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Power 5 Conferences Get Autonomy

The ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC will get to make their own rules soon.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Power 5 conferences got a little more powerful today, as the NCAA's board of directors approved a new governance plan that gives them autonomy within the structure.

What does that mean? In short, the ACC (which includes Notre Dame), Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC will now be able to make up rules that apply only to themselves. The most visible changes that will come from this largely will have to do with increasing the amount of money they can spend on their athletes: full cost of attendance stipends, longer term scholarships, more medical coverage for former athletes after they graduate, giving money to families to allow them to travel to games, etc.

The proposal isn't final just yet, as there is a 60-day review period in which the NCAA's Division I membership can override it. The last time there was a big override controversy, not coincidentally, was in regards to the proposed $2000 stipend for athletes. It passed the board but got shot down in an override. Of the schools now going to be in the autonomous group, only Wake Forest (Title IX objection) and Rutgers (Title IX, crying poverty) voted to override.

This change is very likely to survive the override process, however. The power schools have been clamoring for the ability to spend more on their athletes for years, and this gives them the ability to do that without requiring schools with less money to do so.

I am not, however, convinced that this is a prelude to the power conferences breaking off from the NCAA entirely. The NCAA acts as a fig leaf for them for legal and tax purposes, so it is not without its merits. This could be the first step down that road, but I see it more as a move that delays that process.