the leaders of the free world college athletics’ power conferences work their way through their own private Yalta, it’s becoming clear that the easy part is the D-1 power grab itself. What they’re going to do after they’ve achieved autonomy? Well, therein lies the rub. Right now, it looks like the commissioners don’t seem capable of much more than passing wish lists around to each other.
“I think what was reflected in that memo is a growing consensus,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said. “I think we’re going to get there.”
Among the topics addressed in what is labeled an “Attachment to Memorandum”:
— A lifetime opportunity fund that would allow former players to complete their education after leaving school. It would benefit players who depart early for the draft or who don’t graduate after their eligibility expires.
This point was mentioned specifically by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany last summer.
— Provide full cost of attendance to players. This long-discussed topic seems to a certainty in the future. Players would be given a prescribed amount extra in living expenses based on the cost of living in the particular college town.
— Redefine rules governing agents. That’s a preference of SEC commissioner Mike Slive. While Slive hasn’t been specific about what those changes would be, assume that new rules would allow more contact with agents while players are in school.
Slive often uses the example of students in other majors having access to experts in that field. Why shouldn’t an athlete be given the same advantages of a concert pianist who consults with great composer?
— Meet the healthy, safety and nutritional needs of players.
Those first four bullet items had been previously mentioned among the commissioners.
You think that’s a little amorphous? It’s rock solid granite compared with the rest of what’s in that memorandum.
New to the memorandum are these points the commissioners may want to change “if future circumstances warrant revision.” …
— Addressing scholarships that are reduced, cancelled or not renewed at the whim of a coach. Coaches have been criticized for promising a full-ride in recruiting then have the power to cancel scholarships on a year-to-year basis.
In 1973, the NCAA went from four-year scholarships to one-year renewable scholarships.
— Provide paid transportation for parents for official recruiting visits to championship events. (College Football Playoff, NCAA Tournament, bowls etc.)
— Rescinding rules that inhibit a player’s desire to pursue a non-athletic career. A Minnesota wrestler was declared ineligible last year because he posted music videos of himself online. NCAA rules prohibit a player from using his name or image for commercial use.
That rule seems to going away one way or another. Players’ rights to their image and likeness are at the heart of the O’Bannon lawsuit.
— Permit schools or players to get loans regarding “career-related” insurance.
— Policies regarding athletes’ time demands. Northwestern players were allowed to unionize, in part, because a National Labor Relations Board official concluded that players do devote at least 40 hours per week to their sport.
— More flexible transfer rules.
“if future circumstances warrant revision.” ? Translation: if we keep getting our asses kicked in court, here’s a potential Plan B to fall back on eventually if we can’t get Congress to intervene. A profile in courage it ain’t exactly.
As for the items themselves, there’s little to object to there – unless you’re a head coach, of course – but I think I like where John Infante goes with his list a little better (there is some overlap), because it’s more tailored to keeping the academic part of the student-athlete in the equation.
I suppose they deserve credit for even acknowledging there are conditions that require change. But not much, at least until there’s real action. Maybe Nick Saban can reassure them.