Emmett says the NCAA’s reform efforts were not motivated by fear
NCAA president Mark Emmert said Monday that the NCAA’s move to restructure college sports was not driven by fear, but by a desire to seize the opportunity to address issues that have built up decades.
“There are very few things that are being discussed now that have been discussed at least sporadically in the 10 years that I have been in the NCAA,” Emmett said during a briefing. Actors in Congress, the courts, economic dynamics, even the pandemic, all of which provide a very important catalyst for change.”
Emmert’s words came after the NCAA Online Constitutional Conference, during which members of more than 1,100 schools in its three departments praised the proposed mini-version of the association’s founding document.
Emmert called a constitutional convention over the summer, not long after the US Supreme Court dealt the NCAA a potential fatal blow. By upholding a lower court ruling in the antitrust case, the Supreme Court has left the association open to lawsuits any time it makes a new rule affecting athletes.
Rewriting the constitution is the first step toward decentralizing college sports management and deemphasizing the NCAA’s role.
“It has been a long time, 50 years, half a century, since there has been a comprehensive view of what college sport is and how it should function,” Emmert said. “The Association’s inaction at this very moment would be very poorly received and should be, frankly. If you have a lot of change, you better be ready, willing, and able to change.”
The college sports directors who make up the Constitution committee, including Georgetown University President Jack DeGioia, who is the chair of the NCAA Board of Governors, spent about four hours presenting the proposal to members and taking questions.
“I thought it was a very successful first, especially since I had never done anything like this in the history of the association,” Emmert said.
Last week, the NCAA unveiled a proposed 18-page constitution that focuses more narrowly on the mission of the largest college sports organization in the United States while also providing a path for each of its three divisions to govern themselves more.
After two observation periods, the proposed constitution may be amended. The plan is for full members to vote on at the January NCAA convention in Indianapolis.
Then comes the hard part. Leaders in each of the three NCAA divisions will be looking at a mission to restructure and reimagine how college sports should be run.
At the Division I level, where college sports have also become a multi-million dollar business for some schools, drastic changes can occur. Everything from how revenue is shared, how schools and sports align, access to tournament events and what is required to be a Division I member will be on the table.
That includes what to do with major college football, which operates largely independently of the NCAA and raises hundreds of millions of dollars shared by 130 Schools Bowl Subdivision. The Knight Intercollegiate Athletics Commission, a group of past and current college athletic officials, has recommended that the FBS be separated from the NCAA altogether.
DeGioia said the Constitution Committee has met with representatives from the Knight Committee, but that these types of structural changes are for the next phase of NCAA reform.
“We felt that this was the department that mattered to me and that it should be dealt with by the leadership of the first department,” DeGioia said. “And what we hope to create is a framework where that can be addressed more effectively in Section One.”
The Division I Transformation Committee, led by Southeast Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and Ohio University Athletics Director Julie Cromer, was selected. The hope is that each department will have changes that can take effect by August 2022.
The new constitution continues to refer to college athletes as student athletes, a term that was created decades ago when the NCAA attempted to clearly distinguish between amateurs and paid professionals.
Emmert said there has been significant discussion about dropping the term from NCAA official usage, but that the athletes themselves have pushed to keep it.
“We were really excited about this title,” Madeline McKenna, a former UC Pennsylvania volleyball player, said during a question-and-answer session with Membership.
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