The Power-5 Conferences -- the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC -- have made their first major move under the NCAA's "autonomy" rulemaking process that allows those leagues to pass legislation that applies only to themselves and the subset of conferences that voluntarily adopt it. The move was an expected one, with the leagues approving a new scholarship rule that expands the financial support that can be provided to student athletes, it passed 79-1 by a panel consisting of 65 school representatives and 15 student athlete representatives.
The lone dissenting vote came from the Boston College representative, according to USA Today. The BC Administration released a statement on their vote, saying that the school, "is concerned with continuing to pass legislation that increases expenses when the vast majority of schools are already institutionally subsidized. The consequence of such legislation could ultimately hurt student-athletes if/when programs are cut. This legislation further segregates student-athletes from the general student population by increasing aid without need-based consideration. Legislation already exists for student-athletes in need through Pell grants and the student-assistance fund."
The measure redefines an athletic scholarship so that it can cover the incidental costs of attending college, including transportation and miscellaneous personal expenses. The average value of the increase is expected to be around $2,500 per athlete.
The other Division I Conferences will now have the option of following suit and adopting the measure themselves, or choosing to remain under the existing more-limited definition of what an athletic scholarship can cover. A number of non-power conferences can be expected to join this rule, which would apply across all sports, in an attempt to not be "left behind" by the schools at the top.
The Big East is expected to join this new rule, at least applying it to Men's and Women's basketball scholarships. The cost of 13 men's and 15 women's scholarships increasing by a few thousand dollars each is likely an expense that most Division I schools will attempt to absorb -- putting cash into the pockets of some athletes. The actual amount offered will be based on the schools' estimates of these costs for their average student, and student-athletes will be allowed to pocket the difference if they come in under-budget.
The leagues also passed rules changes that limit a coach's ability to rescind scholarships from athletes on purely athletic grounds. Currently, most athletic scholarships are subject to annual renewal, rather than being a four-year guarantee. Another new rule allows student-athletes to borrow against future earnings to purchase insurance policies that would pay out if they suffered a college injury that affected their earning potential as a professional.
They voted down a proposed rule by the SEC that would require schools to regularly report to the NCAA about any unusual expenses they may be covering for an athlete.
The new rules will take effect on August 1, 2015.