In a landmark change for the world of college sports, the NCAA approved a new governing structure for Division I athletics on Thursday. The new structure will create legislative autonomy for the five power conferences — the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC — who were seeking great freedom to amend rules related to issues like scholarships and athlete benefits.

For example, those schools have previously proposed giving out stipends to help pay for school expense that aren't covered by scholarships. Most of the smaller Division I schools blocked that measure, arguing that they couldn't afford it. Now, the major conferences will able to adopt similar rules on their own that "enhance the well-being of student-athletes," but will not apply to smaller conferences that generate less revenue.

 

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

The proposal was first introduced last month, and since then, only one major change was made. The structure originally required three conferences to submit legislation for consideration, however, this was changed to just one conference in the final version. The proposal was passed in a 16-to-2 vote by the Board of Directors. There will be a sixty-day veto period for the vote before the structure goes into official effect, however, a veto seems unlikely given the landslide vote. 

In the meantime, the five conferences will work to create an agenda for consideration at the January NCAA Convention. They are expected to create a "full cost of attendance" proposal, which will increase scholarship values for athletes that ensure all school-related expenses are covered. 

However, the new structure does not mean the "Power 5" are breaking away and forming their own league. They will still be part of the Division I and will not be able to set their own "big picture" rules, like academic standards, membership requirements, or the number of total scholarship they can give out.

Additionally, this structure creates a Division I Council. This council includes two athletes, two athletic faculty representatives, four conference commissioners and 32 other conference representatives. Together, they will handle Division I operations, including the adoption of new rules once a year, and for the first time ever, student-athletes will actually get to vote on the new rules.