conference, and Sun Belt Conference - the so-called "Group of Five."

These rules only impact how the schools handle their athletes with cost-of-attendance, scholarship money, and benefits.  Once adopted, schools will be able to do things like pay for transportation, among other things.  The ruling doesn't impact any on-field rules, which are still governed by the NCAA.  In effect, the 16-2 vote allows the NCAA to become the governing body of on-field policing while allowing the schools to, for the most part, police themselves.  It also places responsibilities for benefits on the schools and conferences.

With the autonomy ruling, there will be greater representation for the schools and athletes.  There will be 80 votes among the five conferences - one for each school (15 ACC votes, 14 B1G, 10 Big XII, 14 SEC, and 12 Pac-12 for a total of 65institutions) and one for student-athlete representatives (three per conference for a total of 15 and a cumulative total of 80).

Rules can pass through one of two methods.  If there is a majority in four of the five conferences, a lesser, simple majority percentage of votes is needed to pass a rule - 51%.  But if a majority exists in three of the five conferences, the voting structure will need 60% of vote to pass.  Once approved, the Group of Five can adopt the same rules or choose to not adopt.

This is a huge ruling because it helps athletes temper costs for what used to be questionable items.  The NCAA prohibited schools from paying for something like getting a kid's family to the game to watch him play.  Now, if the money allows it, institutions will be able to provide that.  This will provide a boost on the recruiting trail and possibly minimize the impact of staying close to home.  Families used to be able to tell a recruit to "stay close to home" so they could watch their son or daughter play.  At this rate, they'll now be able to say that's not a reason because the schools, if adopting a rule they've wanted to for years, can pick up the bill to get the family on campus.

None of these rulings impact an athlete's ability to sell themselves.  Athletes are still prohibited, under all rules, from selling their likeness or name, meaning nobody can take gifts from boosters, sell autographs, or trade anything on their own.  Everything will be regulated by the institutions and the conferences, which allows for lowering the possibility and impact of getting goods.  That means Butch McCrae's mom still can't take a job, and Neon Bodeaux still can't take an Oldsmobile.  But school sponsored benefits, as long as it passes through the voting structure, will allow for loosened restrictions on what an athlete can and can't do.

The fear is, of course, that the smaller schools will not be able to keep up with the spending of the P-5 schools.  There is a substantial concern that a school like Texas or Alabama will be able to get benefits passed that Eastern Michigan cannot possibly afford.  The fear is that this will start down the path for a so-called "Division Four" where the power institutions separate into a sort-of Premier League, essentially creating the chasm again that existed between the original Division I-A and the old Division I-AA.  But for now, most schools support a system by where they can give their athletes more.

There will be more coverage throughout the week on this topic and its impact on Boston College as a whole.