NCAA President Charlie Baker Proposes Creation of New Subdivision With Direct Compensation For Student-Athletes

By Chase Brown on December 5, 2023 at 12:36 pm
Charlie Baker

A new subdivision could be coming to college athletics.

On Tuesday, NCAA president Charlie Baker proposed the creation of a new subdivision within Division I that would allow the highest-resource schools the ability to compensate athletes from trust funds and NIL payments.

Baker’s proposal, which Yahoo Sports’ Ross Dellenger and The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach obtained, includes several recommendations for NCAA Division I members to consider:

  • The formation of a new subdivision made up of institutions with the highest resources that can directly compensate athletes through an “enhanced educational trust fund,” which requires the schools that opt into it an investment of at least $30,000 per year per athlete for at least half of the school’s eligible athletes. Schools would also have to adhere to Title IX, providing equal monetary opportunities for female and male athletes.
  • Schools in the new subdivision could create their own rules separate from the rest of Division I. Those rules would allow them the ability to address policies such as scholarship limits and roster size, as well as transfers and NIL.
  • Any Division I school would be able to enter into an NIL deal with its athletes directly. This is not currently permissible under NCAA rules.
  • Any Division I school would be able to distribute to any athlete funding related to educational benefits without any caps on such compensation.

Baker’s recommendations come as the NCAA faces pressure from member schools to allow colleges and universities the opportunity to compensate their athletes directly. 

In his letter to Division I members, Baker calls the NCAA’s proposal a “forward-looking framework” that offers “educational institutions with the most visibility, the most financial resources and the biggest brands an opportunity to choose to operate with a different set of rules that more accurately reflect their scale and their operating model.”

Baker’s proposal states that schools in both Division I subdivisions – new and old – would compete with one another for NCAA championships, except for FBS football, a postseason the College Football Playoff operates instead of the NCAA. 

In The Athletic’s report, Auerbach inferred that the highest-resourced schools Baker alludes to in his letter belong to the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC. Auerbach reported that commissioners of the four conferences have continually lobbied Congress together in recent months, seeking help on NIL issues that impact their constituents differently than Group of 5 schools in Division I.

In Baker’s letter, he writes that the NCAA’s model “kick-starts a long-overdue conversation among the membership that focuses on the differences that exist between schools, conferences and divisions and how to create more permissive and flexible rules across the NCAA that put student-athletes first. ... Colleges and universities need to be more flexible, and the NCAA needs to be more flexible, too.”

Baker ended his letter with a request for feedback from Division I members.

On Tuesday, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith issued his support of Baker’s proposal. He thanked the NCAA president for proactive and forward-thinking leadership during an uncertain time in college athletics.

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