If everything on the Pac-12’s wish list of NCAA changes somehow manages to materialize, Arizona’s athletes might not be the only happy ones.
Basketball coach Sean Miller and his UA coaching colleagues could be, too.
With major college conferences hoping to gain autonomy to make changes to the NCAA model in August, Pac-12 presidents have proactively sent a letter of proposals to their peers in the other four major conferences.
While they were expected to push for paying the full cost of attendance and adding to medical aid after Pac-12 athletic directors met earlier this month in Phoenix, the presidents in their letter also lobbied colleagues to “realistically” assess the time athletes spend away from campus during the season, to consider more liberal transfer policies, and to stand firm against basketball’s “one-and-done” rule.
“It was a general overview of trying to tackle some of the issues going on with intercollegiate athletics,” UA athletic director Greg Byrne said. “We’ve always tried to be on the forefront of the student-athlete experience, and this addresses some of that. I think the CEOs (of schools) and Pac-12 officials have always been one of the most innovative.”
While UA President Ann Weaver Hart was unavailable for comment Wednesday — and Miller declined comment through a spokesman — the Pac-12 presidents appeared to be on Miller’s side of some issues.
Miller has complained about the amount of time the Wildcats spent on the road last season because television demands stuck UA with two days between all of its conference road games, but Byrne said the proposal to realistically assess time away from campus may address that.
The problem in basketball is that the Pac-12 offered scheduling flexibility while negotiating its $3 billion media-rights deal, so the conference may have limited power in reversing any scheduling demands that partners ESPN and Fox want.
The conference also has potentially no power in standing up against the “one-and-done” rule in basketball, a measure that is controlled by the NBA Players Association, which currently mandates players be only one year removed from their high school graduating class in order to declare for the NBA draft.
The Pac-12 presidents’ letter said if the NBA and the players association are not able to raise the age limit, the idea of freshman ineligibility should be revisited. Byrne declined to comment on that proposal — which could prompt top-rated prospects to avoid college entirely — but said he and Miller are both against the one-and-done rule.
“It’s something coach Miller and I feel needs to be extended by one year,” Byrne said.
The most expensive change could be providing the full cost of attendance for athletes, a yet-to-be-determined sum that would conceivably close the gap between what a scholarship stipend check provides and everything an athlete needs to attend school.
Byrne said earlier this month that UA is already “doing a lot for our athletes on the front end” — like having a fund athletes can draw from to buy necessary clothes or plane tickets home, among other things — and football coach Rich Rodriguez said his players have a “pretty good” financial situation.
“I don’t hear our guys complaining too much,” Rodriguez said at the Pac-12 meetings earlier this month.
For Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, offering the full cost of attendance is as far as the conference is willing to go in the pay-for-play debate.
“There is a deep level of commitment to the collegiate model and amateurism,” Scott said. “Staying within those parameters is an important principle.”