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Utah, BYU coaches respond to NCAA autonomy ruling

Published: Thursday, Aug. 7 2014 2:45 p.m. MDT

Updated: Thursday, Aug. 7 2014 6:24 p.m. MDT

Wake Forest University president Nathan O. Hatch, chair of the NCAA board of directors, gestures while speaking at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. The NCAA Board of Directors overwhelmingly approved a package of historic reforms Thursday that will give the nation's five biggest conferences the ability to unilaterally change some of the basic rules governing college sports.

Michael Conroy, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham welcomed news that the NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted to allow the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) autonomy to implement what the Pac-12 said in a press release is the ability to "propose, adopt and implement positive reforms" with "greater flexibility in governance."

After practice Thursday, Whittingham said it was a step in the right direction and something that was inevitable.

"I don't think there was any way that it wasn't going to happen," Whittingham said. "Going forward, there's still some unanswered questions, but I think that for me it was expected, and we'll see how things progress from there."

Utah athletics director Dr. Chris Hill is looking forward to the changes ahead.

“I’m pleased that this legislation got passed. The main purpose of the legislation is to allow us to provide more resources for our student-athletes," Hill said. "It’s always been our goal to provide the best experience possible for our student-athletes and this is one more way to help us achieve our goal.”

In the Pac-12's announcement, Commissioner Larry Scott was optimistic that the five conferences would work together and submit proposals to the NCAA as early as this fall, adding that the Pac-12's goals were recently outlined by the conference's presidents and chancellors. They included financial concerns of scholarships, injury prevention and health care, as well as the preservation of the universities' educational mission.

"We are delighted that after years of debate, a consensus has emerged that the time has come for a modern approach to governance that recognizes the need to give more flexibility to those conferences prepared to do more for student-athletes and, at the same time, preserves the collegiate model which works so well for the vast majority of Pac-12 student-athletes," Scott said. "This is a great day for the 7,000 current student-athletes in the Pac-12 and for generations of future student-athletes who will benefit from the educational opportunities and life lessons made possible by college athletics."

CBSSports.com reports that the NCAA vote permits the 65 schools in the Power 5 conferences to make rules on such things as stipends for cost of attendance, insurance benefits, recruiting rules, staff sizes and hours spent on individual sports. Legislation can be proposed on Oct. 1 and enacted upon at the NCAA convention in January.

Washington State President Elson S. Floyd, who is chairman of the Pac-12 CEO Group, said the new model will allow the conference to continue to maintain its high standards of academic and athletic excellence while adapting to the changing needs and expectations of student-athletes and universities.

"We plan to address needs across the full range of sports, for both men and women, and reinforce something all of our university leaders emphasized earlier this year — education must come first," Floyd said.

Scott expressed hope that the proposal considerations will include the "total cost of attendance" when calculating the dollar amount associated with scholarships. Increased flexibility, Scott explained in the press release, would enable the major conferences to "further support modern student-athlete needs and ensure that they obtain meaningful college degrees."

According to Whittingham, it's all about the athletes.

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