- CSNwashington.com - Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The NCAA has granted unprecedented legislative autonomy to the Power 5 conferences — ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12 — to provide athletes with compensation beyond the traditional athletic scholarship. Georgetown coach John Thompson III anticipates that his basketball program, and the Big East, will do what’s necessary to keep pace.

“No matter what the Big Five do, as it relates to men’s basketball, the Big East and Georgetown University will do the same thing,” Thompson said during a recent interview with CSNwashington.com.

Once a 60-day veto period ends, the 64 schools that make up those five conferences plus Notre Dame are free to submit an agenda by Oct. 1 that could include paying athletes a stipend, providing greater healthcare benefits, guaranteeing four-year scholarships and allowing the schools to pay for travel for athletes’ families to attend games. The new rules could be passed at January’s NCAA convention, which will be held locally at National Harbor.

The public fear is that, even though the other Division I programs will have the chance to adopt the same legislation, the power held by those five conferences could separate them from the rest. Some institutions may struggle keeping up with the Joneses, or rather the Dukes and Kentuckys.

Once considered the premier college basketball conference in the country, the Big East is coming off its first season in basketball-only form. Though still highly competitive on the hardwood, the no-football league no longer rates as a power conference under the new ruling. In a perception-is-reality world, this could lead to undesired status if left unchecked.

“I don’t want to just say the media, but I think the world’s perception is that this group is going to float off,” Thompson said. “I’m here to say that wherever they float off to as it relates to men’s basketball, we’re floating, too.”

Thanks to its rich basketball history, institutional resources and ability to recruit nationally, Georgetown doesn’t fall under the have-nots umbrella. Next month, the school will break ground on a four-story, 144,000-square-foot Athletics Center named for Thompson’s father, John Jr.

Sitting in his modest office located inside McDonough Arena and loaded with reminders of Georgetown’s successful past, Thompson continued: “Whatever changes come down the pike, we care just as much about the student-athlete’s overall experience as they do. Whatever changes come up, no matter what they are, we will follow as it relates to men’s basketball.

“Whatever they do, we will do. One hundred percent across the board.”

More change is coming. The five conferences will soon make decisions that may significantly alter the model that’s been in place for decades. Though Georgetown and the Big East Conference do not have a final say in those discussions, they’re not passive.

“The landscape of intercollegiate athletics is changing. Were headed into uncharted waters in many different areas,” Thompson said. “Where we are now, that latitude has been granted to those guys. … Our leadership is in discussions with their leadership as it relates to what direction they’re going into. We are prepared to be a part of discussions.”

It also appears that whether those power conferences zig or zag, Georgetown does not intend to separate from the pack.

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