The decision on Thursday by the NCAA Division I board of directors to grant more autonomy to the wealthiest conferences in college sports was the subject of intense and contentious deliberations for many months. But momentum had built for a big change.
Still, many university presidents and athletic directors simply could not endorse a plan that would allow the 65 schools in the Big 5 conferences — the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Pacific-12, the Big Ten and the Big 12 — to create a new tier atop the NCAA's structure in which they could set their own rules.
Their fear was that such an overhaul would not address the issues facing universities and college athletics. And allowing powerhouse universities, with their top-dollar coaches and shiny new facilities, to offer sweetened recruiting packages would only deepen the criticism that the NCAA had become overly professionalized.
"There are serious challenges confronting college athletics," said Tom Yeager, the commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association. "This didn't solve, in our view, some of those root causes. It is kind of optics."