Reps, athletes of Big 5 conferences will meet this weekend in beginning of ‘Autonomy Era’

The “Big 5” Athletic Conferences granted autonomy by the NCAA will meet this weekend to discuss and vote on proposals that could change the landscape of college athletics.

The 5 major conferences – ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC – were granted autonomy by the NCAA last summer, allowing them more freedom to govern themselves and create their own rules for college athletics. The move was a response to the growing criticism of the NCAA by those looking to procure more benefits, both financial and otherwise, for college athletes.

In that vein, the group of 80 representatives will include a voting representative from each of the 65 member schools, but also 15 student athletes, each of whom gets their own vote on the various proposals.

The student-athlete representatives are listed below, per a press release by the Big Ten Conference. No swimmers are included in the 15, but there are a number of non-revenue/Olympic sports represented:

Name                              Institution              Sport

Patrick Andrews                 Clemson                  Baseball

Kaila Barber                      Notre Dame            Track and Field

Ty Darlington                     Oklahoma                Football

Diamond DeShields            Tennessee            Women’s Basketball

Ben-Marvin Egel                 Purdue                   Men’s Golf

McKenzie Fechter              Washington           Women’s Gymnastics

Chris Hawthorne               Minnesota               Football

Jay Hughes                        Mississippi State      Football

Taylor James                      California            Women’s Rowing

Anthony Lyons, Jr.               Texas Tech              Baseball

Nandi Mehta                     Northwestern          Women’s Soccer

Kene Orjioke                      UCLA                    Football

Artie Rowell                      Pittsburgh              Football

Maddie Stein                     Kansas                  Softball

Josh Tobias                       Florida                 Baseball

The Big Ten press release indicates that the group will meet twice on Saturday, January 17 at the NCAA Convention. Between the two meetings, they’ll vote on 8 proposals and 1 resolution, described by the conference as focusing on “the issues of cost of attendance, loss-of-value insurance, scholarship renewal, and concussion safety.”

In order to pass, the proposals will need either:

  • 60% of all votes, plus votes from a majority of schools in 3 of the 5 conferences


  • 50% of all votes, plus votes from a majority of schools in 4 of the 5 conferences

Possibly the biggest eventual outcome of autonomy could be the paying of college athletes, especially in revenue-producing sports like football and basketball, where critics say scholarships alone don’t fairly compensate athletes for the huge amount of revenue they produce for their schools and the NCAA.

The effect of all of this on swimming is still up in the air, as many of the possible benefits (4-year guaranteed scholarships, improved athlete heath insurance) would help college swimmers, but many fear that allowing payment of football and basketball players would cause schools to cut Olympic sports like swimming to trim their budgets.

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While in theory I support the athletes being paid a reasonable salary… I worry that it will negatively impact the non Football/Basketball sports… if there is a solution that shares the wealth across all sports I can get behind it- but that is unlikely to happen… most likely Football/Basketball trump all.

M Palota

I don’t know what this means for the non-revenue sports in the “Big 5” Conferences but I do believe that change in the revenue sports – men’s basketball & football – in those Conferences is inevitable.

The money is so big now and everybody’s making it except for the athletes that provide the product. That kind of business model is not sustainable. EPSN’s deal for the football championships pays the NCAA something north of $7 billion(!) over 12 years. It’s criminal that some of that money is not paid to the athletes.


Allowing the athletes to make income from outside activities, if reported and monitored, avoids adversely impacting school revenues and thus avoids the adverse impact on non-revenue sports like swimming. Simple allowing payments increases the risk that the weaker (i.e. lower gross revenue) schools will cut non-revenue sports. The earned income could be perhaps be capped – at say $25,000 per year, and teams could be allowed to earn as groups – i.e. Jamis Winston or Marcus Mariota could, instead of signing 100 autographs at $1,000 apiece, participate in a “autographs by the whole team session” that generate enough cash to give every teamate $25,000 per year.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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