NCAA Steering Committee Adds Details to Governance Overhaul

VotingThe steering committee focused on creating a new Division I governance model released a number of key details that are being considered before the April 24th Board of Directors meeting where the board hopes to forward the model to the membership. The new additions flesh out key questions like the representation of student-athletes on the Board of Directors and Council as well as voting weights.

Critically though, the steering committee has not provided any firmer guidelines for what topics the largest five conferences would have legislative autonomy over. The release from the NCAA includes only this note about the progress:

The committee members also discussed extensively the areas of legislative autonomy for the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pacific–12 Conference and Southeastern Conference under the proposed model. The members of the steering committee, all of them Division I university presidents, are working closely with the conferences to ensure that the areas of autonomy are driven by the values and principles of student-athlete welfare and not competitive advantage.

The problem with that definition is that almost everything in the NCAA Division I Manual can be twisted to be both a student-athlete welfare issue or a competitive advantage. For example, larger coaching staffs provide more opportunity to mentor and teach student-athletes one-on-one, while at the same time giving programs a leg up on smaller staffs. The initial list of topics is likely to stick close to the original request from the major conferences, focused on a stipend and additional benefits for athletes. More important than the initial areas will be the process for adding and removing topics from that list.

The steering committee did come up with concrete ideas about representation on the board, council, and voting weights. The Board of Directors would include, in addition to 17 presidents, the chair of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the chair of the Council, and the highest ranking Division I member of the Faculty Athletic Representatives Association’s executive committee. All of these positions would be voting members.

In the Council, voting weights would still be in three main groups:

  • ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac–12, SEC: 4 votes each (20 total)
  • American, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt: 2 votes each (10 total)
  • Remaining 22 Conferences: 1 vote each (22 total)

To that would be added two student-athletes, who would have one vote each. That makes a total of 53 votes broken down in the following groups:

  • ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac–12, SEC: 20 votes, 37% of total
  • Rest of FBS: 10 votes, 18.6% of total
  • FCS/Non-Football: 22 votes, 40.7% of total
  • Student-Athletes: 2 votes, 3.7% of total

That is not exactly the dominance of Division I that many may have expected the power conferences would have gotten out of this reform effort. But that breakdown needs to be compared to current or alternative voting weights.

Right now, voting weights for those blocks look like this (rounding makes this add up to 99.9% but you get the idea):

  • ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac–12, SEC: 15 votes, 29.4% of total
  • Rest of FBS: 10.5 votes, 20.6% of total
  • FCS/Non-Football: 25.44 votes, 49.9% of total

That distribution includes some anomalies created by conference realignment. The American Athletic Conference and Conference USA still have 3 votes each, like the power conferences despite changing membership. The WAC still has 1.5 votes despite no longer sponsoring FBS football. If voting weights did not change except to place those conferences with their more appropriate peers, the distribution would be the following:

  • ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac–12, SEC: 15 votes, 31.5% of total
  • Rest of FBS: 7.5 votes, 15.8% of total
  • FCS/Non-Football: 25.08 votes, 52.7% of total

This is how each conference would make out under the proposed weighting vs. the current voting weights and a more simple correction:

  • ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac–12, SEC: +5 votes, +7.6% vs. current; +5 votes, +5.5% vs. corrected
  • Rest of FBS: -.5 votes, –2% vs. current; +2.5 votes, +2.8% vs. corrected
  • FCS/Non-Football: –3.44 votes, –9.2% vs. current; –3.08 votes, –12% vs. corrected

Obviously the power conferences make out well. The rest of FBS will lose some voting power as a bloc, but only because they temporarily had extra votes due to football-driven conference realignment not being properly reflected in the basketball-centric NCAA governance structure. It’s the FCS and non-football schools which take the big hit, especially compared to the corrected voting weights. They stood to gain a majority as a bloc even if student-athletes were given the same two votes they received in the proposed Council structure.

Of course these groups do not and should not be expected to vote in lockstep that often. Tight votes along have/have-not “party lines” are not as common as the ongoing battle over cost-of-attendance scholarships might make them seem. But those voting weights give more power to the largest conferences if they are unified on an issue, without allowing them to run roughshod over the rest of Division I on issues even outside their legislative autonomy.

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