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U.S. college leaders vote for sports reform

College athletes in the United States may be a step closer to receiving greater financial compensation after a group of university leaders voted on Thursday to let the richest athletic conferences have autonomy on several key issues.

The NCAA's Division I board of directors approved the measure that would let the five biggest conferences self-govern in areas such as scholarships, insurance and travel for athletes' families.

The so-called power five conferences - the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference - and the NCAA have been under fire from critics for generating billions in revenue from amateur athletics.

The NCAA, which does not allow students to earn money for their athletic performance, has been sued by former and current athletes in U.S. courtdemanding a share of profits that includes tens of billions in guaranteed television money.

The sports most affected by the changes will be football, men's basketball, men's ice hockey and baseball, the NCAA said.

Students would also get a voice in how rules are created under the new structure.

The NCAA also faces a unionization push by scholarship football players at Northwestern University who want the right to have a say in benefits and compensation.