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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 24 2014

NDSU AD Taylor OK with power conference "autonomy" but to an extent

FARGO – North Dakota State athletic director Gene Taylor has some words of advice for the five NCAA Division I power conferences that are seeking more of a voice within the NCAA: Go ahead, make his day.

Taylor said he’s all for the 65 schools from the five leagues having what is being labeled “autonomy” for certain rules like no limits on coaches and stipends for student-athletes. The five conferences would be defined as the Big Ten, Pac-12, Atlantic Coast, Southeastern Conference and Big 12.

“Most of the stuff they want to do … they have money to spend so spend it, I don’t care,” he said. “They’re already doing things we can’t do now. I have no problem if they want to do more.”

Taylor would have a problem, however, if the power five conferences start limiting the NDSUs of the world from access to tournaments or messing with scholarship limits. The prime access is the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, where the Bison qualified this year for the second time since 2009 and won a second-round game in March.

The scholarship issue would be more of a trickle-down effect. For instance, if the 65 schools wanted to increase scholarships for football, it would also have to raise limits on female sports – limits all Division I schools would probably have to adhere to.

That means it would cost the NDSUs of the world more money to fund women’s athletics.

“There are some things we want to make sure we all agree on,” Taylor said. “That would primarily be scholarship and academic requirements staying the same and the access to championships. If we get all that, I think everybody would be OK with it.”

The conversation across the country is fast and furious. Earlier this week, SEC commissioner Mike Slive in an ESPN.com story proposed seven goals that mainly enhance academic, athletic and health benefits of student-athletes.

Specifically, one “cost of attendance” stipulation would give student-athletes more financial aid beyond books, tuition, room and board. In other words, it would give them an additional stipend. Other wants include paying for players’ families to attend the NCAA basketball Final Four and changing the structure of players interacting with agents.

There was no mention of the five-conference subdivision separating from the NCAA.

“That’s still held out there as a possibility,” Taylor said. “If for some reason we can’t agree, they say they’ll do that. I’m not sure how you can do that without destroying the basketball model.”

Taylor said the governance is centered with football. Major college football is going to a four-team playoff next season, a mini-tournament that is expected to generate millions in additional revenue.

If for some reason the power five formed their own football subdivision, Taylor was asked if NDSU would seek to be in the next level after that.

“That would be our goal,” he said. “I think that’s who we are. Football is important around here. If we have to step away from the FCS and start playing more FBS guys depending on what they do, in so many ways we have to look at it.”

It’s a subject the NCAA Division I Board of Directors is discussing this week. It endorsed a restructuring proposal on Thursday that puts the five-conference autonomy one step closer to reality.

Taylor said conferences will provide feedback in June to a steering committee, and the issue is expected to be up for a vote to the Board of Directors in August.

“Stay tuned,” he said. “It’s gone fast, and it’s being driven by the big five conferences. There’s no question about that. It’s not a bad thing. It just means they have the power, and we need to figure out how to work with them.”


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia