My colleague Kyle Goon penned this article for today’s Salt Lake Tribune about how the NCAA on Thursday moved closer to granting the five most prominent college athletic conferences in the country (the Big 5, as it were) more autonomy to rule themselves.
It is no secret that the wealthiest schools from the wealthiest conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — want to be able to take care of their student-athletes better financially, perhaps even pay them cost-of-living stipends and pick up expenses for traveling home and back.
What’s not clear, yet, is whether the Big 5 schools will be able to set rules for themselves that don’t apply to the hundreds of other schools under the NCAA umbrella, schools such as BYU and Utah State.
Goon, who is now covering the University of Utah and the Pac-12 for our newspaper, was able to reach Utah athletic director Chris Hill and USU AD Scott Barnes and presented some interesting comments from both gentlemen about the possible structural changes to the NCAA.
Funny, how just five years ago then-Utah president Michael Young and Utah senator Orrin Hatch were calling for the Justice Department to look into conference inequality and "anti-competitive behavior." Now Utah’s Hill is saying the power conferences need more power. Yeah, things changed for the Utes.
Can’t say I blame them. In college sports, it is every man for himself. Or, in light of the fight over the Utah fight song, should that be every fan for itself?
If the proposal is passed, it will be interesting to see if the cash-strapped schools in the Big 5 conferences are able to keep up with the Joneses, schools such as Oregon, Texas and Ohio State, when it comes to student-athletes.
Also, where does all this leave BYU? Will the changes make the Cougars even more desperate to get into the Big 12?
At the "State of the Program" roundtable discussion he held with reporters who cover BYU on Feb. 25, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said the school is committed to doing whatever it takes to stay competitive with the Big 5 schools. If that means providing stipends, Holmoe said BYU is "prepared to make that move."
Holmoe, who generally does not grant individual telephone interviews and prefers to meet every once in a while with groups of reporters instead, said that when I asked him if he was for or against proving stipends to student-athletes.
Here’s his complete response:
"I think the term ‘paying players’ can mean 100 things," he said. "There are so many different things that are out in the media right now. You talk about a stipend, a cost of attendance. There are training table issues and there are all kinds of things. With BYU, as we have studied this over the last couple of years, we are prepared to do what it takes to be competitive.
"The thing that is a little bit frightening is that there are many schools out there that might not be in that position, that are going to be affected in a big way by some of these possible [acts] of legislation that are coming out. It will be challenging for us, but we don’t have to worry about that right now, budgetarily. But those things cost budget dollars. And we are prepared to make that move. But I am fearful that at some schools, the non-Big 5, put it that way, all the way from schools that aren’t Big Five to Division II, they might have to totally water down their sports, or drop sports to be competitive in others. So there are repercussions that are coming that the public doesn’t see. We see them, and we talk about them all the time. We are willing to move forward with what we gotta do to be competitive."
I asked Holmoe if BYU as an institution would be philosophically opposed to proving student-athletes even more benefits than they are currently receiving (books, tuition, housing, etc.).
"I don’t want to speak on that because there are no ends to what the possibilities could be," he said. "One of the terms is ala carte. I can’t speak on those. I can speak on the stipends that are in the news, and people are talking about in terms of the legislation. That’s been well-vetted. I get that. And we are willing to go that route. But after that it is all 100 percent pure speculation."
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