In a seemingly last ditch effort to keep the teams of the 5 power conferences (the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12) from leaving the NCAA all together the NCAA voted 16-2 in favor of allowing those 5 power conferences to make their own rules, short of ruling to pay their players.
This is a sign that the NCAA will soon cease to exist, at least in it's current form. These conferences now have the power to write their own rules for such things as as cost-of-attendance stipends, insurance benefits for players, staff sizes, recruiting rules and mandatory hours spent on individual sports. It makes sense because the needs of a school the size of a Penn State will vary by far from a school like Louisiana Tech. "But these teams are both FBS schools... how could they be that different?", you ask.
Years ago La. Tech happily accepted money to get their butts kicked, I mean agreed to play a non-conference game at Penn State. I know for a fact that during their walk through the day before the game many of the La. Tech players laid down on the Beaver Stadium grass doing "snow angel" motions because they could not believe how nice the field was. La. Tech and Penn State are as similar in the sense that they both play in the FBS (Division 1A football) but are about as similar as the Earth and the Moon. Both are in the same general area of the same solar system but your experience varies completely between the two.
It makes sense for the 5 power conferences to get the ability to write their own rules. The issues that affect schools with $100 million plus athletic departments are simply not the same as the ones experienced by Middle Tennessee State. It makes little sense to have the likes of an MTSU voting to determine rules that apply to everyone, regardless of size. The NCAA didn't really want to do this but had to to placate the power conferences for just a little while longer to somehow remain relevant. The NCAA wants to keep their piece of the $914 million pie at any cost. They also desperately want to maintain the illusion that they have the best interests of the "student athletes" at heart by preventing them from such horrible offenses as making money on their name and likeness. Horrible offenses because that is money that the NCAA enjoys currently, no pie for you kid.
That all being said, there are things that make this terribly frustrating and intriguing all at the same time. The first observation is that Notre Dame is included in the 64 team list that makes up the 5 power conferences, despite not being part of any of those conferences. In essence with a very loose affiliation with the ACC, Notre Dame has more standing in the eyes of the NCAA than any of the teams in the AAC, MAC, Mountain West, and Conference USA conferences combined.
That's not to say any of the teams not in the power conferences are completely "left out" so to speak. All schools can choose to adopt any of the measures the 5 power conferences choose to enact, it's just that they probably wouldn't be able to afford to do so. Let's say you are out car shopping with Bill Gates and he chooses to buy the top of the line Ferrari. Sure you too could want to do the same but wanting to and being able to afford to are different matters entirely.
The new sweeping powers awarded to the 5 power conferences is just the first step towards the eventual new landscape of college athletics. The 5 power conferences will break away and form their own league and in our lifetimes we will eventually see college players get paid in some way. (At least let them make money on their own names for Christ sake.) We might even see an actual playoff (not what we have this year), once the power 5 conferences work out the best way to make money on it. One of the first changes you will probably see is the 5 power conferences changing the transfer rules. Players will eventually not have to sit out a year when transferring to another FBS school; thus, allowing teams from the 5 power conferences to eventually pick the best players from the smaller schools.
So it was nice to know ya Sun Belt conference, I'll still enjoy your random Tuesday night ESPN degenerate gamblers special where I foolishly bet on Troy to cover only to have them blow it late. Farewell Conference USA... I don't have many good things to say but it's impressive that so many of your teams so often are in the bottom 20 out of 125 FBS schools. So long MAC conference... Toledo beating PSU 24-6 back some 14 years ago will always be a special memory for me but I promise won't bet the under on 95.5 only to have Northern Illinois vs.Toledo end up 49 - 47... OK, I probably will but I digress.
Ultimately it remains to be seen if this truly is a good or a bad thing but for now I'll sit back and enjoy the knowledge that the NCAA will slowly but surely go away sometime in the future.