INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA Division I Board of Directors still believes scholarship limits should be expanded.
It just wants time to work out the details.
In a surprise move Saturday, the board delayed implementation of a $2,000 expense allowance, opting instead to ask the working group to make a modified proposal in April.
“What I heard was the board’s resolve with the concept (of the miscellaneous expense allowance) and moving forward with it but giving us a chance to work out concerns of the implementation,” said Middle Tennessee State President Sidney McPhee, who chairs the subcommittee that made recommendations Saturday.
The board heeded the membership’s advice to slow the pace of reforms, rather than continuing to charge full steam ahead.
Supporters insist that the 14-4 vote wasn’t an outright rejection of the philosophy.
The complaints began pouring in almost as soon as conferences were given the option of providing an additional $2,000 toward the full cost of attendance, money that covers expenses beyond tuition, room and board, books and fees.
The rule was approved by the board in October. By late December, 160 schools had signed on to override legislation, enough opposition to force suspension of the rule and reconsideration Saturday.
Schools had three primary concerns: Title IX compliance, how the stipend would apply to sports that use partial scholarships and when the rule would go into effect. NCAA President Mark Emmert supported clarifying the language on Title IX and partial scholarships.
But less than 24 hours after athletic directors from Missouri and California argued publicly for a delay to avoid busting budgets, the board took their side instead of making the expected move and adopting the modified proposal.
“The point is to make sure we respond to the membership’s concerns,” Emmert said on the final day of the NCAA’s annual convention. “We just want to make sure we get it right.”
If a new proposal passes in April, it would go back to the membership for another 60-day comment period. Opponents then would have a second chance to force an override vote, possibly delaying the legislation even longer -- certainly not the pace Emmert expected when he started pushing for swift changes in August.
The delay will cause at least one immediate discrepancy between college athletes.
Recruits who signed national letters-of-intent in November will be able to collect the money they were promised. Those who sign in February and April will not get that money, said David Berst, the NCAA’s vice president for governance in Division I.
The board sent a clearer message on another hot-button issue: multiyear scholarships. Previously, scholarships were renewed on an annual basis. Under the current legislation, athletes would be able to keep the full value of their scholarship for the length of their eligibility and not have the scholarship taken away based solely on athletic performance.
Those decisions are being made conference-by-conference, too.
While 82 schools asked the board to reconsider the rule, it’s unlikely to go away. The board voted unanimously to back the original proposal, sending the legislation to the full membership for an up-or-down online vote in February. It takes a five-eighths majority of 355 votes (221.9 votes) to reject it.
“The whole focus of our work has been on how we respond to student well-being and student welfare,” McPhee said. “This was described to me by some of the coaches we worked with, as one of the best messages we’ve sent to student-athletes in years, so we’re pretty confident that it will pass.”
The board had a full agenda on the final day of the NCAA’s annual convention.
Just blocks from the NCAA headquarters, members rejected proposed scholarship reductions in football and women’s basketball, a measure the head of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association passionately argued against Friday in front of 400 Division I delegates.
A ban on foreign trips, which was opposed by the head of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, also was rejected.
The board agreed to a 10-year moratorium on season lengths in all sports and approved a study into optimal length of sports seasons. It also approved a one-year moratorium on new legislation other than what comes out of those in the pipeline or emergency legislation.
It approved legislation to expand the definition of agents to include parents, closing the so-called Cam Newton Loophole, and a new summer basketball model that will give coaches more time to work with players who are enrolled in summer school.
The board tabled a measure aimed at reducing non-coaching staffs in football to 12 and men’s basketball to six, asking that subcommittee to make a stronger proposal in April, too.
“They agreed that this is an area they need to address but that the devil is in the details,” said Emmert, who received a two-year contract extension Friday.
Executive committee chairman Ed Ray, the Oregon State president, called the extension a vote of confidence in Emmert as he tries to turn the page on one of the most scandal-plagued years in NCAA history.
The question is whether Saturday’s moves indicate that the momentum to make swift, decisive changes is waning?
“The first thing is the continuing will of the board and their resolve to expand these issues is as good as it’s ever been, and the second is we need to be expeditious. We do need to make them,” Emmert said. “I think it’s clear that some people were surprised with the speed at which we’re getting things done, and I’m sure that some people thought ‘Hey, they would take a year, so I’ll get my chance to speak later. There was no later.”