Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Colleges

Who are the Power Five and what is autonomy?

Proposed NCAA legislation would revamp how the schools in the most prestigious conferences are governed.

In a nutshell, what is "autonomy"?

As it relates to college athletics, it's the desire of the schools in the "Power Five" conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12) to create their own legislation that would provide their student-athletes with unprecedented benefits and resources. Among those benefits: full cost of attendance.

And just what is "cost of attendance"?

Essentially, it's what the NCAA defines as a full scholarship (tuition, room and board, books, etc.) plus what a student actually spends to go to school (i.e. transportation, clothing, laundry money, pocket money for entertainment, etc.). The difference between the scholarship check a student-athlete receives and the true cost of attendance has traditionally been called "the gap."

If scholarships are reformed to include cost of attendance, would female student-athletes and those in nonrevenue sports be included?

Details haven't been worked out, but presumably, universities would have to comply with Title IX legislation or face likely legal action. It has been speculated schools that couldn't afford across-the-board financing might not cover cost of attendance for some sports, or may consider dropping some nonrevenue sports altogether. "The devil is in the details," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero told the Los Angeles Times.

What about student-athletes on partial scholarship?

Again, it widely has been speculated these athletes would receive some type of prorated or partial cost-of-attendance stipend.

The term "permissive legislation" keeps popping up. What is that?

Exactly what it sounds like — legislation that is allowable but not mandatory. Basically, if the Power Five are granted autonomy (the ability to make their own rules), the other Division I schools not in those conferences would have the option of adopting the legislation as well. American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco, and several ADs in his league, have said they will do all they can to adopt any cost-of-attendance legislation passed by the Power Five.

Can they afford that?

Hard to say. USA Today compiled figures in 2012 and reported that only 23 Division I athletic programs generated enough revenue to cover expenses. The new College Football Playoff will generate new revenue, but whether schools can enhance benefits for athletes and still maintain the sports they currently offer is unclear.

So if autonomy is granted, and the perception of a widened chasm between the haves and have-nots exists, where does that leave USF?

"Exactly where they are right now," Sutton said. "Wanting more than they have, wanting to be in a different place, and trying to figure out how those rules are going to be." This is what USF fans feared as Big East football crumbled: that the Bulls would suffer from being outside the Power Five. But those conferences could expand again. USF, in a prominent national TV market, could be appealing to a big-time league if its major sports can put bodies in the stands and turn on television sets.

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