To the typical fan, college sports will look much the same. The football field will still be 100 yards and a 3-pointer will still be worth, well, three points.
But off the field and court, significant changes are underway. On Thursday, the NCAA moved ahead with a plan that empowers the schools in the five wealthiest athletic conferences – the Big 5 – to effectively play by their own rules.
With more so-called autonomy, those conferences – the SEC, the ACC, the Pac-12, the Big Ten and the Big 12 - can set their own rules, which could have giant implications for college sports.
Here’s a primer on what the developments mean:
But keep an eye out for “If you can’t beat em, join ’em.” Many of the schools outside the Big 5 are likely to push for the same rules in the coming months.
In this case, it would take 75 universities outside of the Big 5 to disapprove. That would prompt a membership vote, and if 125 object, the plan would be halted until a resolution could be worked out. There are 351 schools in NCAA Division 1, 65 of them in the Big 5 conferences.
If the wider NCAA membership blocks the Big 5 plan, those conferences could invoke the nuclear option and break away from the NCAA to create a separate division. NCAA president Mark Emmert would clearly be opposed to a diminished NCAA.