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NCAA vote grants 'Power 5' conferences autonomy

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday
NCAA President Mark Emmert gestures while speaking at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The NCAA Board of Directors overwhelmingly approved a package of historic reforms Thursday that will give the nation's five biggest conferences the ability to unilaterally change some of the basic rules governing college sports
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NCAA President Mark Emmert gestures while speaking at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The NCAA Board of Directors overwhelmingly approved a package of historic reforms Thursday that will give the nation's five biggest conferences the ability to unilaterally change some of the basic rules governing college sports. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

College football is changing yet again and the conferences with the most power are becoming more powerful.

The NCAA on Thursday approved a legislative measure that allows the five power conferences — ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC — autonomy, which essentially allows them to operate by their own rules.

The vote for autonomy passed 16-2. The new governance structure is subject to a 60-day veto period, however, that would require 75 schools to disapprove of the measure. Any reconsideration would occur at the next board meeting scheduled for Oct. 30.

“Today’s vote marks a significant step into a brighter future for Division I athletics,” said Nathan Hatch, board chair and Wake Forest University president, who also chaired the steering committee that redesigned the structure. “We hope this decision not only will allow us to focus more intently on the well-being of our student-athletes but also preserve the tradition of Division I as a diverse and inclusive group of schools competing together on college athletics’ biggest stage.”

Now, the five power conferences will form an agenda of legislation they want passed that will be voted on during the NCAA convention next January. And of course, when student-athletes heard the news, the first question was this:

Full cost of attendance scholarships will be at the top of the agenda. That would allow student-athletes to be paid what these conferences deem a fair amount of money to cover not only tuition, room and board, but also some of the other expenses college athletes incur. How much that ends up being is still under debate.

This new legislation also would change the Division I Board of Directors to include more university presidents, but also a student-athlete, faculty representative, athletics director and female administrator. The group will be known as the Council. Also, rule changes can be changed only in April instead of April and January, and now only one conference needs to sponsor a proposal within the group of five. Previously, three conferences were required to sponsor a proposal.

While a lot of the focus will be on the power five conferences, smaller conferences don’t expect to be left out in the cold. Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson released a statement shortly after the legislation stating that he expects his conference to be part of the changes in college athletics.

"Today's vote by the NCAA Board of Directors is historic, but our universities have understood for some time that there will more than likely be an increase in the cost of operating their athletic programs. There will be challenges, but Sun Belt universities have invested too much not to be part of major college sports in the future."

The changes to the governing structure could take affect as early as Oct. 1.

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Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at dr.saturday@ymail.com or follow her on Twitter!

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