NCAA model under scrutiny, changes imminent

By: Daniel Massa – Staff Writer

After a series of significant and fundamental changes combined with an unprecedented amount of internal and public pressure, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has entered a new era, an era with far reaching implications capable of trickling down to Dayton athletics as soon as early 2015.

“There is no doubt the NCAA is in a period of change, perhaps even historic or generational change,” University of Dayton deputy director of athletics Neil Sullivan said.

In the past half year alone, the NCAA’s status quo has been challenged, which includes debate over student-athlete compensation and the ability of student-athletes to profit from commercial uses of their likeness.

In April Northwestern University football players held a vote on whether to unionize, subsequently trying to become recognized as employees of the university. The National Labor Relations Board, which has ruled in favor of Northwestern’s bid to unionize, seized the vote and has withheld the results during an ongoing appeal by the university.

On Aug. 9, a judge ruled against the NCAA in the Ed O’Bannon case, a lawsuit focused on the commercial use of student-athlete likeness. According to a Fox Sports report, among the judge’s rulings was a stipulation that the NCAA cannot restrict schools from establishing trust funds for use by student-athletes.

If schools choose to implement them, the trust funds will be filled with a certain amount of money for each student-athlete in FBS football and Division I men’s basketball. The judge ruled a minimum of $5,000 must be put into the trusts if they are established. The money would be available to student-athletes after their collegiate careers are over, according to the report.

In addition, the NCAA’s governance structure was recently modified to give the schools in the so-called “power five” conferences—made up of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Southeastern Conference and the Pacific-12 conference—autonomy in proposing and implementing their own customized legislation.

However, there are limits on the scope of the changes they can make.

“Most of [these changes] will be centered on what most people are classifying as student-athlete well-being,” Sullivan said.

According to Sullivan, that distinction can cover issues varying from the amount of game tickets a student-athlete can leave for family to potentially upping scholarship totals to reflect the full cost of attendance and providing better health and disability insurance.

Conferences outside of the power five can adopt similar legislation as the autonomous conferences, meaning changes could reach the Atlantic 10.

“Once they adopt the legislation, conferences like the Atlantic 10 or others can choose to participate in it or not,” Sullivan said. “[The power five conferences] will drive the change, but others can participate in it.”

As with any large organizational body, the NCAA and its member conferences will most likely take a few months to make significant changes with the new protocols.

The University of Dayton and the A-10 will have to wait and see what modifications are established in the big five conferences; they will then weigh the benefits and potential negatives before voting on whether to implement similar legislation.

“I think it will be around the first of the year before we start to see what specifically these changes may be and how they may impact us,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan estimates that in the current landscape of college athletics, only 18 to 24 schools, out of a total of 128, in the Football Bowl Subdivision report commercial revenues exceeding expenses from year to year. In 2013, only 20 schools made a profit, according to an NCAA report.

That could theoretically make it difficult for most programs to come up with the money needed to pay student-athletes, if that decision is ever made.

However, if one thing is certain, the NCAA as it currently exists and operates will most likely not exist in the same capacity in the near future.

“Most people agree that the relationship between student-athletes and institutions will change,” Sullivan said. “How that will look remains to be seen.”


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