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TOM MILLER: So-called 'Power 5' conferences granted legislative autonomy

The NCAA’s richest athletic conferences made a power move Thursday when these leagues were granted legislative autonomy.

In other words, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12, the ACC and the SEC are about to play by their own rules now.

UND and the Big Sky Conference are far from that group dubbed ‘The Power 5,’ but the fallout of this historic movement will still be felt in Grand Forks.

At this point, the extent of the impact is speculative because the Power 5 hasn’t passed any legislation. We do know, however, the Power 5 plans to ramp up benefits to student-athletes, such as scholarships that cover the full cost of attendance.

To cover the full cost of attendance, the Power 5 has discussed offering stipends which have been suggested from $2,000 to $5,000 per athlete.

This is where the impact starts to trickle to UND.

Let’s say the University of Minnesota men’s hockey program — a part of the Power 5 — is able to offer stipends. The same example could be used for Notre Dame, Boston College, Wisconsin, etc.

In order to keep UND an elite men’s hockey program, coach Dave Hakstol and his staff must be able to offer recruits a similar package as the Gophers are allowed.

Both UND athletic director Brian Faison and Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton have said UND will pursue all avenues to compete with the Power 5 benefit packages as it pertains to hockey. UND may even look to pursue stipends in basketball.

But, that additional money has to come from somewhere. That’s the concern for schools like UND.

If money is getting pulled to the spotlight sports, is it being taken away from the non-revenue sports? Are those sports going to be cut? What about the implications to Title IX?

There are a lot of questions and not a lot of answers so far. It’s not just about hockey, either when it comes to UND’s impact.

The Power 5 have also discussed football scheduling models that would force schools in these leagues to only schedule other schools in the Power 5.

According to an ESPN poll, 46 percent of head coaches in the Power 5 are in favor of a Power 5-only schedule model.

In the ESPN poll, Washington head coach Chris Petersen voted in favor of the Power 5-only model while Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham was undecided. The UND football team is scheduled to play Washington in 2018 and Utah in 2017.

If the Power 5 decides to go that route in football, UND would lose out on the high-end guarantee paydays (they could still schedule guarantee money games with a school like Boise State of the Mountain West Conference). UND would also lose out on the potential for a splashy upset.

The Power 5 is expected to submit new rules by Oct. 1 for consideration at the 2015 NCAA convention, which will be held in January.

UND and its followers will want to pay attention.

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 13 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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