Recruitment & Retention

NCAA Alters Governance Structure, Grants Autonomy to ‘Big Five’ Conferences

By Bryan Toporek — August 07, 2014 1 min read

The NCAA made drastic changes to its governance structure on Thursday, granting voting autonomy to its “Big Five” conferences—the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12 and the Southeastern Conference—in certain areas of Division I rulemaking.

The so-called “system of autonomy” was designed with student-athletes’ welfare in mind, according to the NCAA’s documentation laying out the proposal. The “Big Five” schools—65 in total—will be permitted to make rule changes separate from the rest of Division I schools with regard to student-athletes’ health and wellness, meals and nutrition, financial aid, expenses and benefits, insurance, recruiting, academic support, and time demands. The schools cannot vote on such things as rules regarding on-field play, scholarship limits, and, at least for the next two years, transfer policies.

For student-athletes currently making their college decisions, this governance overhaul could have a dramatic effect. If the “Big Five” schools vote to approve full-cost-of-attendance scholarships or guaranteed multi-year scholarships, for instance, schools outside the “Big Five” could face even more of an uphill climb in their recruitment of such prospective athletes.

To vote upon a change, the conferences will appoint a representative from each of their schools, along with three student-athlete representatives from each conference, for a total of 80 votes. Legislation can be passed in one of two ways: With 60 percent of all votes (48 votes) and majority support from schools in three of the five conferences or a simple majority of all votes (41 votes) and majority support from schools in four of the five conferences.


Nathan Hatch, the president of Wake Forest and the man responsible for leading the steering committee that came up with the autonomy proposal, explained the rationale to

Marc Tracy of

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.