Much has been made in the hours after the NCAA effectively handed over power to the nation’s five largest conferences Thursday that will give them control not seen in the history of intercollegiate athletics.

Some have said the reforms will a loud warning signal that the NCAA as we currently know it will cease to exist as presently constructed.

Others say the agreement will only create a larger chasm between the so-called “Power 5” and everyone else.

The rich get richer. The poor are now forced to fight for the scraps from the bottom of the barrel.

The NCAA Board of Directors overwhelmingly approved a package of historic reforms on Thursday that will give the nation’s five biggest conferences the ability to unilaterally change some of the basic rules governing college sports.

If the 16-2 decision stands, there will be striking differences between the 65 largest schools and the more than 280 others in Division I beginning as early as Oct. 1, though few expect change to come that quickly.

“I am immensely proud of the work done by the membership,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “The new governance model represents a compromise on all sides that will better serve our members and, most importantly, our student-athletes. These changes will help all our schools better support the young people who come to college to play sports while earning a degree.”

Representatives from the five richest leagues — the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — will hold nearly twice as much voting power (37.5 percent) as any other group on a newly created council, where most legislation will be approved or rejected.

The five other Football Bowl Subdivision leagues would account for 18.5 percent, while the second-tier Football Championship Subdivision and nonfootball-playing schools would split up another 37.5 percent of the vote.

One of the biggest questions following the NCAA’s decision to allow autonomy for major college conference leagues is where does this leave small colleges, especially historically black colleges and university that don’t have millions in donor or television dollars to thrive like their wealthy big brothers?

Like most people do these days, I ventured to Twitter to seek an answer from someone who could give reliable insight on the rapid pace college sports was changing.

In came Exavier Pope, a Chicago-based legal analyst, who has made appearances on the NBC  family of networks, WGN, Huffington Post and Fox News breaking down everything from the Donald Sterling case, to the Northwestern football team battle to unionize.

In a short exchange, Pope suggested one of the ways HBCUs can change the game is do something that the Power 5 has yet to do openly: Pay the athletes.


There has been much debate on this topic as it relates to revenue-generating sports athletes in the Power 5 leagues. Never, though, has anyone sought the opinion of FCS athletes, especially those from HBCUs about the prospect of pay-for-play.

That was until late last month when published an article exploring that very prospect for HBCU athletes representing FCS and Division II schools. In the piece, several players interviewed said they would want to be compensated beyond a scholarship to help purchase things like food and toiletries among other necessities. You know, the basics.

The lone coach probed in the piece, Arkansas Pine-Bluff head coach Monte Coleman, spoke with trepidation about a system that would make a way for athletes to be considered actual employees because HBCUs couldn’t possibly compete in recruiting if it came to be.

The rebuttals to any suggestion that college athletes be paid for playing sports are numerous and overwhelmingly dripping with a side-eye consternation. Who is going to pay them? Where will the money come from? Our schools can’t afford it. The Power 5 schools can always pay the athlete more than the HBCUs. What about the lacrosse players? They should be paid, too.

It’s been nearly a half-century since HBCUs, especially in football, have been regarded as peerless attracting and producing the best elite talent in the country. Why not try it? What do schools really have to lose by stepping out on a limb that not even the big boys have been willing to?

There is always discussions on the web about how HBCU leaders are no longer the trendsetters they once were. Maybe in order to shift the paradigm like Pope advocates, it’s time to step outside of the box and risk everything to gain was has already been lost.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here