DANBURY, Conn. — Now that the Power Five conferences have their autonomy, NCAA President Mark Emmert has a wish list he’d like them to tackle right away.
Emmert, speaking after a lecture at Western Connecticut State University, said Wednesday the conferences should prioritize the establishment of guaranteed scholarships, better insurance for student-athletes, new rules for dealing with agents and better concussion protocols.
The NCAA’s board of directors in August approved a plan that would allow the 65 schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference greater autonomy to determine rules around issues that “enhance the well-being of student-athletes,” such as financial aid or health costs.
The plan sailed through a 60-day override period this week, with only 27 schools voting to ask the NCAA to reconsider the decision.
Emmert said he would like to see the conferences move immediately to provide scholarships that cover the entire cost of an education. He said those packages also should allow students who leave school early to pursue professional careers or for another reason to return and finish their degrees.
“Some notion of a scholarship that covers a bachelor’s degree and not a year-to-year commitment is going to be really critical,” he said.
He said he’d also like the Power Five vote to make sure students never have to pay out of pocket to cover any medical expenses related to their sport.
Emmert said he also would like to see the conferences immediately standardize protocols for dealing with concussions, saying every team should be required to have a medical professional on the sideline responsible for implementing concussion protocols.
“And when those aren’t followed, we need to explore how we hold people accountable for doing it, and there is not a system for doing that right now,” he said.
Officials at Michigan have been criticized for not immediately sitting quarterback Shane Morris after the sophomore took a hard hit in a game last month against Minnesota.
Emmert declined to say whether he thought that situation was handled properly.
The president said he also hopes the conferences move quickly to relax rules that currently prevent student-athletes from having contact with agents.
He said the current ban actually hinders families who are trying to decide whether an athlete is ready to become a professional.
“It’s hard to figure out what your market value really is without ‘professionalizing’ yourself, and the whole nature of those relationships needs to be reconsidered, “ he said.
Emmert said he supported giving the conferences more autonomy in part because he believes they are in a good position to address these types of issues quickly.
“If in fact they make the changes that I hope they make, now they’ll be able to support students better,” he said. “And many of the mid-majors and the non-football schools are saying, ‘Well, we’ll try and do the same.’ Having people compete over doing good things for students is a good thing.”