There is no question that college athletics is undergoing a seismic shift with this year's dismantling of the Pac-12, but Friday's announcement by the leaders of the Big Ten and SEC is raising even more questions.
On Friday, the two conferences said it is forming a committee "to address the significant challenges facing college athletics and the opportunities for betterment of the student-athlete experience."
Within the conferences' statement, they said court decisions, pending litigation, a patchwork of state laws, and complex governance proposals compel them to "take a leadership role in developing solutions for a sustainable future of college sports."
While the conferences are not planning an exit from the NCAA, the announcement likely puts the leading organizing body of college athletics on notice.
"The Big Ten and the SEC have substantial investment in the NCAA and there is no question that the voices of our two conferences are integral to governance and other reform efforts," said Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti. "We recognize the similarity in our circumstances, as well as the urgency to address the common challenges we face."
Both the Big Ten and SEC have secured massive media rights deals, mostly driven by their college football product. Their athletes have also been able to cash in recently due to changes in the NCAA that have allowed athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.
But that has presented a new set of issues for universities, conferences and the NCAA. Schools are unable to directly pay players for their name, image and likeness, but many schools have formed collectives to fundraise on players' behalf.
Additionally, the NCAA now allows players to transfer once without sitting out a season. That created an unprecedented number of portal transfers at the end of the 2023 college football season.
It is a system that many coaches, administrators and others have said is not sustainable. That is why the rival the conferences say changes need to happen.
"There are similar cultural and social impacts on our student-athletes, our institutions, and our communities because of the new collegiate athletics environment," said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. "We do not have predetermined answers to the myriad questions facing us. We do not expect to agree on everything but enhancing interaction between our conferences will help to focus efforts on common sense solutions."
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