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Pac-12 Adopts Guaranteed Four-Year Scholarships, Health-Care Reforms

Life for future Pac-12 Conference student-athletes became a whole lot better on Monday, as the conference adopted a bevy of reforms including guaranteed four-year scholarships and improved health care.

Currently, NCAA scholarships are renewed on a year-to-year basis, which gives athletic coaches some leeway in terms of their roster flexibility. The Division I board of directors voted back in 2011 to approve a proposal that would allow schools to offer multiyear scholarships, but enough member schools overrode the vote to kill the proposal for the time being.

However, a new governance structure adopted earlier this year gives "Power Five" conferences the leeway to enact certain changes within their own conference. The Pac-12 Conference's university presidents and chancellors took advantage of that autonomy Monday, voting to adopt a number of reforms that could make their schools more enticing to future athletic recruits.

Beginning in 2015-16, all scholarships offered to incoming student-athletes will be guaranteed for four years, so long as the student-athlete "remains in good standing and meets his/her terms of the agreement." Starting that same school year, any student-athlete—current or former—with a "documented athletically related injury" will have their direct medical costs covered by their respective school "for a period of four years after separation from the team or institution."

The following school year, any student-athlete who does not graduate in four years will receive "necessary educational expenses" to complete their degrees "for the remaining terms of the agreement" under certain circumstances. The student-athlete must be in good academic standing at the time of leaving the school and must have completed "a reasonable portion of their degree" (50 percent). This will especially stand to benefit collegiate student-athletes who opt to leave school early to pursue a professional sports career.

The conference also voted to increase student-athlete representation in conference governance and eliminate restrictions on intra-conference transfers. Beginning immediately, student-athletes who transfer from one Pac-12 school to another can receive an athletic scholarship "without restriction."

"As a former student-athlete myself, I believe these reforms will mean a great deal to student-athletes in the Pac-12," said conference commissioner Larry Scott in a statement. "These reforms will ensure they enjoy a positive collegiate sports experience, and graduate with a meaningful college degree. This set of reforms also addresses various health and financial concerns that student-athletes have expressed to me in the many conversations I've had with them, while preserving the essence of the collegiate experience that has served so many student-athletes so well."

Earlier this month, the Big Ten became the first major college conference to guarantee multiyear scholarships across all sports throughout a student-athlete's collegiate career, provided he or she remains in good academic standing. Scott told CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon that his conference "didn't want to wait and see what others are going to do if we have the ability to do things ourselves... This was an opportunity to pivot from talk to action and step up."

Naturally, the question now becomes whether the other Power Five conferences will follow suit and adopt guaranteed multiyear scholarships at the very least. If so, smaller conferences' fears about this new NCAA governance model could be coming true, as the rich schools will only get richer with talent, given the discrepancy in benefits packages each side can provide.

Then again, when student-athletes are the ones benefitting from these changes, it's tough to imagine any complaints from smaller conferences gaining much traction in the public forum.

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