The scandal-plagued NCAA is moving swiftly to clean up its image.
On Thursday, the Division I Board of Directors approved a package of sweeping reforms that gives conferences the option of adding more money to scholarship offers, schools the opportunity to award scholarships for multiple years, imposes tougher academic standards on recruits and changes the summer basketball recruiting model.
"It was one of the most aggressive and fullest agendas the board has ever faced," NCAA President Mark Emmert said. "They moved with dispatch on it, and I think they're taking positive steps for schools and student-athletes."
For decades, outsiders have debated whether college scholarships should include more than just the cost of tuition, room and board, books and fees. Now they can.
The board approved a measure allowing conferences to vote on providing up to $2,000 in spending money, or what the NCAA calls the full cost-of-attendance. Emmert insists it is not pay-for-play, merely the reintroduction of a stipend that existed for college athletes until 1972. He also compared it to the stipends received by other students who receive non-athletic scholarships.
Some thought the total amount should have been higher. At the Big Ten's basketball media day in Chicago, commissioner Jim Delany said studies have shown the average athlete pays roughly $3,000 to $4,000 out of his or her own pocket in college costs.
But many believe the measure is long overdue.I'll leave a more complete analysis until later, when more details about these reforms become available, but for now this seems to be a significant step in the right direction. It certainly isn't sufficient to address the widespread inequities that still exist, but to be fair, addressing them completely would probably mean a wholesale destruction of collegiate athletics as we know them.
For now, it seems that the NCAA knew that the widespread conference realignment/money grab/three-ring circus would likely create a significant public relations backlash, and it therefore scrambled to save face or at least divert attention. Whatever the reasons, though, it's undeniably the right move. Is it enough? We'll see.