News

Embattled NCAA lets richest colleges play their own game

Embattled NCAA lets richest colleges play their own game

NCAA: President of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Mark Emmert speaks during a news conference at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis July 23, 2012. Photo: Reuters/Brent Smith

y Eric Kelsey

(Reuters) – U.S. college sports took a first step in addressing broad criticism about treatment of student-athletes with a vote Thursday to grant some autonomy to rich athletic conferences, a tacit acknowledgement of their unrivaled economic clout.

The new structure among the five biggest conferences hands them broader authority to set their own rules and could potentially pave the way for the 65 universities to offer compensation to student-athletes.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I board of directors approved the measure that would let the so-called power five – the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference – self-govern in areas such as scholarships, insurance and travel for athletes’ families.

The conferences and the NCAA have faced legal, political and public pressure to share its billions in revenue they generate from amateur athletes and guarantee them stronger benefits.

“The new governance model represents a compromise on all sides that will better serve our members and, most importantly, our student-athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement.

The roughly 50,000 student-athletes would also get a voice in how rules are created under the new self-governing structure, but they would not have enough votes to hold up new regulations.

The new structure addresses the decades-old struggle between the richest conferences and the rest of the NCAA member schools over revenue generated in particular by football and men’s basketball.

“Part of what’s driving this is an effort to come to grips with a dramatically different college sport ecosystem,” said Ellen Staurowsky, a sports management professor at Drexel University.

“For the power five conferences, this is a mass-entertainment industry.”

‘AFTER A LOT OF PRESSURE’

Less powerful Division I schools have complained that the new model increases the gap between the have and have-nots. But the wealthy conferences have also grown frustrated with other colleges’ resistance to adopt costlier changes, such as increased scholarship funds.

The NCAA, which does not allow students to earn money for their athletic performance, has been sued by former and current athletes in U.S. court seeking a share of profits.

Scholarship football players at Northwestern University near Chicago are also fighting for the right to unionize and collectively bargain in a closely watched matter.

“It is important to note this has come after a lot of pressure,” Ramogi Huma, a former football player and now president of the National College Players Association, said about Thursday’s vote.

The NCAA grosses roughly $770 million per year in media rights for its annual Division I men’s basketball tournament, known as March Madness, which are then shared with member schools.

The richest conferences, however, generate billions of dollars each year exclusively for themselves through media contracts and their own cable TV networks, primarily on the popularity of football and men’s basketball.

They are expected to consider easing regulations on agents, recruiting and instituting a “cost of attendance” scholarship and other guarantees that would help cover living costs for athletes that are not currently offered.

The majority of college athletes do not go on to play professionally and critics say the NCAA’s current scholarship policy short-changes athletes who risk injury and devote many hours to practice sessions, travel and competition.

Many NCAA practices date back to a time when college athletics were not the multibillion-dollar business they are today. At the same time, students have become more vocal about the shortcomings of the system as they see it.

One contentious issue often cited by critics concerns scholarship athletes who lose financial support after suffering career-ending injuries while playing for the school.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey in Los Angeles; Editing by Mary Milliken and Lisa Shumaker)

Recent Headlines

in Local Sports

Horvat nets winner as Canucks top Sharks 4-2

Fresh
Canucks fans

The Vancouver Canucks got a win over the San Jose Sharks in a split-squad game Tuesday night that kicked off the preseason for both teams.

in Local Sports

Hernandez hit hard, Mariners routed by Blue Jays

toronto blue jays logo mlb

The Blue Jays roughed up Felix Hernandez for a career worst-tying eight earned runs in a victory over the M's that further dented Seattle's fading wild-card chances.

in Local Sports

WWU golf teams both finish 4th at invitational tournaments

western washington logo generic copy/wwu

Viking men fourth at 43rd Annual WWU Invitational as UBC defends title with tourney-record 35-under par 829. Women fourth at WNMU Invitational. WWU freshman Jenn Paul ties for sixth in collegiate debut.

in Local Sports

Board to release Ryan Leaf to Texas officials

FILE - In this July 27, 2010, file photo, former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf is shown in Holter Lake, Mont. Authorities say Leaf was arrested in his Montana hometown on burglary and drug possession charges on Friday, March 30, 2012.

Montana's parole board has decided to release former WSU QB Ryan Leaf to authorities in Texas, for violating his probation.

in Sports

Goodell meets 11 former players about NFL conduct

Roger Goodell

BARRY WILNER, AP Pro Football Writer NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and chief assistant Troy Vincent have…