By Shehan Jeyarajah
The Big 12 conference is instituting a series of new conference bylaws to increase future scholarship compensation for student-athletes, the conference announced on Monday.
Pending expected changes in NCAA rules this January, the changes that have been approved will allow schools to increase compensation, sign players to multi-year scholarships for duration of eligibility and let former athletes return to school and complete degree requirements.
“Enacting these measures is an important step in the process of implementing a twenty-first century model that is responsive to the need of our student-athletes,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement.
Previously, athletic aid contained tuition and fees, room and board and textbooks. However, cost of attendance would increase compensation to include “other expenses reasonably related to attendance at the institution.”
Baylor University estimates the annual cost of tuition, fees, room, board and books to be $50,028, while projecting total annual cost of attendance to be $54,160 for a full-time student.
The football team alone boasts 85 scholarship players. Between the increased compensation, Baylor will be shelling out $351,220 more a year for football alone. As a private institution, Baylor’s total scholarships cost over $4.6 million. For comparison’s sake, if public school Texas signed 85 in-state players to the average reported cost of tuition, its football scholarship costs would total $2.3 million.
Baylor is one of only two private institutions in the Big 12, along with TCU. Despite the added financial burden, Baylor administration stood behind the new measures.
“We’ve been very supportive of all three of these initiatives,” Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw said. “Going to full cost of attendance for our student-athletes is something we think is the right thing to do. It has great universal support.”
In addition, scholarships are currently given out on a year-to-year basis. In the new system, schools can now offer scholarships that will cover four seasons of eligibility, meaning institutions would be guaranteeing athletes the opportunity to graduate.
The third bylaw is also intended to push student-athletes toward graduation. For example, in the case of a student-athlete like former Baylor basketball star Isaiah Austin, who lost his chance at the NBA due to health issues, universities can now give former student-athletes scholarships to return and finish their degree plans.
The other Power Five conferences (Southeastern, Pac-12, Big 10 and Atlantic Coast) have also recommended similar changes. However, the Big 12 is the first to write bylaws requiring member schools to abide.
“Being a high-visibility conference, the Big 12 wanted to be at the forefront,” Big 12 associated commissioner Bob Burda said. “The conference had a clear directive to enhance the student-athlete experience, and we feel we have done that.”
The new rules are dependent on a vote during a meeting of the autonomous Power Five conferences in January. The Power Five captured a major victory in August when the NCAA Division I Board of Directors passed a new model allowing the conferences to autonomously create certain rules for themselves.
The three bylaw changes were approved unanimously by the 10 Big 12 member institutions. They will go into effect Aug. 1, 2015, in time for the 2015-16 academic year.