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Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott delivers the opening remarks of the 2014 Pac-12 NCAA college football media days at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (AP Photo)
Utah football: Pac-12 commish happy with NCAA power shift

Larry Scott says big conferences must gain autonomy to address student-athlete issues.

First Published Jul 23 2014 06:14 pm • Last Updated Jul 24 2014 05:41 pm

Los Angeles • There’s an understanding in the NCAA that change is inevitable, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said. And if it’s coming down the pipe, the so-called Power Five conferences would like to have some control over it.

The man who has guided the conference’s growth in terms of both influence and profit talked candidly about some of the big happenings in college sports. His morning address at Wednesday’s Pac-12 football media session was full of silver linings — he used the word "innovation" numerous times — but later in the day as Scott opened up for questions, he was more forthright.

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That included discussion on the new proposed power structure of the NCAA, which would give the most influential conferences the ability to make their own rules on certain issues. Some of the biggest areas it would impact are student well-being, everything from increasing student stipends to cost-of-attendance scholarships to limiting weekly practice hours to medical insurance support.

"There’s a list of things we’re focused on, but all of them are better support for student athletes," Scott said. "The five conferences certainly haven’t gotten everything they’ve wanted."

The NCAA is scheduled to review and vote on the new structure next month.

Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson expressed concern Tuesday that non-power conference schools would have trouble keeping up with costs of the more expensive reforms. The upcoming meal plan change that would provide student athletes with unlimited meal access, for example, could cost schools up to a million dollars per year.

While Scott hears the argument, he said the bigger schools can’t always be stalled by the limitations of other groups in the NCAA. That’s why they view autonomy as necessary: Schools with the resources to provide more don’t want to be held back.

Still, he hopes that it doesn’t break up the NCAA as we know it.

"Craig’s right, and there will be an increase in perception gap, that certain schools will look ahead of others," Scott said. "But there’s a recognition that schools who can do more for their student-athletes should be able to do more. It’s a balancing act, but we see real value in having these other schools still in the NCAA, having a big tent and being able to have some of those Cinderella stories."

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In it for the long haul

In the eyes of many fans, the College Football Playoff means a true, legitimate football champion will be crowned this year.

In the eyes of coaches, it could mean a long season. It’s definitely food for thought for coaches such as Oregon’s Mark Helfrich, whose team was picked to win the conference this year.

The Ducks are moving ahead with an eye on playing 15 games this year.

"You start talking about that and thinking about that in fall camp," he said. "To ramp up to kickoff, and then you have to keep your edge of physicality, your edge to be able to just fundamentally tackle, while staying healthy."

Utes coach Kyle Whittingham anticipates the season growing even longer, once fans get a taste of the playoff format.

"It’s in place, and the playoffs are here and a reality, but I think it’s the tip of the iceberg," he said. "I think you’ll see the playoffs expand."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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