Decision-makers want autonomy

— -- SAN DIEGO -- An unofficial straw poll of hundreds of delegates at the NCAA Convention in San Diego shows they support Division I athletics moving toward a model that would grant more autonomy to the five conferences with the most resources -- the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.

The vote showed that 58 percent of athletic decision-makers in attendance either supported or strongly supported a change in the way Division I athletics are governed. The vote was nonbinding and the proposed new governance model is still raw, but it represents the first tangible acknowledgement that change is needed.

"People agree this is the appropriate way to have Division I stay intact and grant these degrees of freedom to higher-resource conferences," Wake Forest president Nathan Hatch, who also serves as Division I president, told "Six months ago I don't think we would have been there. The very process has been a constructive one and you can see from this we tried to make things open."

The purpose of the two-day Division I governance dialogue at the San Diego Convention Center was to introduce the rough model and solicit feedback from all corners of Division I athletics.

"It's a little bit like the formation of our [U.S.] Constitution," Hatch said. "Big states versus small states. There are different interests -- how to craft hopefully an elegant solution where no one gets everything they want, but it's acceptable as a fair resolution."

The catalyst for the change is the growing divide between the five conferences with more resources and their desire to be able to autonomously pass legislation -- such as cost of attendance, unofficially referred to as a stipend, and the length of academic eligibility for scholarships.

"The biggest challenge for us right now is we don't feel we're able to get an intact piece of legislation through the program that will benefit our 65 programs," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. "I don't say that to be critical of others. But the fact is what is a great decision for us, may be a marginal decision for (the Football Championship Subdivision) and an awful decision for the rest of the Division I. Those are honest disagreements.

"But we have enough issues, and our issues are high enough profile, and our institutions are of the sort, that we have to be able to solve those problems for ourselves. If there was something that we were relatively unanimous on, us being the five conferences, we would be able to work that through the system."

The hope is that the new model of governance can be firmed up by spring.

"It's encouraging and consistent with the under-the-radar discussions what we've heard from our colleagues," ACC commissioner John Swofford said. "There is a lot left to be done. I think this was a productive and necessary part of the process. The more people you have on board supporting a concept, the better it is in the long run. There are concepts and there are details and there is an awful lot yet to be done in terms of the details."