The NCAA's vote Thursday to give certain universities more autonomy in governing major college sports is just a "minor move" for the association, said Gregg Easterbrook, columnist for ESPN.com and author of "The King of Sports: Football's Impact on America."
The NCAA is facing immense pressure to reform, Easterbrook told The Daily Circuit. "The big moves are yet to come," he said.
3 key changes affecting schools in the five wealthiest athletics conferences:
- Schools can now offer scholarships of a few thousand dollars more to football and men's basketball players
- The number of hours spent in practice can now be limited
- It is now possible for schools to offer long-term healthcare coverage to players
Easterbrook said these rules do little to affect a major issue plaguing college sports: academics.
"It's not the failure to pay players, it's the failure to graduate them that is the shame of college sports," he said. "A bachelor's diploma is worth more economically in terms of added lifetime earnings than players could receive under any possible pay scheme."
The University of Minnesota declined to comment on the new rules, referring The Daily Circuit instead to the Big Ten Conference.
Big Ten Commissioner James Delaney gave the following statement:
"We are pleased with today's vote by the Division I Board of Directors. With the adoption of a structure that allows for autonomy, we can begin enacting legislation that addresses a variety of important student-athlete issues. I couldn't feel better about our colleagues in the Big Ten, or those in other conferences, who put in so much time and effort proving once again that as an industry we are capable of coming together on behalf of our student-athletes. The new governance structure preserves the many traditions of Division I athletics while directly impacting all student-athletes competing at that level who will benefit from improved academic, health and safety initiatives resulting from the additional resources generated by the NCAA Basketball Tournament and other NCAA revenues. We look forward to moving past the process that brought us structural autonomy and onto the prospect of substantive reform that focuses on education and student-athletes."
ESPN is set to make a "major announcement" in two weeks aimed at putting pressure on college sports to improve academics, Easterbrook said. He declined to offer further details.