clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Power Five New World Order

For better or for worse, college athletics will never be the same.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

It's hard to find a more respected coach person in all of sports than Bill Snyder. He's an old school type of guy. He's dedicated his life to college football, and doing it the right way. He's one of the greats.

On Wednesday Snyder positioned himself behind the microphone to talk about Kansas State and the Wildcats upcoming season, but that's not what happened. Instead he took a moment to talk about the state of the sport he loves so.

"It's changed. I mean, college athletics, football in particular, has changed dramatically over the years," Snyder said. "I think we've sold out. We're all about dollars and cents."

"The concept of college football no longer has any bearing on the quality of the person, the quality of students. Universities are selling themselves out."

"It's no longer about education," he continued. "We've sold out to the cameras over there, and TV has made its way, and I don't fault TV. I don't fault whoever broadcasts games. They have to make a living and that's what they do, but athletics -- that's it. It's sold out."

College football has become an enterprise. It's no longer an amateur sport. Times have changed, and the NCAA is struggling to keep any real authority. During Big 12 Media Days Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 Conference Commissioner, spoke about the inadequate enforcement.

"Enforcement is broken," Bowlsby said. "The infractions committee hasn't had [an FBS] hearing in almost a year, and I think it's not an understatement to say cheating pays presently. If you seek to conspire to certainly bend the rules, you can do it successfully and probably not get caught in most occasions."

Something needs to change, and yesterday something did. Something big. The NCAA voted in a monumental change in the way schools are to be governed. The Power Five conferences (the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, and PAC 12) were granted autonomy. In other words, they will be able to vote in new rules that only pertain to themselves.


"Today’s vote marks a significant step into a brighter future for Division I athletics," said Nathan Hatch, board chair and Wake Forest University president, in a statement released by the NCAA. "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 Power Five will now have the ability to create their own rules, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Paying players has been a point of contention since Johnny Manziel came under fire from the NCAA for allegedly signing autographs for money. Unfortunately, awarding players as something as basic as a cost-of-attendance stipend wasn't feasible without autonomy.

Schools outside the Power Five aren't able to cover the cost of paying players, and would be forced to shutdown their athletic programs. After-all, according to USA Today, only 23 of 228 Division I schools make enough money off of athletics to cover their own expenses. Giving the power conferences autonomy gives them the ability to give players benefits smaller schools just can't afford.

"I think that the collegiate community has learned a lesson about taking a broad latitude with name, image and likeness," Bowlsby said in a statement about the vote.

It's a case of the rich getting richer, but ultimately it's about what's best for the student athletes.

"What will happen, I believe, under the greater autonomy model," Baylor president and chancellor Kenneth Starr said, "is everyone will move in the direction of taking care of your student-athletes. That's what this should be about."

Rules the Power Five Conferences will have the power to change:
  • Cost-of-attendance stipends
  • Insurance benefits for student athletes
  • Allowing players to pursue paid career opportunities
  • Cost of player's families to attend post-season games
  • Recruiting rules
  • Restrictions on player contact with an agent
What won't fall under the Power Five's control:
  • Transfer policies
  • Scholarship limitations
  • Post-season tournaments
  • Signing day rules
  • Athlete's time demands
  • Rules of play

In order to make a rule change it would have to be voted on by each of the 65 schools in the power conferences along with 3 player representatives from each conference, creating an 80 vote panel. Any rule change would also be subject to approval by the conferences themselves.

There are two ways for the power conferences to pass new legislation.
  • 60% of the votes (or 48 votes) and approval from 3 of the 5 conferences
  • 51% of the votes (or 41 votes) and approval from 4 of the 5 conferences.

Schools outside of the top five conferences will also be able to adopt any new rules passed by the power conferences if they so choose.

It's too soon to be able to tell what the new college football landscape will look like, but it's certainly never going to be the same. Now all eyes turn to the O'bannon lawsuit as we wait to see what kind of shock-waves it will send crashing through collegiate athletics.