Swofford Confident Autonomy Measure Will Pass

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Vast changes to the NCAA’s structure have been on the horizon for some time, and ACC commissioner John Swofford believes that ball is about to start rolling within the month.

On August 7, the NCAA’s steering committee on restructuring will present a proposal to the board of directors. Within that proposal is a movement that will grant autonomy to the Power 5 conferences of college athletics. That is, of course, the ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big 10 and Pac-12.

On a Sunday afternoon address to the media at the ACC Kickoff, Swofford said he fully expects that measure to pass.

“I would guess there is nobody who will get everything they want at the end of the day,” Swofford said, “but the primary things I think are moving along very, very, very well, and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t pass on August 7. There’s always compromise in these kinds of discussions, and the autonomy was the most important aspect of it, and it looks like that will be forthcoming.”

Swofford said that autonomy will allow the five power conferences to pass rules and movements they believe are necessary at this time. The current red tape inefficiencies of the NCAA structure make it difficult to make significant changes in a timely manner, which is problematic in a time where the NCAA is under fire from all angles.

If autonomy is granted on August 7, Swofford already has a long wish list of difficult issues for the conferences to tackle. At the top of that list is the structure of the athletic scholarship.

Currently, scholarships are granted on a year-by-year basis and cover the price of tuition, room and board. With autonomy, conversations will begin about how to increase the benefits of an athletic scholarship for the student-athletes. Improvements would include guaranteeing four years of enrollment and expanding the scholarship to include the full price of attending college.

Another change the conferences would shoot for is how elite athletes make their decisions about whether to leave school early to enter the NFL or NBA drafts, Swofford said. Swofford hinted that athletes would be able to have more conversations with agents and professional executives without automatically exhausting their college eligibility. 

Another matter Swofford brought up was the 20-hour rule, which is supposed to place a limit on the amount of time student-athletes are forced to dedicate to the program through practices and meetings.

“That’s being abused,” Swofford said. “We know that.”

Swofford said it’s important to restructure the 20-hour rule and find a median that allows athletes to excel at the highest level while also holding the freedom to be normal college students.

Swofford also responded to a question about whether movements will be passed that allow players to benefit from their own likeness. While he did confirm that those conversations are going on, he said they will have to look at the legal process before those discussions move further along.

Swofford’s hope is that the autonomy measure passes on August 7, which would allow the conferences to begin these conversations and start making changes as soon as this fall.

“The good ship status quo has sailed, and it’s time for some changes and some significant changes,” Swofford said. “It’s going to present some challenges, but it’s time for that, and those are the right kinds of things to do and address.”