Texas A&M Law Review

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As part of the August 2014 Division I Governance re-design, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, acting on the recommendation of a Board-appointed Steering Committee, granted certain autonomous decision-making powers to the Autonomy 5 conferences and their sixty-five member institutions. In effect, this recommendation by the Board’s Steering Committee enabled the Autonomy 5 conferences to begin to adopt policy legislation independently from the rest of Division I. Accordingly, the Steering Committee developed and recommended a structure “designed to allow permissive use of resources or to otherwise enhance the well-being of student-athletes by any [Autonomy 5 institutional] member, [or] to advance the legitimate educational or athletics-related needs of student-athletes.” Specifically, the Board delegated authority to the Autonomy 5 conferences to oversee policy development in the following areas: health and wellness, meals and nutrition, certain aspects of financial aid, expenses and benefits pertaining both to student-athlete support, and to preenrollment support, insurance and career transition, career pursuits, time demands, academic support, recruiting, and personnel. Under the revised structure, the Autonomy 5 conferences have the exclusive autonomy to consider and adopt bylaw changes (i.e. NCAA legislation) in these designated areas. The remaining twenty-seven conferences that comprise Division I continue to have legislative authority, in conjunction with the Autonomy 5 conferences, to recommend changes to other portions of the NCAA Manual, but only “for matters other than autonomy legislation.” This Article will explore the development and certain key highlights of the redesigned governance process for NCAA Division I and discuss some of the early successes achieved via the new structure. In addition, the Article will also address certain challenges that remain in play with the new structure, and will include a particular focus on one specific area of concern—scholarship support in non-revenue sports.

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