In recent weeks some college programs have announced initiatives meant to improve the student-athlete experience, with four-year scholarships and programs meant to help those who leave school without a degree return to campus among the benefits. Wednesday afternoon the Big Ten became the first conference among the five granted autonomy by the NCAA to make a move, as it sent recommendations to the NCAA regarding these issues.
Among the moves recommended by the Big Ten are to make sure scholarships meet the full cost of attendance and to also reward multi-year scholarships. These benefits would be available for to scholarship athletes in good standing at their particular university.
The Big Ten will work to implement the following proposals through individual institutional action, conference-wide action or under the NCAA autonomy governance structure:
• Cost of Education: Redefine full grant-in-aid to meet a student-athlete’s cost of education, as determined by the federal government.
• Multi-Year Scholarships: Guarantee all scholarships. If a student-athlete is no longer able to compete, for whatever reason, there should be no impact on institutions’ commitment to deliver an undergraduate education.
• Lifetime Educational Commitment: Ensure that scholarships are available for life. If a student-athlete leaves a university for a professional career before graduating, whether the career materializes, and regardless of its length, the scholarship will be honored after his or her playing days are complete.
• Medical Insurance: Provide improved, consistent medical insurance for student-athletes.
Within its statement the Big Ten also vowed to address areas such as the health of their athletes, how much time is required of athletes in their particular sport and ensuring that their athletes get the support needed to succeed academically. It’s likely only a matter of time before the other four leagues granted autonomy (ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) make their own decisions regarding how they take care of the needs of their athletes.
Will the Big Ten’s move serve as a model for those conferences to follow? Or will they find other areas of importance that need to be addressed? With the value of a scholarship being one of the major conversation points even before autonomy was granted, more changes are coming in the future for collegiate athletics.