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A new proposal from the NCAA president would revolutionize college sports

The NCAA is proposing the creation of a new subdivision for Division I, in which athlete compensation would be much different

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NCAA president Charlie Baker speaks during the NCAA Convention on Jan. 12, 2023, in San Antonio. Baker plans to present a new proposal this week detailing how some FBS schools would handle NIL revenue issues.

NCAA president Charlie Baker speaks during the NCAA Convention on Jan. 12, 2023, in San Antonio. Baker plans to present a new proposal this week detailing how some FBS schools would handle NIL revenue issues.

Darren Abate, Associated Press

College sports at the Division I level could look dramatically different if a new proposal from NCAA president Charlie Baker is ever implemented.

According to multiple reports Tuesday morning, Baker is planning to present a groundbreaking proposal this week regarding the future of DI sports, namely the creation of a new subdivision, to join the already existing Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

The new subdivision would “grant certain schools more autonomy around policy-making and permits them to compensate athletes in a new and profound way,” writes Yahoo Sports’ Ross Dellenger.

The new subdivision would remain a part of the NCAA, and member schools would continue to compete for NCAA championships, all of which are overseen by the NCAA, save for the College Football Playoff.

Schools in the new subdivision would gain control of decision-making in a major way, specifically when it comes to scholarship limits, roster sizes and number of coaches on staff.

This, writes Dellenger, is “the NCAA’s way of handing major conference programs the freedom to increase the limits or do away with them altogether.”

As reported by ESPN’s Dan Murphy, schools in the subdivision would be allowed to compensate their athletes directly for their name, image and likeness, rather than having to go through third party collectives.

According to The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach, schools would also compensate their athletes through a trust and there would be no cap on the amount that schools could pay their athletes.

The new subdivision would still be beholden to Title IX rules and, as such, schools would be required to invest “at least $30,000 per year” into the aforementioned trust, per a letter sent out by Baker to Division I members.

The schools that would be a part of the subdivision would be the “institutions with the highest resources,” Baker’s proposal reads. Schools would opt in or opt out of participating in the subdivision and would be required to “meet a strict minimum standard rooted in athlete investment,” Dellenger reported.

“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 proposal letter. “Colleges and universities need to be more flexible, and the NCAA needs to be more flexible, too.”

Baker’s proposal is viewed as perhaps the boldest in NCAA history, at least when it comes to proposals made by NCAA leadership.

Writes ESPN’s Pete Thamel, “In reading the NCAA letter proposing ‘to offer our own forward-looking framework,’ two things stood out. One is that Charlie Baker’s vision, energy and creativity are a full universe ahead of the prior NCAA leadership group. They are trying. Also, they want to avoid a wholesale break-up.”

The proposal is not close to being finalized, Dellenger reports, but is supposed to serve as a “conversation starter.”

“The proposal is expected to be a leading topic at a gathering of athletic administrators in Las Vegas this week as well as at the NCAA convention in mid-January,” writes Dellenger.

At its core, the proposal is an attempt to satiate the growing wants and needs of the wealthiest class of Division I schools, while still keeping them under the direction — somewhat — of the NCAA.

“The growing financial gap between the highest-resourced colleges and universities and other schools in Division I has created a new series of challenges,” Baker writes. “The challenges are competitive as well as financial and are complicated further by the intersection of name, image and likeness opportunities for student-athletes and the arrival of the transfer portal.”

The cost of more autonomy from the NCAA would be significant, though.

There are 133 FBS programs (with another on the way in Delaware) and 69 programs that make up the Power Five. The number of sports sponsored by schools differs by institution, ranging between 18 sports to as many as 35.

As reported by Yahoo Sports, “a sensible average is around 350-400 athletes on some portion of a scholarship” at Division I schools.

Writes Dellenger, “A school depositing the minimum of $30,000 each year per athlete for half of their athletes would spend about $6 million a year. Schools would not be required to deposit the same amount for each athlete. The model leaves that to the discretion of the institution.”

Baker’s proposal, in theory, could help the NCAA avoid legal challenges regarding its amateurism model, though it will almost certainly, as reported by Dellenger, “force a formal split within the (FBS).”

The Power Five conferences, soon to be Power Four with the demise of the Pac-12, would serve as the membership of the new subdivision. That would leave the Group of Five conferences as those remaining at the FBS level, plus any Power conference programs that decide the bill for membership in the new subdivision is too steep.

Baker’s proposal can be viewed in its entirety here.