THE NCAA'S board of directors took the first step toward shifting power to the five largest football conferences yesterday in Indianapolis, endorsing a plan that calls for giving 65 of the nation's biggest schools more autonomy in how to fund scholarships, handle health care and decide other increasingly hot-button issues involving their athletes.
If approved later this year, schools in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC could implement some rules on their own and would get more voting power over legislation that would affect every NCAA member school.
A formal vote on the recommendations is tentatively scheduled for the board's August meeting, and if it passes then, the transition could begin this fall.
The endorsement came one day before Northwestern football players were scheduled to vote on whether to create what would be the first union for college athletes in U.S. history. NCAA president Mark Emmert this week suggested the changes within the NCAA will address some of the issues raised by those backing the unionization effort.
In other moves yesterday, the board approved a measure to give a small group of students who receive "hardship waivers" to transfer to a new school one additional year to complete their eligibility and to provide unlimited meals and snacks year-round to all athletes - an issue that drew national attention when men's Final Four Most Outstanding Player Shabazz Napier, of Connecticut, said he sometimes went to bed "starving."
In other college news:
* Florida diving coach Donnie Craine died in a boating accident off the coast of Bokeelia, the school announced. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is investigating the accident, says two vessels turned in the same direction near Pine Island in southwest Florida and collided. The others in the crash suffered only minor injuries. A four-time Southeastern Conference diving coach of the year, Craine coached five NCAA champions.
* Former Mississippi State offensive lineman Charles Siddoway and current defensive lineman Jordan Washington were arrested and charged with burglary and robbery. Siddoway is a possible late-round selection in next month's NFL draft.
* UConn basketball center Amida Brimah has surgery scheduled to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and is expected to be sidelined for up to 5 months.
* Oklahoma's criminal appeals court overturned the conviction of Darrell Williams, a former Oklahoma State basketball player accused of sexually assaulting two women at an off-campus party in 2010, because several jurors made unauthorized visits to the crime scene.
* Colorado point guard Spencer Dinwiddie will forgo his senior season to enter the NBA draft. Dinwiddie's junior season was cut short when he tore his left ACL Jan. 12 and needed reconstructive surgery.
* Former Maryland center Shaquille Cleare has signed to play the rest of his college basketball for Texas. He will have two seasons of eligibility left.
* The company in charge of the Buffalo Bills cheerleaders has suspended operations through at least the end of the season. The decision was made 2 days after five former Buffalo Jills filed a lawsuit complaining they worked hundreds of hours for free, and were subjected to groping and sexual comments.
* Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar says his removal as a color commentator for Cleveland's preseason games is because of slurred speech he attributes to "a direct result of the many concussions I received while playing in the NFL."
* Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone rejected accusations of bribery as he went on trial in a case that could threaten his grip on the sport, telling a Munich court that he was blackmailed by a German banker who received a disputed $44 million payment.