Charlie Baker hasn’t been the NCAA president for long, but he’s on the verge of introducing what could be the biggest change that NCAA Division I athletics has ever seen.
In a letter obtained by Yahoo Sports’ Ross Dellenger, Baker is starting a discussion with Division I members that could result in “groundbreaking and radical” changes to the NCAA model, something he’s described as a “new forward-looking framework.”
According to Baker’s proposal, schools would be able to opt in or out of the opportunity to be part of a new subdivision of schools that would be permitted to strike name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals with their own athletes — a significant difference compared to the current NIL structure.
In order to be a part of this subdivision, the schools would be required to meet a strict minimum standard rooted in investment in their athletes.
This new model would allow schools to directly compensate their athletes through a trust fund, and schools in the new subdivision would be required to distribute thousands of dollars in “additional educationally related funds without limitation.”
“It kick-starts a long-overdue conversation among the membership that focuses on the differences that exist between schools, conferences, and divisions and how to create more permissive and flexible rules across the NCAA that put student-athletes first,” Baker writes in the letter. “Colleges and universities need to be more flexible, and the NCAA needs to be more flexible, too.”
According to Dellenger’s report, entry into the subdivision requires a school to invest, at minimum, $30,000 per year per athlete into what is termed an “enhanced educational trust fund” for at least half of a school’s countable athletes.
It would be up to the schools to determine when athletes would receive the amount, which, over a four-year span, would total at least $120,000. Schools must continue to abide by the framework of Title IX, assuring that 50 percent of the investment be directed toward women athletes.
Baker says that schools who opt-in to this new subdivision would still be eligible to compete for NCAA championships with other Division I schools that opt-out, and that the NCAA would still oversee all national championship models, excluding the College Football Playoff.
Baker says that this model “gives the educational institutions with the most visibility, the most financial resources, and the biggest brands an opportunity to choose to operate with a different set of rules that more accurately reflect their scale and their operating model.”
This comment in particular addresses a much-anticipated step in college athletics, where the schools benefiting from lucrative television deals (Power Four) start to separate themselves from schools with fewer resources. As Dellenger puts it, “the proposal would likely force a formal split within the Football Bowl Subdivision of the Power Five, soon-to-be Power Four, conferences: the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Big 12.”
Now, Baker’s proposal is far from a final product and is intended to be a conversation starter that sparks a discussion leading to a major change of some sort. What that might look like in the end is anyone’s guess, but it’s clear that major changes are coming, and they’ll have to if the NCAA hopes to remain an entity in the ever-changing world of collegiate athletics.