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Jan 17, 2014 12:56 PM EST

NCAA Division I 'Power Conference' Leaders Outline Major Changes Discussed at Annual Convention

Leaders of the five Division I "power conferences" are meeting at the annual NCAA convention in San Diego to discuss major changes to the current athletics structure.

According to ESPN, hundreds of athletic administrators from the NCAA Division I SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC conferences met Thursday to open a dialogue. In the three-hour meeting, the conferences discussed receiving more autonomy, which would allow athletic directors more influence to how they support their student-athletes.

These changes could even be passed as soon as the spring, said NCAA president Mark Emmert, who sits on a seven-member committee moderating the meetings.

"To move all of the legislative activity into the hands of athletic directors and other practitioners would be an enormous shift from where the process is right now," he told ESPN following the Thursday's meeting. "To move toward an area that identifies sections of the rules and bylaws, that would be overseen autonomously by five conferences would be a sea-change shift. There has never been anything like that that goes on. Those two things alone would be a very large shift and change in the way the governance model works."

The "power conferences," unofficially named for their heightened prevalence in major college sports like basketball and football, were referred to as the "well-resourced conferences." The new model would allow them to make legislative decisions on cost of attendance and ongoing education scholarships.

Also known as a stipend, the cost of attendance accounts for expenses a student-athlete has to make but is not covered by an athletic scholarship. Academic scholarships, on the other hand, do account for such expenses. Specifics were not discussed, but the university would set a dollar amount cap.

The ongoing education scholarship would allow a student-athlete to leave school and come back later still on their academic scholarship. For example, if a junior was to leave a year of athletic eligibility for a professional career, that student-athlete could continue their education with an ongoing academic scholarship.

"We're trying to balance the highly resourced and the less resourced," UCLA chancellor and steering committee member, Dr. Gene Block, told ESPN. "We want to find a way to keep some sort of competitive equity, but it's difficult. We have to try to find the right balance to give the conferences that are highly resourced, but maintain this tent where everyone has a chance."

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