NASHVILLE,TENN. — NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The National Collegiate Athletic Association convention ended yesterday on the friendliest note imaginable.
Delegates from Division I-A schools presented Division III colleagues with a legislative gift.
Division III returned the courtesy, supporting a rules change that Division I-A wanted badly.
It was a case study in the back-scratching and arm-twisting that drives NCAA convention business. More important to the divisions involved, it worked.
Division III hasn't had a bigger victory. After years of lobbying, the small schools finally purified their classification by expelling Division I and II schools, which no longer can randomly pick sports teams to compete in Division III.
The rule passed all three divisions, and support from Division I was overwhelming, 240-81.
The payback came in a rules change that supporters agree is significant even if they don't agree why.
The new rule allows the 106 Division I-A schools to determine alone the limits placed on financial aid and, for the first time, excludes the roughly 200 other Division I-AA and I-AAA from those deliberations.
Clearly, the rule, which passed after being rejected a day earlier, gives the biggest of the big-time schools broader powers to set their course. But in which direction?
Opponents of the rule fear that the Division I-A schools now are free to expand their financial-aid awards without restrictions. Among the dire predictions were that Division I-A schools soon will vote to pay athletes monthly stipends and that the Division I cap on Pell Grant aid, a form of federal educational aid, now at $1,700, could be increased or lifted entirely.
Those possibilities and a few others frightened Division I-AA and Division I-AAA schools, but they didn't scare a majority of delegates. Led by Division III's mandate (221-25), the rule passed by the required two-thirds majority.