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Saturday, October 25, 2014 | Last updated: 2:11pm

Column: NCAA rules on Power Five issue



Finally a little bit of sanity has come to the NCAA.

Last week, the NCAA Division I board of directors voted to give the Power Five Conferences (Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC and SEC) some autonomy. This paves the way for the Power Five to raise scholarships to the “full cost of attendance” and compensate them further.

“I think it’s going to be great,” Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “We’re going to be able to feed our guys and put a little more money in their pocket. I’ve been an advocate for this for three years. I think it’s great for their quality of life.”

The big schools have been in favor of this for a while, but the smaller schools in Division I voted it down because they can’t afford it. Autonomy saves the Power Five from potentially splitting off from DI or the NCAA itself and acknowledges that the big guys are almost as different from directional schools as they are from Division II schools.

The Power Five can now set their own amount of non-coaching personnel, improve medical care and insurance for players, allow players to make money off of non-athletically related endeavors, change academic standards, pay for more on official visits of recruits, pay for families to see games, feed the athletes more and change how much time they can spend on the sports.

The “have-nots” have complained that this gives the big schools a competitive advantage. Southern Methodist University head coach June Jones even suggested conferences like the American, Mountain West, Conference USA, MAC and Sun Belt could play their football games in the spring.

The truth is there has always been a gap between the rich and the small schools. Is a stipend really the thing that’s going to cause a recruit to pick Arizona over New Mexico? Or is it the bigger stadiums, the bigger crowds, the nice facilities, the better TV exposure and so forth?

Grand Canyon University spent $40 million on the arena they opened in 2011. Arizona’s renovation of McKale Center cost $80 million. The new McKale seats look nice, the scoreboard is beautiful and the renovation entailed a lot of work, but it’s not an entirely new building.

That’s just the natural order of things. Why should big schools have to treat their student athletes like they can only afford what the minnows can spend? That’s like if you were prohibited from buying an HDTV because your neighbor can’t afford it.

The NCAA is a huge caste. There’s Division III, then Division II, then FCS in the Division, and now the autonomy is recognizing that there’s a gap between the Power Five and the rest in FBS.
Even in the Pac-12, in this very state, there’s a discrepancy. ASU has had to reduce the seating capacity of its basketball arena and football stadium and resorted to charging students a fee to help pay for athletics.

Who knows what the future will bring for the NCAA.

Late Friday, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled against the NCAA in the Ed O’Bannon suit, so more changes are surely coming. However, some logic was brought to a world where the Big Ten has 14 teams and the Big 12 has 10.

—Follow James Kelley @JamesKelley520


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