Autonomy Proposal Approved By NCAA Board

FAYETTEVILLE — Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive said last month it is “critical for the NCAA to change” by granting legislative autonomy for the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC.

The SEC and the rest of the power five conference schools will get their wish.

The NCAA Board of directors voted Thursday to approve changes that will give the 65 schools in the nation’s richest conferences more freedom to make their own rules. The historic decision shelved any notion the conferences would break away from NCAA governance, but will give the 65 schools the ability to provide more benefits for student-athletes like scholarships that cover the full cost of attendance, academic support after their playing careers and expanded health care.

“Today’s vote marks a significant step into a brighter future for Division I athletics,” Nathan Hatch, board chair and Wake Forest University president, said in a statement that appeared on the NCAA’s website Thursday. “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.”

The system is still subject to a 60-day override period before it becomes official. The power conferences also have until Oct. 1 to draw up their first round of legislation.

“This is an opportunity for historic change in college athletics,” Slive said in a statement that appeared on the SEC’s website. “Now we can go to work to begin to better address the needs of our student-athletes.”

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said the “affirmative vote” Thursday has been a “meaningful first step in outlining the future of intercollegiate athletics.” But Long also stressed there is plenty to discuss before it becomes a reality.

“It is now important that Presidents, Chancellors, Commissioners and Athletic Directors, work together to determine the best way for this autonomous group of Conferences to move forward,” Long said in a statement. “Athletic Directors have called for more input on determining the future and it is now time for us to step up and be engaged more than ever before. It is incumbent upon us to begin a substantive dialogue on the best way to further enhance our commitment to develop student-athletes to their fullest potential on and off the field. We must also be cognizant of the impact on other Division I members as we forge the future.”

— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau