NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NCAA's top football-playing institutions today won the autonomy they have sought for over 20 years.
As a result, the 105 Division I-A schools will now be able to vote strictly among themselves concerning financial aid for football players.
The measure required a two-thirds majority from the full convention for passage, and it failed by 17 votes on the first ballot. The second time around, it was approved, 534 to 217.
Earlier today, delegates took up another sensitive football issue, voting to prohibit Division I schools from playing Division III football. This affects 19 schools, most in the East, including Dayton, Georgetown and St. John's, among others.
Those schools were given a reprieve, however, when a resolution was passed that will bring legislation to the 1992 convention to create a sub-classification within Division I for such modest football programs.
"I'm not sure what we're going to do with our football program," said John Kaiser, St. John's athletic director. "The Division I-AAA concept may be the way we go."
If approved during the 1992 convention, Division I-AAA will be the sub-classification for Division I schools who don't field major football programs.
Although hoping to adjourn the convention this afternoon, delegates nevertheless spent more than an hour wrangling over whether to let Division I-A football powers have the financial autonomy they had long sought. Smaller schools have always feared that if I-A had such autonomy, it would be used to widen the gap between the majors and minors.
"This has become a symbol that we are not trusted in Division I-A," said Fred Jacoby, commissioner of the Southwest Conference. "At some point, we have to start trusting each other."
But some weren't in a trusting mood. "If they're not going to exercise this power, then why do they want it?" asked Jeff Orleans of the Ivy League, which competes in Division I-AA.
Added Jim Frank, former NCAA president and commissioner of the I-AA Southwestern Athletic Conference: "The big schools say they would not do anything to increase the gap. But if you're not going to do anything with it, why want it? They just say, 'Trust us.' "