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DI Board of Directors and Presidential Forum discuss future of division

Leadership groups consider COVID-19; name, image and likeness; and transfers

The Division I Board of Directors and Division I Presidential Forum discussed this week how to best support schools, student-athletes and incoming student-athletes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both groups discussed several membership requirements and other legislative obligations with the goal of identifying which requirements speak to core values of the division and which might be less vital. Ultimately, the groups decided that requirements that support student-athletes and opportunities for participation are the most important.

“Students are — and must be — at the center of everything that we do. That guiding principle has never been more important than it is now,” said board chair Eli Capilouto, president at Kentucky. “The decisions we make must reinforce the steadfast commitment we have to the health, safety and well-being of our student athletes.”

The board and forum also discussed requests from the majority of Division I conferences to consider providing all Division I members blanket waivers of several legislative and membership requirements. The letters asked for the blanket waivers for a period of two to four years to allow schools to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both the board and forum endorsed a set of principles to guide the division’s discussion of the requests, including that given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, examining areas of potential flexibility was appropriate while continuing to preserve opportunities for student-athletes.

A focus for both groups was the financial sustainability of the division, a priority both groups had concentrated on as a foundational goal within the division’s strategic areas of emphasis but now is brought into much sharper focus.

“The post-COVID world has actually brought some of the issues that have been lurking in the background to a head,” said Presidential Forum chair Franklin Gilliam, president at UNC Greensboro. “Many of us are facing some serious conversations about the scope and capacity for us to have a full complement of intercollegiate sports and be able to fund them. As we take on a lot of the costs associated with COVID-19, I do think we and the NCAA overall are going to have to play a role in establishing guidelines that give us a road forward financially.”

The board urged the governance structure to act quickly where possible in providing flexibility to schools. The request will be considered by appropriate governance bodies, including the Division I Council Coordination Committee. That group meets weekly.

Name, image and likeness

Both the board and forum heard an update on the Board of Governors actions regarding name, image and likeness and also heard from the Division I Name, Image and Likeness Legislative Solutions Group, which has been working on Division I-specific rule changes since last fall.

The Legislative Solutions Group is recommending several concepts for broader membership consideration that would:

  • Allow student-athletes to promote their own business activities using their name, image and likeness. The business activities can be related to athletics or separate from the student’s athletics ability and could include conducting camps and clinics. While student-athletes would be permitted to identify themselves by sport and school, the use of school marks and logos would be prohibited.
  • Allow student-athletes to participate in third-party endorsements in which they identify themselves as student-athletes. Again, the use of school marks and logos would be prohibited.
  • Allow student-athletes to be compensated for personal appearances for commercial entities, as well as charitable, educational or nonprofit organizations.
  • Allow student-athletes to be compensated for their autographs.

The Legislative Solutions Group developed these concepts with the understanding that the changes are consistent with the collegiate model. 

The board also discussed additional considerations that would arise as a result of rules changes in these areas, including the development of a framework to address potential conflicts between student-athlete activities and a school’s values or existing commercial relationships. Other issues under discussion include student-athlete disclosure of their business activities, student-athlete access to professional guidance in developing commercial opportunities, booster involvement and pre-enrollment activities.

The recommendations will be reviewed by the Division I membership over the coming months, with the goal of adopting legislation not later than January.

Transfers

The groups also received an update from the Transfer Waiver Working Group. That group, appointed by the board last fall, was charged with studying potential changes to the waiver process. Waiver guidelines can be changed at any time, and that group has recommended that waiver guidelines allow the opportunity for a one-time transfer waiver for student-athletes in the five sports not legislatively allowed to transfer and compete immediately: men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, men’s ice hockey and football. The waiver criteria would mirror the legislative opportunity for student-athletes in other sports. The Division I Council could vote on the guideline changes as early as its May meeting.

The waiver working group also recommended the board lift the moratorium on transfer legislation to allow the membership to consider proposals that could provide permanent access to the one-time transfer opportunity for all Division I student-athletes.

The board agreed to lift the moratorium on transfer legislation for the 2020-21 legislative cycle but recommended to the Council that changes to the waiver process as suggested by the working group are not appropriate at this time. Board members recommended the waiver process be sensitive to student-athlete well-being, especially those impacted by COVID-19 in the interim period.