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DI Presidential Forum sets priorities in initial meeting

Group features presidential representation from every conference

The Division I Presidential Forum set its focus toward providing guidance to the Division I Board of Directors in four key areas this week, when the presidents who serve on the forum met for the first time Wednesday in Indianapolis.

Among those core areas the group will study in its first two years are: health and safety initiatives; the new Division I structure; the impact of cost of attendance and trends in funding; and enrollment and participation in higher education and the resulting effect on college athletics.

“Presidential leadership is an important part of governing Division I, and the Presidential Forum will provide the perspective of additional campus leaders to the presidents on the board,” said forum vice-chair William Ruud, president of the University of Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley Conference. “We identified key issues that, with additional attention, will ultimately improve the experience for student-athletes and keep college athletics moving in the right direction.”

The forum is the only Division I group that has presidential representation from all 32 conferences. The forum was created by the Division I Board of Directors to provide presidential counsel to the board members on major issues facing the division and the role of sports within higher education. It replaced the Presidential Advisory Group, a body intended to provide a voice for presidents from conferences that, in some cases, weren’t represented on the board. The group is chaired by Kay Norton, president of the University of Northern Colorado in the Big Sky Conference.

Forum members used their first meeting to pinpoint the issues they most wanted to discuss over the next two years. The outcomes of those discussions will be delivered as advice to the board on legislative or policy decisions in those areas.

Forum members decided on the targeted areas by determining where the board would most benefit from the broad range of perspectives represented on the forum. They plan to be involved in the development of new legislation and policies, particularly in their areas of focus.

In addition to identifying its key priorities for the next few years, the forum members also decided to develop a set of presidential “best practices” for overseeing athletics on campus. The best practices will address a range of issues, including campus governance of athletics, ensuring that the academic studies of college athletes align with career ambitions, and engagement, integration and life skills for student-athletes. Among other issues, the board wants to ensure college athletes have opportunities to be a part of campus life and pursue interests outside of athletics.

The group will develop best practices in each of those areas to share with their president and chancellor colleagues, especially as people move into those leadership roles for the first time.

The forum members will meet next at the NCAA Convention in January 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. Part of that meeting will be a joint session with the full Division I Board of Directors.