Smith Expects Autonomy Vote To Go Through

The final NCAA vote on autonomy for the power college conferences is finally here, and concrete plans on what that means are starting to come into shape. BSB takes a look and gets some comments from OSU AD Gene Smith on the matter.

The latest step in the NCAA’s quest to make things more equitable for the student-athletes that produce the most money – and potentially stave off numerous lawsuits that threaten the very fabric of college athletics – will likely happen tomorrow when the NCAA’s Board of Directors is expected to approve autonomy for the five power conferences.

The vote – which will come as part of a larger vote that will change the NCAA governance structure, deemphasizing bureaucracy and allowing student-athletes a louder voice – would allow the conferences that make the most television money the chance to push through reforms that will change the face of college athletics.

Officially, the proposal reads that it would allow the “granting of authority to five conferences [Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big 12 Conference, Big Ten Conference, Pac-12 Conference and Southeastern (SEC)] and their 65 member institutions to adopt rule changes on specific matters affecting the interests of student-athletes. This concept allows the five conferences and their 65 member institutions and 15 student-athlete representatives (80 total) to act on legislation for the permissive use of resources to benefit student-athletes as well as on certain well-being issues.”

So what does it all mean?

LINK: Autonomy 101 (from Fox Sports)

Basically, the biggest conferences would have the ability to enact legislation that would allow them to provide more resources to student-athletes – reforms that have been shot down in the past by the majority of NCAA schools who don’t have the financial wherewithal to undertake such changes. Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith has long been in favor of such changes.

According to the NCAA, the Power 5 would be able to use their resources to help in the realms of health and wellness, meals and nutrition, financial aid, student-athlete expenses and benefits (both before and after enrollment), insurance and career transition, career pursuits, time demands, academic support, recruiting and personnel.

In the big picture, that might allow colleges to pay for recruiting visits, send players’ friends and family to postseason games (something Urban Meyer has pushed for), add more non-coaching personnel and more.

And it’s fair to say the more is what intrigues Smith.

“Assuming that it gets voted in, what are the next steps?” Smith told BSB this week. “How do we create the cost of attendance legislation? The 65 (Power 5) schools will meet in January at the NCAA Convention – between now and then, what do we do? I think the conferences are collaborating on that structure. I anticipate it passing.”

As Smith alluded to, the proposal that seems to have the most traction to be adopted quickly is the cost of attendance measure, which will allow scholarships to cover more than just tuition, room and board. Most universities list a price difference between those things currently covered by a full athletics scholarship and the actual cost of going to a school, a difference at Ohio State that nears $4,000.

“I’m kind of interested in what that is going to look like and then get into the discussion,” Smith said. “There are a lot of issues around cost of attendance and how it affects an athlete. Now we get into the weeds; now we get into the details. If a student-athlete gets cost of attendance here, we round it up to $3,800, but if we cover other expenses, that cost of attendance goes down a little bit because it’s a miscellaneous expense.

“There are a lot of little things there that we have to get into the weeds, and everybody has to have a discussion about those things. I think putting the structure in place allows us to get to that point and figure out, ‘What is the best thing for these athletes?’ and then start talking about the working groups for other issues.”

Those issues also include plans like increasing health care provided to athletes both before and after their careers, reducing time demands on athletes and more.

“That’s going to take longer because I think what we need to do is engage the experts – coaches and others – to help us understand what we should do with that," Smith said.

For legislation to be considered at the January convention, it must be submitted by Oct. 1.

Which benefits will trickle down to sports other than football and which schools will institute these measures remains to be seen.

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