The NCAA's cartel got a little more streamlined and powerful today, as the Division I board of directors voted to allow the 65 schools in the five richest conferences to make some of their own rules regarding stipends, insurance benefits, coaching staff sizes and more.
(If you want to know what could actually change, the New York Times has good explanations of the 11 new areas of autonomy.)
On a basic level, this makes sense. The biggest schools in the country should not operate on the same plane as a low-level MAC school. The $2,000-per-player stipend that was shot down a couple years because small schools couldn't afford it could now become a reality.
However, the "Power Five" conferences have done very little to earn our trust. Athletic Directors like Texas's Steve Patterson or commissioners like the Big 12's Bob Bowlsby still seem to have no grasp on what the real problems in the NCAA are. In the Ed O'Bannon trial, the NCAA even admitted to being a cartel, albeit one that "does good things."
As long as players are being denied something as simple as being paid for having their likeness in video games, the current amateurism structure is broken. The organization is tone deaf from the top-down. The Power Five coming together to guarantee cost-of-attendance scholarships does not outweigh the D1 conferences coming together to control player movement and limit their earning potential.
"Historically, when you look at how the system has operated and responded, it tends to resist genuinely substantive change," said Ellen Staurowsky, a business professor at Drexel who supports more rights for athletes. "Given that history, what we may be seeing is the pattern repeat itself once more, where there will be as many adjustments as need to be made in order to give the appearance that change has happened."
Thursday's decision by the board was a small step in giving players some short-term benefits, but giving more power to the institutions who are exploiting their athletes the most seems like another long term disaster.